Thursday, 31 May 2012

Boaters BBQ!

For those of us in the “cheap” seats at Crick this year (i.e. we’re not paying for our moorings!) the opportunity arose to get everyone together this evening for a BBQ to celebrate the Crick Show and Jubilee.  Thanks to Russell on nb ‘Nauti – Lass’, who was volunteered as the events organiser, everyone moored from the road bridge to the tunnel was invited.


A bit of bunting doesn’t go amiss on this auspicious occasion and, although not normally flown, ‘Chance’ is sporting her Red Ensign for the Jubilee weekend -  (found washed up, in perfect condition, on Selsey beach a year or so ago!)

After another wonderfully hot day everyone gathered at 7 o’clock (fires having been lit at 6) and in true British tradition it started to rain.


And in true British tradition, with umbrellas at the ready, we carried on regardless.


Within a very short time the sun won the day as can be seen from this very artistic shot.  That’s Russell producing very good BBQ food and Dave and Bob with their tongs at the ready as well.


There was enough food to feed the proverbial five thousand as everyone brought their contributions.


This is the “engine room” of the event with Russell as chief stoker.  Jan from nb ‘Rapide’ (in the red) is very skilled at painting canal pottery (and drinking beer).


No, there hadn’t been a fight – the chairs are still upside down from the rain shower.

The evening was a hoot and enjoyed by us all and ended at 12 o’clock with a lot of us sitting round a little camp fire built on the BBQ.  It’s worth noting that no one knew anyone else until we all came together on this canal bank – the English are alive and well!

NB. We’ve been corrected – the motorway bridge featured in last Friday’s blog carried the A14 not the M1.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Catch up (last few days)

Sunday was a day of very hot weather and trying to get the gang plank and pole painted.  Our delightful neighbours here at Crick are Julie and Russell on nb ‘Nauti – Lass’.  They are fairly new to permanently living aboard their boat.  Russell spent a lot of the day “information gathering” from James (commonly referred to as talking!).
Later in the day we took Oscar for a walk along the towpath towards Crick marina and got talking to two people we’d not met before- Irene and Andy on nb ‘Kamili’ – their brand new boat built by Fernwood.  We had an hour or more in their delightful and amusing company and they kindly offered to show us over their new home.  Fabulously finished and thoughtfully designed – 70 feet of truly beautiful boat.  They are rightly proud of theirs and Fernwoods creation.

Andy and Irene with nb ‘Kamili’ (Crick marina in the background)
The plank and pole finished for the day – this time dried in the shade and no blistering.
Our neighbours Russell and Julie – this particular picture shows Russell working and Julie resting (NOT the usual way round!)
Monday and Tuesday were spent in a very quick visit home as James had to have an ECG and blood test in Chichester.  We managed to get washing done and lawns cut and our wonderful local garage came to rescue again as the rear car window decided to play silly b*****s and wind itself down permanently.  As it happened at the beginning of our journey home we had a noisy and somewhat chilly journey back.  We headed up to Swindon during the late afternoon to stay with eldest daughter Vicki (and Tom) 0n Monday night.  Tuesday saw us attending a family funeral in Swindon – a very sad event for us.  We arrived back at the boat early Tuesday evening to find the mooring spaces along the canal very much taken up with show visitors’ boats.   
Another evening stroll along the canal found us happening upon a cluster of Braidbar boats, two of which (nb ‘DolceFar Niente’ and nb ‘Sanity Again’) contained Jayne and Steve and Bruce and Sheila having a quiet evening drink together.  They immediately sacrificed their relaxation and invited us to join them for a drink.  We had a lovely few hours which turned into a much noisier event than perhaps they had planned!  Borrowing a torch from Steve and Jane, we made our way quietly back to ‘Chance’ where Oscar decided to fall very heavily down the back steps into the boat.  No bones broken we got him on his feet and his tail promptly wagged in typical style!  
Some pics of the evening with L to R: Doug, Bruce, Sheila, Jayne and Steve.
A chill to air saw us retreat into nb ‘ Dolce Far Niente’ for more ribald conversation.
Sorry Jayne we had to show this pic. - you’re such a scream!
A great impromptu evening, with great hosts!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Return to Crick

Our journey today was a short one – from our mooring last night it was a quick, 2hour, hop to Crick – just enough time to charge up the batteries.


This was our view when we woke this morning.  The lady from the boat moored ahead of us walked her dog past and said she recognised us as we had moored next to them on the River Thames at Hampton Court in 2008!  We told her we had a different boat then but it was the same colour as this one.  It was both the colour and James she recognised.  Either she has a remarkable memory or James was doing something he shouldn’t!

Anyway we had an unremarkable journey, punctuated only by a stop for water at Yelvertoft.  The weather was still fine and the scenery still lovely.

The canal, however, all along this Leicester Section, is very shallow.  The water levels are well up so we can only think it needs dredging sometime soon. 


Taking on water at Yelvertoft (another great place name!)


We have stopped at Crick and have decided to stay here for the boat show next weekend.  Doug caught the bus to Brinklow, via Rugby, and collected the car so that we can have transport for the next week.  We have a nice mooring next to nb ‘Nauti – Lass’ with Julie and Russell – and after some cleaning of both boats by both crews we enjoyed a glass of wine together this evening.

Friday, 25 May 2012

A Milestone today!

Today we registered 40,000 hits on this site since we started 18 months ago.  Thank you to all of you who read about our escapades – there is obviously some interest in the tosh we write about!  We know some of you are not “canal” people so we occasionally explain things about the canals (and occasionally get things wrong- which is when our canal friends correct us!).

We did a round trip today, leaving our mooring, going up the Welford Arm and then back to the same mooring as last night.  The 5 hour trip allowed us to get two loads of washing done and the batteries charged. Yet again the canal seems very quiet and very few boats around at present.


The Welford Arm is only about 2 miles long and ends at Welford (funny that).  It’s quite narrow in places but very rural.  Notice the newly painted gang plank drying in the sun.


There is one lock on the arm -three quarters of the way along and in a pretty little setting.  British Waterways are having to pump water from below the lock to above it in order to keep the levels up.


At the end is Welford Wharf – not a lot of space to moor!  Just one space along side the Dutch barge so we didn’t stop.


Back through Welford Lock.


Just had to take a pic. of this Hawthorne tree – as mentioned in the last blog, the blossom this year is fantastic but this specimen was exceptional. 


The old and the new – bridge 30 (back on the main canal) and the bridge carrying the M1 in the distance.


Back on our mooring with washing blowing in the breeze.

James’ painting of the gang plank, which he finished first thing this morning, has now blistered in the heat of the sun! but at least the washing is dry.

We’re having another evening of industry when the boat is in the shade and we’ll leave the gang plank for another cooler day.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

To Crick and beyond

This morning started cool and fresh with the promise of another hot day ahead.  The canals are really beautiful right now with the hawthorn blossom at its fullest – the branches are heavy with white blooms.


A view like this round nearly every corner on this part of the Grand Union (Leicester Section).


Another tunnel – this time at Crick.  James was in a short sleeved shirt,  enjoying the cool morning air – forgetting that this particular tunnel can be very wet with water dripping from the ceiling and should have had his mac on  ……………..


……..not only wet but a bit smoky from the last boat to use it (very nice boat but with “traditional” engine! 

We stopped at Crick for some shopping (Doug) and some blacking repairs for James (from yesterday’s collision with a lock entrance!)  While we had our lunch a BW worker came along and erected the mooring restriction notices for the show next weekend.  We started off for the afternoon run with the weather now very warm.  We found a very pleasant quiet spot to stop just before bridge 21 -  got nicely tied up and was about sit out the remaining heat of the day when Doug noticed a boat heading directly towards us.  After an emergency handbrake stop there were just inches to spare.  The poor man had slowed to pass us and lost his steering due to the shallowness of that particular part of the canal!  After wishing him well for the rest of his journey we decided this was not a good place to stay as the next boat that came along could well have the same problem!

We’re now safely moored after bridge 27 and just through the hedge is a wonderful grassy meadow just right for Oscar to have a roam around in…………. 


………………  “now where did I leave that stick?”

As the afternoon cooled off it became an evening of industry for us.


James painting the gang plank which has been out all winter and has become somewhat weathered.


Doug (in James’ regular position – bum higher than his head!) doing some external cleaning of the gunwales before James got the bitumen out to touch up the top rubbing stake.

After that it was a glass of wine and dinner.  Cheers!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Another Hot Day!!

Today has been another fantastically hot and sunny day – we seem to be blessed.  Our journey started with a 200 yard cruise to where Del and Al were moored to say our farewells for the time being. 


We found them tucking into a very good looking full English breakfast – they do know how to enjoy life!

We motored on through Braunston (extremely quiet) and got to the locks where we waited for another boat to share the flight with.  The people on the boat we shared with had a cocker spaniel who died last November aged 16 1/2 ! – Oscar, you could have another 2 years mate!  The Braunston tunnel comes hard on the heels of the top lock and it was bliss to experience it’s coolness for 1/2 hour or so.


The light at the end of the tunnel!

An hour on from the tunnel and after turning left at Norton Junction we arrived at the Watford Locks – 7 locks with 4 staircase locks in the middle of the flight.  A staircase flight is when one lock follows straight into the next.  They have side ponds to store the water for each lock and it’s important to operate the winding gear in the right order –“red before white and you’ll be alright”…………………….


‘Chance’ approaching the staircase flight at Watford.  You can see the red painted winding gear on the left of each lock.  On the other side of the trees to right is the M1 motorway and the Watford Gap services.  The noise levels unfortunately don’t add anything to this idyllic canal scene.


‘Chance’ waiting for 3 boats to come down through the staircase.  Enough time for James to wipe down one side and get the bow cleaned of the last months’ worth of dust from the marina (sad!)


‘Chance’ half way up the staircase – the end lock gates need to be twice as high as normal gates.


Out of the top lock and immediately confronted with the bridge carrying the M1 traffic.

We have moored up about 1/2 mile from the motorway (with very little noise and no neighbours).  When we stopped at  5 o’clock the central heating control panel in the bedroom was showing the temperature at 31 degrees!

We’ve had a good day again today, but Oscar has been having trouble with the heat poor lad – and we’ve had to apply a lot of sun lotion to ourselves today.  We’ll take Oscar for a walk when it cools down a bit later this evening.

Back on the ‘Road’ again!

On Monday we took an executive decision to pack a few things into the car and get up to the boat for a week.  After an emergency fitting of a track rod end to the car by our wonderful local garage and a visit to St Richards Hospital for James’ weekly blood test we arrived at Brinklow at 6 o’clock.

Yesterday, after the inevitable “few jobs” we headed towards Braunston.  We were surprised how quiet it was but soon found out that a lot of boats had decided to get their cruising done in the cool of the day.  We are very pleased the sun has decided to do what it should do at this time of year and we had a quiet, very hot but very pleasant cruise today.  We got through Hilmorton locks very quickly with the help of the lock keeper on the third lock and decided to call it a day after bridge 80.  There were a lot of boats on this very popular spot….


… as this long shot from our mooring position shows.


James had to touch up a scratch on the gunwale (!) while Doug took Oscar for a wander along the line of moored boats.  An hour later he returned with the news that he’d found Del and Al on nb ‘Derwent6’ were moored ahead of us and an impromptu party had been arranged for 6.30!  


At the prescribed time Del and Al arrive laden with their contribution to the evening’s enjoyment – ably helped by James (the vegetarian) carrying their dish of chicken wings.


Nibbles before dinner.


James was there as well!

When they arrived Del and Al said they wouldn’t be staying as late as the last impromptu occasion (which was 2 o’clock in the morning!).  They were true to their word and left at 1.15!

Thanks guys – we had a great evening as always.  Good luck over the next few weeks and we look forward to next time.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

We’re still alive!!

We haven’t blogged lately as there hasn’t been very much to blog about and we’ve had a kind enquiry as to whether we’re still around!  We’re waiting for James to be “processed” – the latest is that he completed the stress test on the treadmill last Tuesday and has been put on an additional medication to better regulate the heart.  After a further ECG (scheduled 28th May) a decision will be made about  another cardio version which, if successful, the latest medication will help to prevent a reversion.  This latest schedule of events should allow us to get to the Crick Show this year which we would not have got to if our original plans had gone ahead.  So we’re really looking forward to getting some canal water into our lives!  The only frustration comes from the rather selfish need to start enjoying ‘Chance’ this year.  We are very thankful that James’ problem is a fairly minor one and that the care and attention received at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester is first class. 

We had a very welcome visit by eldest daughter Vicki and partner Tom, with there year old ‘puppy’ Ernie, for a few days this week.  We enjoyed a shopping trip into Chichester with them one day and the next day (Friday) we went to Portsmouth.


Doug, Tom, Vicki with Oscar and Ernie at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour and Dockyard (with a Brittany ferry creeping up on their blind side!!)


One of the cobbled streets on “Spice Island” which is one of the oldest parts of Portsmouth and mercifully spared from the terrible bombing which the city endured during the war.


The same crowd (still on Spice Island) looking towards Gunwharf Quays.


We did some more shopping in Gunwharf Quays – the area has been very well developed around some of the lovely old docks buildings.  The contrast here between the old Customs House and the new Spinnaker Tower is very marked!

Leaving Portsmouth to go back home we took the coast road through Southsea and were just in time to see the Isle of Wight hovercraft arrive and depart again.






A very exciting five minutes – this hover service has been in existence since James was a youngster and he used to watch the first craft (SRN 6?) when he was on holiday with his parents!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Wish you were here.

Due to James’ ‘affair’ with the NHS at the moment we’ve been somewhat frustrated that we’re not enjoying the canals.  (He’s been informed that, after a treadmill session next Tuesday, he will be put on drugs for a while to try to revert the heart back to normal rhythm rather than have another cardio version immediately).  However, our frustration has moderated into more of a thankfulness that we’re not experiencing some of the awful conditions that our fellow boaters are under at the moment.  It seems to have rained for 40 days and 40 nights so far.  If our well-laid plans had gone ahead we would have been on the River Thames right now.  It would have been our forth time on the dear old “Father” and the forth time we would have experienced it in flood!

So, instead, we are enjoying some very nice weather (among the rainy bits) here in Selsey and we wish you were here!

Yesterday, which was not a great day weather wise but we were still able to enjoy a pleasant dry walk along the sea wall and, as luck would have it, we were just in time to see the lifeboat being winched back into its station……..


…….. not something we see too often so it was quite exciting.  We’re not sure whether it was after a call out or just an exercise but its well worth the photo.  Every other Wednesday, at 6’ish in the evening, the lifeboat is launched for training purposes and the public can go and stand next to the boat inside the building and watch it being launched – it’s a really special experience to hear the engines start up and watch the man with the mallet hit the safety pin and see the enormous boat slide rapidly down the ramp and into the water.

Anyway, today, after a wet morning the sun came out and it turned into a lovely warm afternoon - so we took Oscar for a crawl along the sea wall.


This is our beach on a busy Bank Holiday Monday and ……..


…….. looking the other way along the sea wall it was just as busy.  Wish you were here!