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.

Visiting Braunston

Yesterday we were going to have a lazy sort of day; even though I’d planned to sew cushion covers to match the pullman.  With the material cut out, I soon discovered the piping I bought in Warwick just wasn’t thick enough.  So we decided to cast-off and visit ‘Tradline’, the iconic shop in Braunston Marina for ropes, and fenders.  We also wanted to get more information about the art of splicing ropes, and perhaps they would even have some thin rope that would be suitable for piping upholstery!

So, with the fire ‘toned down’ we set off for Braunston… passing bridges which are full of history and character; which is quite the norm for bridges on our canal system.
6This bridge is what is termed a ‘turn-around’ bridge it’s where the horses that towed working boats, would cross over to the towpath on the other side of the canal. These bridges have been in active use for hundreds of years!
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The picture below is for especially for Auntie Peggy!  When John visited the UK, he used to take Peggy out for a lunchtime meal, One of their favourite places was ‘The Boathouse’ where John would salivate, not so much over the food, but over the boats on the canal.  John would admit he was really chuffed to be passing ‘The Boat’ (as he and Peggy called the pub), in his own narrowboat!

13Where two canals meet!  This picture shows the equivalent of a ‘T junction’ on a road.  Left is the Oxford Canal, and taking the right turn continues along the Grand Union Canal.
We turned right, and onto to Braunston.  As I mentioned in another post, Braunston appears to be the ‘heart’ of the canal system.
We popped into Tradline, and met the two owners who were truly delightful.  We bought a new clip for Rusty’s lead, a reel of narrow rope for piping, and a kit for splicing ropes.  A free metre of rope was thrown in to practice splicing, this piece of rope has three strands, each with a different colour to help learn the art.
rope

Here’s my umpteenth attempt!  Beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder!  I’ve been told that I can now do something that 95+% of boaters can’t do!

Raw Wind Ends Today’s Cruise

This morning we discussed the need to renew our mooring lines, unfortunately damaged during earlier mooring attempts! One of the ropes had a frayed section at one end, and it was a pity to discard an otherwise serviceable line.....

Quick look at a You Tube video, and Jen set too with scissors and gorilla tape to remake the loop at the end of our mooring lines after removing the defective section........success! Two £25.00 mooring lines repaired as good as new.

While all this was taking place the stove was cleaned and set with smokeless 'Supertherm' and a kiln dried log......minor DIY tasks on the 'list' were also fixed!

We set off with intention of reaching Braunston Marina but it was soon clear that the weather was against cruising, dark skies and a raw East wind. By 12.00 midday we pulled into the bank and secured CYAN for the rest of the day. The Central heating boiler had made the inside warm and snug while we were cruising so no problems with going below for the rest of the day.

There are many boats cruising here on the Grand Union, it's busiest section of the network we have found so far, and several have moored up nearby.

Tomorrow we will push  on to Braunston Marina, depending on how we feel, and the weather of course!

 

 

Off To Braunston

It was more or less a toss of the coin, do we turn left from Wigrams Marina towards Oxford, or do we turn right towards Braunston? We decided to turn right!

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Rusty doesn’t appear to worry where he goes, so long as he’s with us!

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After a pleasant, but a bit chilly cruise, we stopped for breakfast!  Following s check on the internet, and the satellite connections, we’ve decided to stay until tomorrow. john

We had the central heating roaring away as we cruised (almost for free), so when we stopped, the boat was toasty warm for us.

While breakfast was being cooked, the stove was lit!

We decided to go to head to Braunston, one; because we need our bow rope repaired, and two; because Braunston is considered the ‘Heart’ of the canal system.

We have previously visited Braunston Church with its high and unique steeple, where in days gone by, the church was busy officiating births, marriages, and deaths for the canal community.  A community long since passed, where life was exceptionally hard.

braunston-church

 

Many of the canal families made a living working barges, they would live in a small cabin, and it wasn’t unheard for families to have many children living onboard, some of whom would sleep on ‘shelves’ in the cabin.

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The day started off grey, but none-the-less very peaceful.

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At such a slow pace; lots of details about the countryside can be savoured, such as historical snippets like the old plough and furrow fields that could easily be over a thousand years old!

It’s All About Planning!

Good job we were up and dressed on time, because Tesco (on-line delivery) arrived 20 minutes early! We borrowed the marina's trolley to collect the goodies from the car park, and wheeled it back to the boat.

I'm still trying to find places to store 'things', 'places' that 'work' for us. Space is so limited on Cyan, especially when trying to store provisions for the next 10 days or so.

It was an easy sort of day, though to be honest, what with our cough/cold still lingering, and moving through quite a few locks of late; a few days chilling is welcome! {Who was it that said living on 'the cut' is a tranquil life?}

John had a busy day today, giving Cyan a good wax and polish ready for the winter weather. This is no means feat considering Cyan is 58 ft long! John polished one side, then I helped him turn Cyan around, so he could do the other side.

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We're fast learning that being a successful 'Continual Cruiser' on the waterways is all about planning.  Tomorrow we will be leaving the marina, though we're not sure yet which way we'll be heading. Before we leave we'll top up our water tank. Diesel, logs/coal, provisions are already all on board!

Having Three Days Off; Well Sort Of!

'Our mission' to procure a goodly supply of logs/coal is getting a little urgent. Though we do have an alternative heating system; it's a diesel central heating system feeding five radiators so we won't freeze, so long as we don't run out of diesel of course.

Unfortunately, where we moored for the night, the reception for internet and mobile signal was poor, and we needed to make a few phone calls in our search for fuel. So after our morning coffee and ginger nuts, we casted off! As soon as we left the bank a boat appeared from round the corner.  The boat was heading straight at us, and we were on the wrong side of the canal! With our arms signalling our intention to the other boat, Cyan manoeuvred to the correct side of the canal; boats always pass each other on the left. It wasn't till we approached the oncoming boat that we realised it was David, our instructor for the helmsman course, he was on-board 'Peggy' 'our training boat', also on board were 3 students. Big smiles all round, and a big 'thumbs up' from David. Truly, Willow Wren, David, and the 'Helmsman Course' has been essential.

Very soon after casting off, John felt there was a problem with the rudder; as we were passing an area that looked like it was a good place to stop, which wasn't encumbered by trees and buildings, which can block internet signals! Here I could hopefully make a few phone calls, and John would be able to examine the 'weed hatch'.

One of the phone calls was to a 'fuel boat'. Fuel boats are working boats that work a patch of the canals, selling diesel, wood, logs, coal, kindling, and other essentials like engine grease. We've not been too lucky with finding fuel boats, and our call confirmed this. So to 'Plan B', several calls to nearby marinas resulted in our decision to moor at Wigrams Turn Marina for a couple of nights, and pick up the provisions we need.

The inspection of the weed hatch resulted in John successfully cutting away some rope and plastic bags that had wound around the rudder.

To get to Wigrams we had to navigate 3 locks. These locks were the ones we went through on our helmsman course, it was great to be on familiar territory.

At the top of the lock met one of the lads who came through Bascote Locks with us, their boat's gear box had apparently broken! His two friends had gone off foraging spare parts; such bad luck! There but for the Grace of.....

Very carefully we manoeuvred into the entrance of Wigrams Turn Marina, although we've visited the marina several times by car, it's very difficult to anticipate where we should be making for when on the canal; making a mistake and having to do a 3-point turn in a narrowboat can be fraught. We shouldn't have worried! We were met by pleasant member of staff who quickly snatched our centre line, and pulled us to the jetty. "What can I do you for?", said the man.... "Diesel, coal, logs, and kindling", replied John, and a place to tie up for 3 nights.

It wasn't long before Cyan was tied to our pontoon, with me compiling our 'Tesco On-Line' shopping list for delivery the next morning!

Starting Our October Cruise

We left Hinckley Marina on 1st October, as our September mooring had come to an end.

We set off with a plan to be at Willow Wren Training for the 29th October. John has been booked into a day's training, the subject being 'marine engines'. Apparently they are configured differently from car/lorry engines.

Well tonight we are moored outside Willow Wren's Training Centre, and it's only the 19th!

We set off from our mooring by the "Two Boats" pub around 10AM (after a quick telephone call to Warwickshire Police - see previous post). Our plan was to ascend 10 locks; the Itchington Bottom Lock, the Shop Lock, and the 8 Stockton Flight locks. All locks were set by moi, and as a bonus they were all within easy walking distance, especially so the Stockton locks. When locks are close(ish) together, it's easier to walk than to manoeuvre getting on and getting off the boat. Sometime it's not always easy to get the boat close enough to the towpath, as the depth of water can be shallow at the canal's edge.

We took the locks at a leisurely pace, and before we knew it we were at Stockton Top Lock, the place where we started our 'Helmsman Course' at Willow Wren. It's novel for us to be on an area of the waterways that we are familiar with.

One of our tasks for the day was to procure; coal, wood, kindling, and firelighters, which was now getting desperate. We stopped at Kate's Boats to find they no longer sell coal, but we did pick up a pack of kindling, which are off cuts from their 'fit out workshop'. We were delighted though; as we were able to order a strip of ash trim, with a 45deg round 'corner' for our new Pullman dining area. Kate Boats will give us a call when it's ready. Estimated charge £10! Amazing!

Mental note: Must use Kate Boats again, their setup is immaculate!

One Of Those Surreal Days!

After leaving our overnight Radford mooring, and the fastest broadband connection yet (80+MG),  we pootled along to the first of our ten locks for the day, which was Radford Bottom Lock, rather isolated, full of atmosphere, and feeling very spooky! 

At the next lock, Fosse End Bottom Lock, we found a family who were battling to control their hire boat, they wanted to descend the lock, while we wanted to go up.  Two of their 'Grannies' were standing helpless by the locks, not knowing what was expected of them... anyway, to cut a long story very short, one of their passengers stayed behind to 'help' us set the lock, it was a sort of courtesy token because I had stepped in to help them. Trouble was, John was in lock, which was designed to take two boats side by side, when the 'passenger' wound up the lock paddles with gusto!  Resulting in Cyan being tossed around the lock as torrents of water gushed in.  Ooooo John wasn't happy!

By the time we got to Bascote Locks we were caught up by a boat with three strong, and very polite young men; all with Rastafarian hairdos.  With their help we were soon through the last five locks, including our first 'staircase' lock experience.  While sharing the locks it's surprising what you learn about people, and those young lads had very interesting and colourful lives; it was compelling to chat.

Continuing our cruise, we soon came upon a row of crab apple trees on the towpath.  Crab apples make fantastic crab apple sauce for pork and ham!  So we moored up to collect half a bag of 'nature's bounty' which will eventually be turning into a delicious sauce/preserve.  As we moored we did give a passing glance to the small yellow boat that was moored further along from us, and remarked that the man was sunbathing in the glorious October sun, and saying how lucky we are with the weather.  

crabapples

It wasn't until we'd had our cup of tea, and eaten the toasted crumpets we had for lunch, we noticed the small yellow boat was on the move. Well sort of on the move!  It became obvious the boat had lost it's engine, whether through lack of maintenance, or theft, who knows? One man had a length of two-by-one wood, which had a bit of plywood on the end to make a paddle.  The other man had a length of rope, and was attempting to pull the boat along, just like horses used to do in 'olde times'.  When they got to our boat the man with the rope, and his small staffie, clambered over our boat to continue moving theirs.  It was such a bazaar situation.  We popped out of Cyan to witness the scene with some form of amusement.

We couldn't get cross with them, poor guys were in dire straights.  It seems they have been travelling this way since February!  They had bought their broken-down boat from a Polish guy, and were trying to get the boat to Birmingham where they have family who will help them.  They were harmless, and appear to lead such a simple life.  It wasn't until a few hours later; we realised one of the men had left their make-do paddle on the roof of our boat!  It'll come in handy for fire kindling, as soon as we get round to buying an axe for chopping wood.

We decided it was a good time to make headway again, in the opposite direction of course to the little yellow boat.  After a short trip we pulled into our night's mooring right next to 'The Two Boats' (a pub), and just before the Stockton flight of locks tomorrow.

two-boats-pub

Just as we were settling down for the night, "all hatches battened down", there was a load knock/bang on the side of the boat.  It was around 9PM.  As John was in the shower, Rusty and I climbed up onto the deck.  An Asian man of about 45-50 years of age stood on the towpath.  He politely apologised for disturbing us, then he told me that it was his wedding anniversary next month, and that it thought it would be a nice romantic gift for his wife if he could rent our boat for week!  Now that was exceptionally bazaar!  I think he got us muddled with another boat, and when he realised we weren't the boat he was after, he made up a lame excuse, and the question is why?  After talking to several other boaters, we were encouraged to lodge the incident with the police, which we have of course!  The police appeared very interested!  

Rainy Start, But Outlook Is Bright!

Radford Bottom Lock - Leamington Spa

Picture this:  It's 7:00 AM, and the daybreak has just about broken.  We've spent the night in a lovely situation on the Grand Union!  It's quite isolated, though there are a couple of moored boats a fair distance from us.  On the opposite side of the boat from the towpath, there's a field, a farm, and a lovely Norman church!  The church clock has just struck a melodious 7 o/clock chime.  All's well and, practically perfect!

Sadly the rain is tipping down as I write; though the weather forecast for this area says the rain will fade away, leaving us with a bright and breezy day.  The weather drying up is good news as we're manoeuvring through several locks today.   How many? Well that depends on how we feel.... such is our life 🙂 .  But for now, we've lit a roaring fire, settled down with a couple of ginger biscuits and a cup of coffee, and gently wait for the weather to change.... cos we can!

A couple of weeks ago we both managed to fall foul of the dreadful cold/flu/chest infection that appears to be presently afflicting half the UK's population.  We knew we'd be hit hard this winter, we've lived in Spain for the past 15 winters, and have no doubt failed to build up the normal resistance to UK's normal winter bugs.

Yesterday we travelled the short journey from Warwick, where we stayed for 2 days.  Warwick is a beautiful city, with some magnificent building, not least of course is the castle.  The annual 'Mop Fair' was on, with excited children riding on amusements which had been erected in the streets.  We couldn't really appreciate the 'fun of the fair' as we were on a mission - a mission to the chemist for provisions of 'Lemsip', cough medicine, and 'Fisherman's Friends'!

Must make a note regarding 'Myton Visitor Moorings', when we cruised passed we noticed the mooring were practically 'personal' mooring for Lidl and Morrisons.  Homebase was also near by.

 

Got To Start Somewhere….

Here We Go!

Presently sitting on the Grand Union, just before we ascend Radford Bottom Lock.  It's 6 in the morning, and feeling that we have just GOT to kick-start 'livingonthecut.co.uk'.

We promised our friends and family that we'd write up our adventures on a blog.  To date we've written about our 'adventures' piecemeal through intermittent emails, but have to admit; we're not all that great about keeping up with emails, plus we're inclined to repeat ourselves these days!

It would have been great to start our website in chronological order, for example that first night when we picked up CYAN.  I'm sure we'll get round to writing about that memorable day/night eventually, but at the present time a 'stick' has had to placed in the ground - meaning "We've got to start somewhere!"

So to condense the last 53 days into a few lines:

  • We met Cyan's previous owners, and purchased their much loved boat
  • Cruised Cyan from Stoke on the Trent and Mersey Canal, to Hinckley on the 'Ashby Canal'
  • Had some alterations done, solar panels, dining area change to suit our lifestyle better
  • Received 5 m2 of our goods and chattels from Spain
  • 'Downsized' five times
  • Change of Batteries
  • Our first 'completed' canal cruise; the Ashby
  • The adventure of Farmer's Bridge Locks in Birmingham
  • Sailing down Gas Street, Birmingham

We intend to complete a post for each above topic!