Monday, 30 April 2012

A visit to MGM boatbuilders.

On the way home today we detoured across to Leicester to catch up with MGM, our boat builder, who we haven’t seen for a few months and we were eager to see the progress of their latest boat.  On approaching the boatyard – something we’ve done many times – we noticed something odd, and then realised that all “floating objects” were three feet higher than they should be.  The River Soar was just about to burst it’s banks. 


This is ‘The Tardis’, the boat built after ‘Chance’ luckily anchored to flood poles.  The bikes are security locked to the flood pole so retrieval will have to wait until the water subsides. 


MGM’s slipway where boats are pulled out on twin trollies.  Right now the boats can be floated in on their own.


A visit to the floating boat shed (it’s designed to float and therefore not a victim of the floods!) revealed their latest creation:  a 58 ft. cruiser stern, reverse layout in a very attractive two tone green with brass fittings.  The paint finish, as expected, is very good indeed.


“Rear of the year” – the same contoured stern as we have on ‘Chance’ – giving oodles of rear deck space to be enjoyed in the summer months.


Internal view looking towards the galley where things are coming along very well.  The eerie yellow light is caused by the brown paper wrapping on the outside of the boat (and not our camera!)


This isn’t the shower cubicle it’s a dog washing facility!  What will they think of next.  The owners have a large, and obviously very pampered dog, who will have it’s own thermostatically controlled shower on the rear deck.  That’s bespoke boat building for you.

We were very impressed with this latest boat which will be exhibited at this year’s Crick Boat Show during the late May Bank Holiday.  It should be another worthy showboat for MGM and we wish them every success.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Wet, wet, wet.

It’ll hardly be news to most of you but it was wet and windy today and, for those who know Brinklow Marina, you’ll know how windy it can get here.  James got on with his indoor jobs and, occasionally the wind rocked the boat so hard he lost the odd screw!  Jobs done we decided to go into Rugby for a few things.  As we left we took this pic. of the waves on the marina…….


….it was slightly worse than this at it’s best.

One highlight of our visit to Rugby was a quick bit of shopping in Tesco.  As we’re short of photos today here’s one of Doug at the checkout….


…… you can’t have pretty canal scenes all the time!  A chance visit to TK MAXX found a superb Ralph Lauren shirt for James which goes well with the £12 pair of jeans just purchased from Tesco!

With time to spare, and the rain easing off, we thought we’d go up to Hillmorton locks and walk Oscar.  Surprisingly today we’ve seen quite a lot of traffic on the water while we’ve been crossing and re-crossing the canal by road.  Arriving at Hillmorton it was cold, wet under foot and pretty quiet.  However, a hire boat was coming down through the locks – they’d not been on a narrow boat before and this was a weekend break and only their fifth lock.  They handled the boat superbly with no bumps or scrapes as they entered the lock.  They were phlegmatic about their first, very damp,  experience on the canal but we felt so sorry that they’d had such a wet weekend for their first venture.  The water levels are as high as they can get at the moment……..


….. so high, in fact, it was going over the lock gates!  Did someone say there was a water shortage!!

Rain or not, we’ve had a good day and now we’re about to enjoy a lovely roast dinner with the water level high enough now to lap against our pontoon.  We plan an early start tomorrow as we’re going back to Sussex for James to have a blood test.  We’ll go via Leicester as we intend to pop in to see our boat builders, MGM, at Thurmaston on the River Soar.  (James needs a couple of screws!!)

Saturday, 28 April 2012

A ‘Chance’ to be away for the weekend

We woke up yesterday morning (Friday) with nothing planned for the weekend so decided to pack some stuff in the car and head for the boat.  After a wet journey with a minor holdup on the A34 / M40 junction we arrived at Brinklow Marina about 2’ish.  We got the stove going,  left it to warm things up and headed into Rugby for some shopping.  After that we hunkered down and spent yesterday evening all lovely and warm with the rain battering on the windows and eating our very lazy and unhealthy pizza.

We came up to the boat with the intention of getting some maintenance carried out and our hopes that today would be dry, in order to get some outside work done, were fulfilled.  It’s been a bit windy but the sun came out for 5 minutes as well!

The urgent job (for an engineer anyway!) was to get the batteries checked………….


………this is a fairly normal position for James – bum higher than the head!!  This looks quite awkward but it’s an easy job and we’re very pleased that we asked for the whole rear deck to be removable in sections. The weather forecast for tomorrow is dyer so this afternoon we took the chance to have a nice walk (we exaggerate!) with Oscar.  We walked along the lane and over the road bridge which goes over the entrance to the marina.


Looking from the road bridge towards the canal (which was quite busy today).


Looking towards the marina from the bridge.


A close up.


After another fifty yards we crossed bridge 41 over the canal – two boats having just passed under.


Looking the other way and another boat coming!


Doug and Oscar on the lovely old iron towpath bridge which now forms the entrance to the marina.


Bridge 38 – we didn’t get much further on the other side of the bridge before we had to turn round and come home – Oscar doesn’t do long walks any more!

We’re now tucked up again for the evening with the hatches battened down and the wind is getting stronger – with the weather being poor and this being a working weekend we won’t be going cruising this time.


James with Oscar doing this blog and enjoying a necessary glass of pink champagne (no it isn’t usual!).  Another of today’s jobs was to make the wooden bungs fit properly in the front door windows – job done!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Chichester Canal

Today we just had to have a canal “fix” and so joined part of the Chichester Canal’s 190 year celebrations.  Anyone with a small boat could join the “bullion run” from Chichester Harbour (or as near to it as we could get) to the canal basin in the city centre.  So we loaded up our canoe……….


………and set off for the canal – one rather large canoe safely strapped on!  It had been decided that friends Andrew and Kerry would join us for the event and Andrew and Doug would take the canoe down the canal.  (more of James later!)


Doug and Andrew preparing for the 4 mile trip.


They’re off!  About 20 to 30 small craft took part in today’s event and it was a great sight to see so many boats and so much colour.


About a 1/3 of the way along the canal we reached a road crossing where, as yet, there is no bridge – so the tried and tested method of ‘portage’ was used and all the boats where taken out of the water and carried across the road!  On the other side, and back in the water, we met up with the larger powered craft for the rest of the journey and also the Mayor of Chichester who was there to see the safe transportation of the gold bullion into the city.


The bullion boat, with the Mayor safely aboard, starting on the their journey into Chichester.


Andrew and Doug leading the field on the home straight.  The canal basin is ahead with the cathedral spire in view.


Doug and Andrew getting the canoe out of the water and onto the quayside ready for loading back onto the car.


The two “gun boats” which escorted the Mayor and bullion back to Chichester.  These two amazing little electrically powered boats have a man inside, lying on his back, who controls them via a camera and video screen.  They gave us a display of their fire power here in the canal basin – very loud!!

Well it was a great day – the weather was good for us and we finished up with a celebratory, and well earned, drink in the pub on the quay before going home.  We were delighted to be welcomed into the basin by friends from Selsey and Cheltenham and also Adam who had just returned from a few days on nb ‘Briar Rose’.

Quickly returning to James – rather annoyingly his heart had reverted back to Atrial Fibrillation when he got up yesterday morning.  We were aware that this does happen sometimes and so we’re back to square one!  Our return to ‘Chance’ for the summer, which was scheduled for next weekend, is now on hold until we know what happens next.  Watch this space!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


Many thanks for the good wishes which James has received from the blog comments and e-mails.

After dropping Oscar off with some friends at 7.30am (being woken at the untimely hour of 7 o’clock is not something he enjoys!) we set off for the short trip to Chichester Hospital.

All went well with James’s electro cardio version op.  The hospital staff were very pleased it was successful on the first attempt.  Not that he knew anything about it as, no sooner had he been anaesthetised, he was waking up in the recovery ward - convinced that the anaesthetic was not working properly! (typical engineer!)

He was out by lunchtime, soon home but feeling a bit tired. After sleeping this afternoon he is almost back to normal (for James).  The advice is that he needs to rest for 48 hours – some hope!

Once again many thanks for all your kind wishes and especially to all the staff at St Richards hospital in Chichester who have been absolutely excellent all the way through these last couple of months.  There are check ups and an echocardiogram scheduled in the next few months but we hope things continue to improve and that we will be back on board “Chance” very soon now.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Ticker Time!

James had his last pre – op. blood test today which was within limits so he’s all set and ready for his “jump start” tomorrow.  It’s a short operation under general anaesthetic  so he should be out in the afternoon and ok to re-roof the shed! (only joking).  He’s had many ‘good luck – we’ll be thinking of you’ messages and would like to thank everyone for their kind thoughts.

We’ve been kicking our heels a bit this last couple of weeks as we’re really keen to get back on ‘Chance’ as soon as possible.  We’ve been reading the blogs of you all who are travelling now and have felt quite envious.

Last Friday we went with our friend Ann to the theatre at Chichester to see Penelope Keith in “The Way of the World” by William Congreve.  It was first performed in 1700 so the dialogue was fairly hard work to follow on occasions but it was very well acted.


Doug and Ann outside the Festival Theatre.


This week end we’ve bottled the last of the sloe gin.  Two bottles to take on ‘Chance’ and enjoy with whoever we might meet up with.  This glassful wouldn’t go into the bottles so we had to drink it!


The beach this morning at Selsey during the fantastic sunshine we’ve been enjoying this last week.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

"Home" to Brinklow Marina

Last night (Monday) we had a great evening in The New Inn at Norton Junction – good food and good company – we seem to be making a habit of enjoying both these pastimes!
Del, Al and Doug after we had eaten.
This morning we set of from Norton Junction about 9:30 -  with a final good bye from Del and Al on board nb ‘Derwent 6’.
We soon arrived at the Braunston tunnel – nothing that special about the photo but there’s always a feeling of anticipation before we enter a hole in the ground!  This time, although we didn’t meet another boat, we did come across and awful lot of floating logs which had probably fallen off someone’s boat!  The bumping and knocking against the hull of the boat was a bit unnerving in the dark and we brought the boat to a halt before realising what the problem was. No harm done!
When we got to the Braunston flight of locks there was a boat waiting for us to share the locks and so save water.  The boat was ‘Kitty’ and it was 41 years old! and had just been treated to a new engine.  Here’s ‘Kitty’ and ‘Chance nearing the lock next to the “Crooked House”
Half way down the flight and we met up with Dave and Angie on nb ‘Lady Esther’.  They had been reading our blog and knew we coming their way – and they knew we wanted a couple of Angie’s  mooring pin covers.  She very cleverly croches them from old Sainsbury’s carrier bags so they are bright orange and stop people from tripping over the mooring pins on the towpath. 
Here’s Angie showing Doug how she makes them.  Thanks Angie and it was nice to meet up with you.
We were held up at Hilmorton Locks with too many boats in one place!  Mostly hire boats with very inexperienced crews!  It took us about 2 hours to get through and without Doug exercising his leadership skills (i.e. bossing people about!) it would have taken a lot longer.   Further down the canal we got the rain which had been promised today.  We were lucky that it didn’t start until about 4:30.
Here’s a photo of the approach to Rugby in the rain – Five minutes later the heavens really opened!
It’s been a long day (for us).  We arrived and moored up in Brinklow Marina at 6 o’clock (still in the rain!) - but we can’t complain we’ve had a great week and the weather has been really good.  Tomorrow we return home as James has a pre op. appointment at Chichester hospital.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Norton Junction

We woke to yet another lovely sunny day.  After completing the varnishing work which was started yesterday we set off for the Buckby flight of locks.  Just before the lock flight we pass very close to the M1 – on this occasion the traffic was moving slower than we were!


Just as we arrived at the bottom of the Buckby flight the very nice Smith family on nb ‘Glamis Castle’ was going in so we joined them and had a very easy journey up the flight in very warm weather.


nb Chance and nb Glamis Castle.


The ‘locking crew’ - Doug and two members of the Smith family of nb Glamis Castle.


We were soon on to the top lock and were amazed how much the trees were all starting to turn green.  The house on the left is very very nice and adds to the beauty of this particular pound.  After leaving the lock flight we turned right at Norton Junction to moor up for the afternoon as it was now lunch time.


We went up to Weltonfield Marina to wind and came back and moored next to Del and Al on nb Derwent 6.  Al was out shopping  when we arrived (as they had use of a car today) and when she returned she very kindly drove Doug into Long Buckby as we’d run out of essentials. 


The weather has gone off a bit this afternoon but has still been good enough to spend some time relaxing on the rear deck - then James started polishing the boat “just for a change”!  Tonight we plan to go with Del and Al for a meal at the New Inn at Buckby top lock.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Going Home Alone!

The weather has been fantastic today – sun all the way with just a  chill to the breeze on the open stretches of water.  There were more boats around today so the journey was more interesting.


Around the Gayton stretch we came across this fine pair of working boats (motor and butty). They were on a private mooring next to a very well kept property so the owner is obviously a stickler for perfection.


Just a bit further along we noticed an interesting and very clever idea – can you spot the telecommunications mast?  Very well dressed as a tree – why can’t all masts be like this one?

As we passed Fridays’ mooring position at Flore Lane we came across Mick and Heather on nb ‘Hudson’.  Their show boat was next to ours at the Crick Show last year and we haven’t seen them since then so it was great to catch up with a quick chat (and to let Oscar off for a convenience stop!).


Heather and Mick.


The absolutely superb narrow boat ‘Hudson’ – in James’ opinion probably the best presented and one of the nicest looking boats on the canal.

We’ve now reached a quiet mooring which we’ve used before (between bridges 23 & 24).  As we stopped around 3’sh James has been doing a bit of varnishing and polishing.  The first polish of the season and very much needed to get rid of the calcium staining from the water pouring down on us while in the Blisworth Tunnel.  Any excuse for a good polish as far as James is concerned!

On to Stoke Bruerne

On Friday it was a dull and cold day after the glorious day we had on Thursday.  Steering the boats was quite a chilly affair.

In the evening Adam cooked a lovely roast for all of us – transported ably by Adam from the galley on Briar Rose to the table on Chance.



Three Wise Monkeys!


After a cold day we had a wonderful sunny evening and the resulting sunset was superb.

Chance and Briar Rose set off at 8.30am on Saturday for Stoke Bruerne.


Passing nb  ‘Reckless’ – from the TV series “The Boat that Guy Built”


Passing the lovely mill building at Blisworth.  Another mile on and we entered the almost 2 mile long  Blisworth Tunnel……..


…….this time we met two boats coming the other way.  Exciting stuff, especially with a camera in one hand and the tiller in the other (the crew being inside to keep warm and dry!). 

We arrived at Stoke Bruerne at lunch time, winded ‘Chance’ so as to face the way home tomorrow, and moored up.   ‘Briar Rose’ continued down the Stoke Bruerne flight of locks for their onward journey.


We helped them down to the bottom of the flight, joined them for lunch on board then walked back up the flight back to Chance, there were quite a few people about but not many boats around.


Briar Rose with their new neighbour at their new home marina serendipitously teaming up for the decent down the lock flight.

In the evening we all met up in the Boat Inn for a meal which was a lovely end to a great few days together.


Tomorrow we shall make our way back.