My Hermes – Probably My Hero!

What a shock to hear about the canal breach, between the first and second lock on the Middlewich Arm of the Shroppie, near to the Trent & Mersey Junction.

How lucky was the boater in that boat. What a fright he must have had and to be rescued by the police.

I understand no one was hurt, but I expect many were shocked, and a lot of boaters are inconvenienced, but really pleased there wasn’t a tragedy. Sympathies go out to those boaters who are stranded. I suppose at the moment, until the damage is assessed, it’s a case of ‘how long’s a piece of string’.

Looks like there are 15-20 stranded boats.  The breach has exposed a mass of rusty cycles, leisure batteries (Grrr!), and even a rusty handgun! The police have taken away the handgun to determine whether it’s a replica or a real one. If it’s real, then I guess a police ‘cold case’ will be wheeled out.

C&RT’s Stoppage Notice

It’s a cold cold day today! Not even Rusty wanted to go for a walk. Think we’ve been a bit spoilt by the springlike weather over the last few days – and the cold has returned with a vengeance.

What a daft duck sitting on a cold stone block. Surely she could find herself a warmer spot?

To continue with the saga of our letter that was posted to Leighton Buzzard Post Office without ‘Post Restante’ written on it. We managed to track it down to within inches away from us. Yet the Royal Mail (on Tues, 6th March) would not hand it over to us, saying it had to be returned to sender.

We complained to the Royal Mail, where we basically received ‘lip service’, and ‘rules are rules’, but we did get the ‘confession’ that ‘commonsense should have prevailed’. (Honest ‘Mi Lud’ we don’t normally make a habit of complaining, despite the ‘evidence’ lately in this blog.)

The letter was to be returned to John’s sister’s address on the 6th March, but by Saturday 10th some 5 days later, the letter still hadn’t been returned. John’s sister flew out to South Africa on the 10th for a couple of weeks, which meant there would be no one ‘at home’. Our niece who works away from home, luckily returned home this weekend, and has confirmed she’s received the letter. There’s an apologetic note from the Royal Mail saying the letter has been damaged!

We’ve now discovered ‘My Hermes‘! How come we’ve not heard of this company before? What a brilliant concept! (Trust we’re not speaking too soon 🙂 )

Basically, our Niece will register the letter on-line, print off the delivery label, than take the letter to the nearest ‘My Hermes Point’, which happens to be a local CoOp shop just 5 minutes away from her. The letter will be delivered to the nearest ‘My Hermes Point’ to us, which is ‘The Convenience Store’ in Tring, just under a mile away. The cost being  ÂŁ2.79 , inclusive of ‘tracking’, which is about the cost of the Royal Mail Recorded Delivery paid originally.

Message to the Royal Mail: Thank you for all your past service, but it appears (that maybe) you are now no longer required!

Moored On The Summit!

We wasn’t too sure if we should stay where we were moored because of the weather, but after a night of rain turning the towpath into a mud bath, we decided to move. The weather forecast rightly predicted the heavy rain would pass over around 10:00 am, so at about 11:00 am, we pushed Cyan off.

Cyan soon ascended the first two Marsworth locks (# 37 and #38), and we pleasantly cruised towards the Marsworth Services.

Marsworth Services must be one of the smartest sanny stations we’ve seen, which is probably because it is new and tagged onto the end of a trendy housing estate.

We tied Cyan to the mooring rings, then gathered our rubbish. It wasn’t obvious where we were to dump the rubbish, so we asked the maintenance man who was cleaning the area. The maintenance man also told John where the Elsan point was.

After dumping our rubbish John took the cassette to the Elsan point. He didn’t think there was a problem with the door being unlocked, because the maintenance man was there. John put the cassette down, then flushed the bowl to clean it before he tipped up the cassette. At that point a 35ish year old man stood at the doorway and gave John a tirade of verbal abuse – think of the worse words you can, and these are all the words the man shouted at John. It seems the man was a plumber, and he was there to mend a water pipe. There wasn’t an ‘Out Of Order’ notice on the door. If there was John wouldn’t have ignored it. John stood his ground, but I could tell he was physically shaken.

It was about 12:30 pm when we started to ascend the rest of the Marsworth Locks, starting at Lock #39, in the now pouring rain. The top gate was a pig, and John struggled to budge it, so I’m afraid Cyan gave the gate a gentle nudge to open it.

We cruised to Lock #40, and could see quite a lot of water was pouring out of the bottom lock gates. I tied Cyan to a bollard to be secure, as it looked like an awful lot of water would have to be emptied from the lock, causing rather a bit of turbulence. When John walked to the lock he saw that all four of the paddles on the top gates were open. Very odd considering Tring Summit has a water shortage problem. He closed the top paddles, and opened the lower ones to let the water out of the lock. While he waited for the lock to empty, he phoned C&RT to report the paddles being left open. No one at C&RT had opened the paddles, and they confirmed the paddles should be down. While John was on the phone he made a complaint about the abuse he’d received at the sanny. C&RT was very apologetic, and said no boater should take abuse from any C&RT contractor, and that they’d get the Area Manager to phone John back. So far no phone call; we’ll wait until tomorrow, if the Area Manager doesn’t respond, we’ll escalate our complaint.

Because  the paddles were left open, the water in the pounds between the locks was very low.

In full sunshine, we finally got to the top of Marsworth Locks! Then John saw a notice on the bridge over the Wendover Arm.

The notice was an invitation to explore one and half ‘lock-free miles’ of the Wendover Arm. The notice said; at the end of the arm there’s a turning point, and 48 hour moorings.  How could we miss the opportunity for an ‘adventure’!

Just as we were about to turn into the arm, loads of school kids with several teachers suddenly appeared…

… and they stood on the bridge to watch Cyan turn, waving and shouting as we passed under them.

There was a short stretch where the scenery wasn’t ‘the best’. The ‘stretch’ had tight bends, and Cyan had to be reversed a couple of times to get round.

Heygates Flour Mill

Even in the early Spring the Wendover Arm is pretty.

Plus it comes complete with it’s own swans…

… and other wild life:

Wild flowers are starting to show! Give us a week of warm sunshine, and Spring will definitely burst forth!

Cat’s Ears, or Dandelions?

We’re at the end of the Arm, and Cyan starts to wind.

Where we have moored it’s very quiet, it’s a beautiful spot, it’s in full sun, and it’s sheltered. Plus it’s got loads of footpaths to walk, and a nature reserve to discover. WiFi is insanely fast, and digital TV is wall-to-wall!  We just might stay here until the two yellow weather alerts for Saturday and Sunday have been resolved.

You can see on the map below that we are moored right at the end of the arm. For more information regarding restoring the Arm see Wendover Arm Trust. The Patron of the Trust is no other than David Suchet CBE, better known as Poirot.

If you click on ‘View larger map’ below, the towpath has been ‘street viewed’ – you can follow the canal down the towpath, like on Google Street View.

Today we’ve cruised 3.5 miles, and 9 locks.

Many Hands Makes Light Work Of 6 Locks!

Though we moored at 4:00 pm yesterday, we had no need to start our engine until 8:00 this morning when we turned on the Mikuni heater. This is sheer ‘magic’ for us! Looking at our diagnostics, our battery didn’t drop lower than 12.5 V overnight.  We’re delighted! Project done!

The weather forecast said the wind would pick up after 11:00 am, therefore we planned an early start. The forecast predicted a wind strength of around 20 mph, and gusts double that.

At around 9:00 am, we were just slipping our mooring when a boat passed us. I shouted “Can we keep you company going through the locks?” The reply was “Yes, we’ll keep the lock warm for you!”

We caught up with the boat as it entered the lock. With a male crew of four on the boat, it was brilliant for us to share the locks with them, and we soon got into a rhythm of us exiting the lock first, leaving the men to close the gates, while we motored on to set the next lock’s gates.

We moored just after Pitstone Wharf, and just before Marsworth Lock #37. Whilst we were mooring our ‘lock buddies’ sailed past us, and we all waved! ‘Ships in the Night’ comes to mind.

At our second lock of the day, we came across a ‘500 dairy cow farm’, where these ‘little girls’ were having their breakfast as we passed.

Tomorrow (windy weather willing) we hope to tackle the Marsworth flight of 9 locks. We will need to keep in mind the C&RT notice:

“Due to a pump breakdown we are needing to carefully manage water resources and restrict navigation on the Marsworth flight between lock 39 to Lock 45.

The navigation will be open from 11am to 4pm, with last entry into flight 2:30pm.”

Today we’ve cruised through 6 locks, 1 swing bridge, and 4 miles.

Happy To Be Back On The Move!

Our slot for Mr Tesco was between two and three o’clock today. There was no chance of us being bored waiting for 2:00 pm., we were too busy with the normal bits and bobs of house boat keeping.

At 1:30 pm, after topping up with water, we slipped our mooring, and made for the wharf at Grove Lock Marina. Would you ‘Adam and Eve it’, it started to rain!

At the wharf we brimmed the diesel tank, picked up two bags of Supertherm, and a bag of kindling. Sadly the marina didn’t have any Excel as their stocks are rather depleted because of the recent bad weather. We’d asked permission to collect our groceries from Tesco on the wharf as it was much easier.

At 3:00 pm on the dot, we sailed away from Grove Lock Marina. Without any hesitation we’d recommend this marina, Paul their manager was exceptionally helpful. It was also the first time we’d stayed in a marina that was actually on the canal ‘line’, as opposed to the type where boats are ‘contained’ in an area. Looking through the cratch windows we could watch the ‘traffic’ pass by, whether it was boats, ducks, swans, or the odd cormorant!

A field full of new born lambs…. now when did this happen?

We soon approached Church Lock (#29), it was a tricky manoeuvre to get John off the boat as there was a boat moored on the landing! (Why?) Right next to the moored boat, was another moored boat! We were lucky though, as one of the lock gates was open.

I’ve got a new game, it’s called ‘sailing through locks using a single gate’! Happy to report luck was with me again 🙂 .

Looking at the sky in the pic below, you could be mistaken for thinking there was a swarm of drones overhead. It is actually millions of gnats! Millions and millions of them; I was nervous about breathing! Still, it’s another sign that the season is changing.

We needed earplugs as we passed through the middle of this rookery!

We’ve been playing ‘leap frog’ as boats do on canals, with a young guy in a pretty old cruiser. Think I mentioned him and his spaniel puppy in a previous blog.  The lad’s doing his best to ‘get by’! The last time we saw him was back in Leighton Buzzard, he’d been befriended by another single boater in a narrowboat. I’ve been feeling rather guilty about him, and I’d been thinking of getting a bag a stuff together for him, including a bag of dog food for his puppy, should we ever see him again. I felt even more guilty after John had a chat with the boater the young lad had befriended. The boater said he’d called the ‘Water Chaplains’ to help him. A Chaplain paid a visit to the young man (in all the snow and ice), offered him support, and I think gave him food and little bit of money to help him on his way.

There’s ‘something’ about someone that can still brightly smile, despite being in dire circumstances, and who loves his pet as much as he loves his dog ‘Patch’.

We saw this young man again today, just as we’d left Church Lock, only this time he was on the stern of a really nice widebeam. The guy was sitting happily with his dog on his knee, he’d been spruced up, and was talking to a man who was on the tiller! As we passed he gave up a huge wave and a smile, though we didn’t quite catch what he shouted to us. I’m so relieved he looks to be OK.

We must be close to Whipsnade, according to the Whipsnade Lion carved out on the hill.

We didn’t cruise too long, mooring around 4:00 pm in a very secluded spot, which is close by to where the infamous ‘Great Train Robbery’ took place.

Looking at the weather forecast for tomorrow, it looks like it could be windy!


We did two miles, and one lock today.

We’re Fitted Out And Ready To Go!

We’ve been ‘productive’ whilst spending our time in Grove Lock Marina, I’ve lost count how many wash cycles I’ve put our washing machine through, I’ve even gone around ‘looking’ for things to wash! It’s been brilliant to have copious amounts of water and electricity after having water on ‘ration’ during the freeze, and having trouble with our batteries.

We were ready for Ed Bowden the electrical engineer, who arrived promptly to fit our new batteries, despite the foul weather.

Initially Ed had a quick assessment of our system, and he discovered a few problems:

  • Power generated from our 3 solar panels was only being fed into 3 of our batteries! Meaning we’ve only been getting productivity from the panels into 3 of the 4 batteries..
  • The batteries were wired incorrectly using excessive and intermediate connections
  • Loose battery terminal connections.

Our last batteries were fitted by a marina, it was the same marina who installed the three panels.

Ed was with us for ‘two and half’ hours, and John tried to glean as much information from him as he could. Ed wired up the new units, and then checked our power generation/control to confirm all was well aboard Cyan. Our new units now function as one ‘battery’, clearly demonstrated in the image below.

We’ve been advised, while we’re on shoreline power, to keep the batteries on trickle charge for about 24 hours, just to make sure they are fully charged and ready to go.

4 Brand new 100 a/h AGM units with 5 year warranty….nice!

Now we are looking forward to being free again after being trapped in ice, and waiting to have our batteries installed. We’ll be back in the groove, or in the swim, tomorrow afternoon after Tesco has delivered, we have topped up with diesel, and picked up a couple of bags of smokeless.

Relax, We’re On Shoreline!

We’re now ‘almost’ settled down in Grove Lock Marina. I say ‘almost’ because we’re on pins waiting for 4 new batteries to be delivered. They are being delivered via Yodel. We looked on their online tracking at about 11:30 am, and we were 113th in line for delivery! At the time of writing (17:40 pm) we’re now 51st in line for delivery!

The Marina’s office have now gone home… and we’re just hoping the van driver gives us a call, and doesn’t go away thinking the marina is closed! John will no doubt be waiting for him by the gates. Forgive my paranoia over ‘things’ that get delivered!

{John} Update: I was dispatched at 7:30 pm, in the pouring rain, to await the Yodel driver’s arrival at the main gate. He finally arrived at 8:45 pm! The young Polish driver was bright and cheery despite the horrible weather, and still having 25 more deliveries to complete. Ours was number 146 so far that day….. I finally completed the hand delivery of 100 kgs of new batteries to CYAN at 9:00 pm…. job done!

The electrical engineer who’s going to install the new batteries has confirmed he’ll be with us around midday Monday. We can hardly wait! We’re now on shoreline electrics, and it’s a relief not having to keep checking battery status.

Early this morning we left the place we’ve been moored for almost two weeks. It was about 9:00 am, which is early for us!

John was on locking duty at Grove Lock, and I took Cyan through, using just one gate at each end (luckily).

Grove Lock Marina is at the top of the lock. Paul the manager was expecting us, he showed us where our mooring was, and he even helped us moor!

It’s a relatively new marina, with a lovely atmosphere; which is demonstrated by the friendly people who work and live here.

My ambition over the weekend is to catch up on the laundry! Believe it or not; it’ll be a treat 🙂


Enjoying The ‘Now’ Milder Weather

The ‘now’ mild weather is really making us excited that Spring is finally around the corner.

We’ve firmed up on various dates; early Friday we’re booking into Grove Lock Marina, 4 x leisure batteries (100 a/h, AGM, deep-cycle, 5 year warranty) have been ordered, and to be delivered to the marina on Friday, the electrical engineer will be with us on Monday morning to check our electric system, and to install the batteries – after Monday, we’re off again! 🙂

Our leisure batteries are now so bad; that overnight they are not holding their charge despite them being charged before we go to bed.

We had a trip to Tesco (for several items I forgot), and a visit to Homebase for mainly bungee ties, and yellow/blue violets. This time I remembered to take our keys!

So tragic:

There And Back!

Returning from our traipse to the Royal Mail’s customer office again (more of our ‘sob story’ later), I was in a flat panic because I couldn’t find the keys to Cyan! For several horrible, heart stopping minutes, I thought I’d dropped them somewhere. When we got back, there they were, in full view for everyone to see, sitting on top of the hatch! Luckily, no harm done!

After a strong coffee, and several phone calls later, we slipped Cyan’s mooring, and cruised towards Grove Lock Arm where we could wind (turn) Cyan. Passing our neighbour of several days, John did his Mel Gibson impression, and yelled ‘FREEDOM’ while pumping the air with his fists. Must admit, it did feel like we’re now unshackled and free!

Breath in…

We were soon at our ‘winding destination’, at the bottom of Grove Lock. We hope to be going through Grove Lock before the weekend, as we’ve arranged to stay in Grove Lock Marina for several days, which is at the top of the lock, while we renew Cyan’s batteries.

What a handy ‘Guest Suite’ extension!

On the way to the sanny station, and Tesco’s mooring, we met Jules Fuels! Shouting across the ‘bows’, we asked if they were winding… “No, we’re heading South”.

We’ve got three bags of coal left, perhaps we’ll just buy the odd one or two bags from now on as the weather (surprisingly) is now mild, and we don’t want to lug bags of coal around with us during the Summer months. It’s tricky… 🙂 If we need more bags, I’m sure we’ll catch them on their return.

Such is life; when we got to the sanny station, there was already another boat filling up with water.

John took the chance to wind Cyan again, and held her across the canal from the sanny station, and waited while the other boat’s water tank filled, and we waited, and waited.  I guess it’s payback time, for all the times other’s have had to wait for our tank to fill.

While we waited, a lady who’s the sanny station cleaner arrived. Unfortunately she couldn’t complete her task because there was no water; there was a burst water pipe somewhere! Luckily there is water through the water point. The lady said she’d report the problem. I can only imagine how busy C&RT are since the ‘thaw’.

It was soon our turn to fill our water tank, and we did the best we could re 3 Elsan cassettes!

John managed quite well to reverse Cyan through the bridge, and temporarily moor her on the Tesco moorings. He was a bit concerned about a swan and a goose who looked to be ‘friends’. They were having a great time playing, and exercising their wings (they weren’t fighting). Several times the two flew under the bridge, after much squawking and flapping to achieve take-off speed…….. just like crazy Spitfire pilots!

While I was having a very enjoyable shop in Tesco, gathering lots of inspiration (We’re starting a Low-Carb/High-Fat (LCHF) diet.) John sat on Cyan’s stern in the sunshine, watching the world go by, including the rats!

It amuses me that luxury yachts have such things as ‘rodent mooring guards’, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one on a narrowboat. I guess they are easy enough to make. It would be awful to have one of these little horrors aboard a boat.


We just about managed to snap a monkjack.

We’ve now returned to where we’ve been moored.

C&RT have announced changes to boat licensing see their webpage here….

Regarding our letter containing re-issued credit cards, which should have had Post Restante written on the envelope. Here is the letter, pics taken by John while he was in the Royal Mail’s customer office (John never got to touch it).

… and that’s as close as we got to it. They wouldn’t issue it to us. Apparently it’s got to go back to sender! We’ve also noted it looks to have been opened. No big deal, John’s sister will receive it again, hopefully Grove Lock Marina will allow John’s sister to use their address.

We’re Surrounded By Liquid Water!

Woke this morning to find the Grand Union was now navigable. We could have moved, but thought tomorrow would be even better. At this moment of writing, it’s raining heavily, and the rain is washing away any remaining ice.

It was a real treat to witness the birds singing again, and to watch the squirrels perform their antics in the trees opposite. We had plenty of traffic passing us, ducks, geese, and swans, but not one boat!

We even had a visitor land on us! It’s a cock pheasant who’s living/hiding in a rough area of land next to where we’re moored. The land is between the River Ouzel and the canal. Don’t know what the pheasant was thinking he’ll achieve by walking on our gunnel, perhaps there was some bread I’d thrown out of the window for the ducks, and some crumbs didn’t make the canal. We heard a thud against our boat, and was delighted to see the ‘pleasant pheasant’.

The saga to collect ‘the’ letter from Leighton Buzzard Post Office continues; I won’t bore you with details, just a ‘timeline’ if anyone’s interested.

Wednesday, 28th February, John’s sister posted a letter for us, it went 1st Class Recorded Delivery

Allowing for the difficult weather conditions……..we waited until…..

Friday, 2nd March, walked over a mile to the Post Office in snow and ice. Letter hadn’t arrived, Cashier promised to call us when it arrived (no phone call)

Monday, 5th March, walked back to the Post Office, said Cashier was having a day off, another Cashier (number 7 please) said the letter had been returned this morning to the ‘Royal Mail’ because it was ‘incorrectly addressed’, apparently it didn’t have ‘Post Restante’ written on it.  John then traipsed to the ‘Royal Mail Customer Centre and Sorting Office’, spoke to a man who was more concerned with John getting Post Office, muddled up with Royal Mail… I’ll not elaborate. Apparently the van who picked up the letter wouldn’t be back to the ‘yard’ until perhaps 4:00 pm as he would have 3 days mail to handle on his round. The time the Royal Mail office closes is 4:00 pm!

We’ll try again tomorrow! As John said “Why is the Royal Mail being difficult, when with a little more effort they could become ******* impossible!”).

Don’t know if it’s us getting old, but surely do we need to know, or are expected to understand, how everything works?

Cyan’s Twittering

Delighted to say Cyan’s now bouncing about in the water, it’s like she’s got her ‘soul’ back, being still and solid just didn’t feel right. The ice on the canal has melted quite a bit, but there’s still a lot of it around.

The boater in front, when he started his engine, clicked his engine into gear causing ice around his boat to move, and break up. We did the same, as it looked like a good idea.

Today, Cyan’s been given her own Twitter account, @NB_Cyan. That’s one lesson I’ve learnt while being marooned and icebound, is the fact we need to know what’s going on. By following others, and sharing information, hopefully we can keep abreast of news. 

I’ve spent quite a pleasant day ‘following’ different twitter accounts. There’s a lot of good information on Twitter for continuous cruisers, and canal enthusiasts.

I’ve also discovered some great pictures.