Onto The Coventry and Down The Ashby

Christmas was approaching fast, and our thoughts turned to what we’ll be doing at Christmas, and that we should start preparing pronto.

We’d had an email from our good friends Mandy and Chris, and their new addition to their family, Henry, a lively pup whom we’re dying to meet. They were asking if we could meet up on the 11th December as they were visiting Mandy’s sister in Oxford. A plan was formed for them to drive to Hawkesbury, where we’d meet them, and where there’s plenty of room for Henry and our Rusty to have a good run around.

In the run up to Christmas, we thought it would be a good idea to moor Cyan in a marina for a week, and for us to hire a car so we could pay Christmas visits, and stock Cyan up with Christmas goodies. We could also take in a Christmas treat of a restaurant meal.

We formed a plan to cruise down the Ashby to Hinckley; I used the post office to post our Christmas cards, visited the corner shop, called into Trinity Marina booking Cyan in for a week, and stocked up on diesel, coal and logs.

We didn’t want to stay in a marina for Christmas, therefore we planned to leave on Friday 22nd, and to cruise to one of our favourite places where it’s quiet, and the TV and WiFi signal is brilliant.

On Friday, 8th December, we moored at another of our regular places, just before Hawkesbury Junction on the Coventry canal, where it’ll be handy for us to make a short journey to Hawkesbury to meet Mandy, Chris and Henry.

What a surprise we had when we woke (on 9th December) to find this at the back of Cyan….

Now that’s cold….

But we were snugly warm inside because of this….

Our daft dog Rusty saw a lady German Shepherd dog on the other side of the canal, she was wiggling her tail at him, which was too much of a temptation. He had this crazy idea to go to her over the ice, resulting in….

Luckily he had his safety jacket on, so he could be yanked out of the canal by the handle. Result, one wet dog….

The saddest bit about all of this, is that Mandy, Chris and Henry’s visit had to be postponed because we couldn’t move nearer to Hawkesbury, and also the roads were treacherous.

We did have one scary moment though; remember the boat’s engine is the beating heart of the boat. The engine tops up the batteries, giving us light, charging phone, laptops, tablets etc. If the engine fails, it’s a disaster. One of the first things we do in a morning is to fire up the engine to recharge the batteries, and when it’s cold like this, it helps start up the central heating boiler. The engine started first time (good girl!), but when we came to turn the engine off, it wouldn’t. The ignition was turned off, and eventually the engine came to a spluttering halt due to lack of fuel. This wasn’t ideal. At this point I took Rusty off for a walk to get out of the way, while John put on his engineer’s cap. Like magic, on our return John had solved the problem. John changed the fuel filter, the filter had iced up with water that had managed to get into the system, restricting fuel flow to the engine.

We waited a couple of days for the ice to melt, but it was just so slow, we had our eye on the 15th December which was when we’d hired the car, and when we were booked into Trinity Marina. On Wednesday, 13th we left our mooring after a boat had passed us, breaking up the ice. We followed in the swim of the ‘icebreaker’!

We didn’t like doing this to Cyan, but needs must. Thursday night we moored outside the marina, ready for an early morning arrival. John was being picked up by Enterprise Car Hire at 11:00 a.m. to collect his hire car.

We didn’t like the marina at all, the pontoons were exceptionally slippy with ice. They have a policy of NOT putting down any salt or grit on the pontoons because of Health & Safety issues (?). They provide a bin of salt and grit, for us to use (at the far end of the pontoon), which is not a lot of use if your mooring is 30 metres away from the salt bin. I was terrified of getting on and off Cyan, and terrified of John slipping – Rusty was less than happy too!

We never managed to do much with the car, the roads were bad with ice, and the freezing fog didn’t help much either. Plus I’d forgotten how frenzied shopping is at Christmas time. It took us nearly an hour to get out of Morrison’s car park!

We were pleased when we left Trinity Marina on 22nd December. John returned the hire car to to Enterprise, and by the time he arrived back, Cyan had been topped up with water, she was prepped to leave, with her engine running. On the way out we brimmed the tank with diesel, and bought 10 bags of coal. John was a bit miffed that no one helped him with the coal, in fact an assistant told him to take the trolley and to help himself. With a parting shot that he was being trusted. Wow that didn’t go down too well with John! On top of that, while we were loading the coal, the assistant appeared asking if we’d settle the bill as soon as possible, he wanted to free up the pump because a man with a jerrycan was waiting to fill it with diesel.  Whoops…. I doubt we’ll be back there soon!

The weather was glorious as we started our cruise to our favourite Christmas spot, with lovely blue skies overhead, though it’s still very cold. As we cruised down the Ashby, drinking whisky and ginger (cos we can), and munching on Ferero Roches, we had a few renditions of our favourite carols too…. well it is Christmas!

Treading Water Due To C&RT Closures

Shortly after planning and setting off on our journey from Trinity Marina on the Ashby Canal, around the 12th February, we thought it best to check up on the Canal & Riverside Trust’s website, in case of stoppages. Slightly disheartened we discovered that Glascote Locks were closed for repairs, and wouldn’t be open until 10th March. Plus further on with our journey, Tixall Locks would also be closed until 25th March.

This meant we had to ‘slow down’ and take our time.  We had to elongate 5 day’s travel to Glascote Locks, into 25 days!  We had nothing to rush around for, so we took our time.  Spending several nights in places where we’d probably do an overnight.

On the night of 18th and 19th February, we stayed in the area where Queen Boadicea had her last battle with the Romans.

 

Moving slowly on through 11 Atherstone locks.

 

Filling up with water at Atherstone Top Lock

 

Rust found a friend called ‘Coco’ at Atherstone Bottom Lock

Jobs To Do…

We found a lovely spot on the Ashby. Monday, it’s quiet, got good WiFi, and good TV reception.  We decided to stay and do those jobs we couldn’t do while in the marina.  Yesterday John cleaned out the waste  water drainage system, and checked the bilges in case of problems. We also dismantled the Stovex multi-fuel stove to give it a good clean, including sweeping the chimney.

Last week at a local hardware shop, The Tool Box in Hinckley, we picked up a sort of gigantic bottle brush. It must stand about 8ft tall, and it proved to be perfect for cleaning the chimney. After removing the firebricks, the baffler and the log shield, the Stovex was wrapped with an old towel to keep any sooty mess down. Outside John climbed on the gunnels, and rammed the ‘bottle brush’ down the chimney.  Amazing how much soot, tar and dross came down, it was almost a bucketful. Putting the Stovex together again was another matter!  Following lots of swearing and stretched patience, the Stovex was eventually ‘rebuilt’ and lit.

After a good cleanup, including having a shower, it felt so good to sit in front of a roaring fire with a wee dram – toasting a successful day. Amazing improvement to the output from the fire following the chimney clean.

Today, after listening to the weather forecast, and still having jobs to do, we decided to stay for another day (cos we can).  We completed the ‘dodger’ that was started before Christmas.  While in the marina we didn’t have much inclination to complete it.  Being on the canal, we felt the need to help cut down some of the ‘draft’.  You might be wondering what a ‘dodger’ is….. a dodger is a cover at the stern by the tiller secured with elastic ties.

 

 

There was a lovely surprise this evening, it was a beautiful sunset.  The rain was hammering down, yet the sunset was glorious, and was shining through the water.  Wished we’d had a better camera as then the three swans who were gliding in the sun’s reflection on the water would have been clearly shown.  The view was a glorious end to another great day out on the cut.

 

Spring Is In The Air!

We’ve been moored up in Trinity Marina on the Ashby since mid December. Whilst there, we’ve undertaken quite a bit of renovations and maintenance to our now ‘homely’ home afloat.

For the past few weeks we’ve had serious bouts of ‘cabin fever’, coupled with impatience for Spring to arrive.

This weekend we’ve taken the ‘optimistic bull’ by the horns, and planned our escape!  Setting of with a well stocked boat of food, water, and fuel, we absconded from the ‘life in the marina’.

 

On this bright blue sunny ‘end of winter’ day, we glanced back, wondering about the adventures we’re going to experience before we see this sight again.

 

It feels just so good to be travelling once again, this time with the whole of the Spring and Summer stretching before us.

 

The swans were feeling the joy of the warm sun on their backs.  Soon no doubt last year’s youngsters will  be pairing up.  We can’t wait to see the cygnets arrive.

 

Don’t let Rusty’s stern look confuse you, he’s delighted too to be ‘out on the cut’.  As you can imagine he misses nothing!  Funny how the photo managed to muddle his ears with a tree in the background.  It makes his big ears look even fluffier and bigger.

 

We’d forgotten how beautiful and historical our canals are.

 

Being in no rush, we moored up after just 2 hours pootling.  Solar panels facing the sun we’re generating 150 watts, satellite dish aligned, and catching 40 meg of internet…. we’re chilled!

We’re Off On Our December Cruise

We had a decision to make, do we go 'darn sarf' for winter, or do we go 'up norf'!  We decided on going up North to see if we can meet up with family and friends over Christmas and New Year.  

Our aim is to cruise to Chester. Though originally we'd decided to head for Llangollen, but having seen the 'winter maintenance schedule' from the 'Canal & River Trust', we discovered the Llangollen Canal has been scheduled for several areas of maintenance, which could result in us getting stuck in an area for weeks on end while the maintenance is completed.

Yesterday morning, after loading the boat with water, food, and diesel; we set off from Trinity Marina at Hinckley, for the 4 hour cruise to Springwood Haven Marina.  We had booked the boat into Springwood Haven Marina for some work on her.  We arrived mid afternoon, and moored outside of the marina for the night, ready for our 9.30 a.m. appointment.  

Steak was on the menu for dinner, and two seasoned beauties were placed in the pan, ready to start cooking when the new potatoes had almost cooked... but ... I couldn't get a lite on the hob.  It was obvious, we'd run out of gas!  We knew it wouldn't be long before we ran out as we've not replaced the gas cylinder since picking up the boat at the end of August. 

We'd also arranged for Peter Roberts, a boat cover manufacturer, to meet us at the marina.  Peter is making Cyan a 'pram hood' for the deck, and he needed to measure and create templates for Cyan.  The templates will be used to make the cover, which is scheduled to be fitted this Friday while we're at Great Heywood Marina on the Trent & Mersey Canal.

After having a new battery charger fitted, two gas cylinders replaced, and waving off Peter Roberts, we set off on our December cruise!

What a beautiful day it was today!  The 'Coventry Canal' looked magnificent!

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It seems around each bend in the canal, there was something interesting to see:

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After descending down 9 of the 11 locks at Atherstone, we moored up for the night

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Fresh air, plenty of exercise, a lovely cosy fire, and a 'tropically warm' boat leads to a sleepy evening.

 

Why is that water pump running?

The alarm bells were ringing when during the early hours of Wednesday Morning the water pump kicked in!

For those not familiar with the on board water system, water is pumped from a holding tank, and raised to a system pressure by an automatic pump. When the system pressure drops, the pump kicks in, and restores the system pressure. The sound of the pump is normal, some say reassuring, when water is drawn off through the various taps, shower etc…

However the sound of the pump running, for even a few seconds, when all outlets are closed is an indication of a system leak!

I lay in bed working out the possible reasons…..then went back to sleep dismissing the incident as a one off…..

Thursday evening, while settling in front of the TV, the pump kicked in again for about 4 seconds! I decided there and then to investigate in the morning….water outside a boat is normal, water inside a boat is dangerous…

After checking for signs of a leak, beginning at the storage tank, there only remained the bathroom..:(

There is a small holding waste water tank behind a panel. Waste from the wash basin, kitchen sink and shower are all collected there before being discharged by the ‘Whale Gulper’ pump. There were signs of water leakage in the area so on with the marigolds and out with the tank to reveal a damp patch below the cold feed pipe to the shower….yes here was the site of the pressure lose. A loose connection just needed a slight tighten …..

Now replacing the holding tank revealed that connections had been leaking and water was under the floor of the bathroom. I used the ‘Whale Gulper’ pump to empty out the water, and mop up with towels. Plastic pipes had hardened with age and split, replaced with new pipes before refitting the tank.

So far so good, no more unusual pump activity…….

The moral, do not ignore unusual noises on board a narrow boat!

Today is a Duvet day!

The forecasters were correct…..wall to wall rain for 24 hours. We thought storm Angus was rough but the following day has proved to be much worse. Thankfully we are in Trinity Marina until the end of November before getting back out on the network in December.

Several minor jobs completed inside CYAN so today is going to be a Duvet Day…..Central Heating on full, stove burning bright, hatches battened down and TV working! Reruns of Open all Hours save the day.

Batteries are now working as normal maintained at 12.8 volts, with the assistance of a small mains charger unit, and no overnight deterioration as experienced previously. However no assistance today from the Solar Panels!……..

Fantastic Autumn Weather Turns Snappy

We had a few hours days to kill, so we took a slow cruise back towards Willow Wren Training Centre for John’s date (Saturday, 29th) with his ‘day course’ on maintaining marine diesel engines.

We had phoned Willow Wren Training Centre, and said we would be arriving by our boat Cyan on the 28th; Willow Wren offered us mooring in their ‘arm’.  We were delighted to see a huge board on the side of the canal saying “Welcome NB Cyan” (nice touch Willow Wren!).

John was one of 8 or so students.  After his course, at the end of the day, John was buzzing with ideas, and he had a confidence boost in his technical abilities.  He was able to ‘bounce’ his technical worries regarding Cyan off the tutor; which was a huge relief for him.

On Sunday morning (30th) we set off on our trip to Trinity Marina in Hinckley.  There’s a fantastic website we use to plan canal journeys (canalplan.org.uk/), the website advised that we need to travel just over 39 miles miles to our destination.  Travelling for just 5 hours a day; the journey will take 3 days!  This is us from now on….. such is our pace of life!

We cruised back to the Braunston turning, where we left the Grand Union Canal, and joined the Oxford Canal.

The Oxford is such a beautiful canal, and as a special treat it was clothed in beautiful autumn splendour!
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Pictures (especially taken by our old camera) do not do justice to the pleasant views we’re lucky enough to experience.  It’s magic, like a world time forgot!
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It was great to see canal-side pubs, boaters, and boatyards entering into the ‘spirit’ of Halloween!
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Here’s a ‘traffic jam’, boater style!  The boatyard was totally full of hire boats, and boats for sale, in fact they were moored up two abreast.  So when a ‘customer’ needs the services of the boatyard, they have to moor up ‘three abreast’!  On this occasion stopping the traffic on the cut, which is frowned upon by the C&RT (Canal & Riverside Trust)!

We had the option of chilling out and ‘going with the flow’, or getting ‘excited’!    We chilled!

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Eventually we arrived at Hawkesbury Junction, where the Oxford meets the Coventry Canal.  Before we could enter the Coventry we had to go through a lock.  After the huge flights of locks we’ve been through during our ‘October Cruise’, this lock was minuscule! The levels of the canals was less than a foot!  Reputedly so the canal authorities could charge a toll for ‘barges’ entering ‘their’ canal.

This wasn’t the only ‘minuscule thing’ at this junction, we’ve also been told the smallest police station in Britain is built here!
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Here is where we left the Oxford behind us.  The history of the canals is so fascinating, for example this bridge was built just after Wellington had defeated the tyrant, Napoleon!

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At Brinklow, on the Coventry Canal, we saw a mother duck with a brood of about 8 day old ducklings.  Lovely to see, but so sad to think that their survival prospect is practically nill due to being hatched so late in the year.  The mother duck no doubt has been confused by the mild autumn we’ve experienced.
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At Marsden Junction, we turned right onto the now familiar Ashby Canal.

We arrived at Hinckley Marina during Tuesday afternoon.  We will be moored in the Marina for the month of November, though we’ll probably pop out of the marina several times during the month.  We’ve got the option to stay here during December, which will depend on how cold the weather is, and whether our newly discovered ‘wanderlust tendencies’ need exercising.

We’ve got several jobs to do on the boat, and being on shoreline electricity will help.