Aston Marina What A Great Place To Moor Up!

Motored on the Trent & Mersey for  2 miles, reaching the entrance into Aston Marina. We had reserved a berth from 10th till 14th December. Wow what a great place to moor up! The 7 day reception was warm and friendly, lovely farm shop and bistro. Everywhere clean and tidy, mooring pontoons ample, non slip and secure. With large areas to exercise Rusty. Top marks for a top marina.

Once again Mr Tesco found our location and delivered, on time….

Weather has been mixed, and I just had to include an image of the sun setting over the marina on Sunday 11th December, nature is always capable of springing a surprise and it did not disappoint.



Jen has used the excellent laundry facility to get our washing dry. Always a problem on board when outdoor drying is not possible.

Meanwhile time to get decorations up, on-line shopping finished, and Christmas cards written and sent before we head off on Wednesday.


Snuggled up in Great Haywood Marina

Having navigated the icy conditions on the Coventry we motored north west on the Trent and Mersey towards our intended destination, Tattenhall Marina, where we plan to spend the festive season.

The ‘Pramhood’ is ready to be fitted and we arranged to spend a few days in Great Haywood Marina while Peter Roberts completed the installation.

So glad we settled into the Marina as the weather is still very cold and we have both been struck down with heavy colds. Typically Jen has almost recovered but my ‘Man Flu’ is proving to be stubborn, and has developed into Bronchitis…….treatment involves keeping warm and consumption of regular hot toddies, I know it’s tough but..etc..

The Pram Hood looks great and fits beautifully…..Peter’s attention to detail and his careful installation really shows in the finished article.

With the cover in place it was a good opportunity to get down the engine ‘ole and change the oil and filter. By the look of the oil drained from the sump, this job that should have been done weeks ago! Tips picked up during the Willow Wren Diesel Engine Training Day proved very useful, including wearing of gloves to prevent skin contact with waste oil! I only have one issue and that is how to dispose of 6 litres of waste oil? The chandlers sell fresh oil but do not have a facility for the waste oil…..for the moment the oil is ‘stored’ below the deck in a suitable container……

Now the weather is rapidly improving we plan to be back out onto the T&M from Thursday morning. We have had deliveries from Mr Tesco and Rusty’s favourite dog food from Millies Wolfheart, so we are good to go!

Thursday morning began with a keen wind and rain showers, we delayed our start until midday when the sky had turned blue with a strong breeze blowing over the marina. Heading north on the Trent and Mersey, the wind pushing us along……

We have booked into Aston Marina, close to Stone in Staffordshire,from Sat 10th until 14th. This is to allow the work being carried out on the top lock at Stoke on Trent to be completed by 16th. Until then the navigation is closed at that point. No chance to make a detour in a Narrow Boat! We moored up on the canal side 2 miles south of Aston Marina for 48 hours.

No pressure and chance for a lazy start to the day before a Full English……

Moored Between Two Pubs

It's been a glorious sunny day.  Though there were pockets where the sun never got to melt the hard frost from last night.

Tonight, we're moored up at Hopwas, right between two pubs, 'The Otter' and 'The Red Lion'!  We had intended to visit one for a drink, in fact John while taking Rusty for his walk, had popped into The Red Lion to see if they would accept Rusty.  They were very obliging.  

We've been cruising for 5 hours today. During cruising; hot water from the engine was cycled round the 5 radiators of the boat, leaving the boat like a sauna. But as it's going to be another cold night, we banked up the fire, to keep the boat toasty warm.  

After the fresh air (it has been very fresh today), and dinner.... it might come as no surprise we've decided to give The Red Lion a miss! Just wish we had more 'youth' on our side!

So today we've had 5 hours of cruising, manoeuvred through 4 locks, and we've seen lots of interesting things.

A beautifully clear and calm day! Ice on the water helps to highlight the reflection of the trees.


Reflections in the water is stunning. Though we did have to stop while John, through the 'weed hatch', freed vegetation we'd managed to collect.


Frozen fields and icy banks - not a sound was heard!


Cruising under the M6 Toll Road


Took a snap of a 'cubby hole' built into an old bridge on the Coventry Canal. Over a hundred years or so, employers (and other employees) of barges, would leave messages and food inside these cubby holes for each other. These were times before telephones and motor cars of course.

A Test To On-Board Heating

We were warned by the weather forecast, but we didn’t think (feel) the night was so cold!  Not until we had a ‘visual’ this morning…

The heavy frost was a good test of our heating system. We were up at 7.30 a.m., after kettle lit, and fire kicked (love the cabin stove), we peeped through the curtains and yikes, the outside looked glorious.

With a full breakfast inside us, we’ll soon be setting off, wrapped up of course!


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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


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!……..

Gawd it was blo*** cold this morning!

We are still concerned about the energy being stored on board despite new batteries and solar panels. Overnight our batteries are down below 11.00 volts from 13.4volt when the engine is switched off. Spoke to ‘OnBoard Energy’,
and they agreed to do an energy audit to get to the bottom of the problem, so off we went down the Ashby to get near to Springwood Haven Marina on the Coventry, the home of Onboard Energy….We moored up just past Marston Junction on the Coventry as the light was fading (4.30pm).

This morning it was light at 7.00am, and we woke to find the boat coated in frost!


Centre lines were rods not rope, and the deck slippery with a coating of ice….winter has arrived. With stove coaxed into life, we set off, wrapped up against the frosty morning for Springwood Haven, and our appointment with Kevin Mascall.


Cannot praise the folks at Springwood enough. Kevin set too and soon confirmed that there was nothing abnormal within our electrical systems, and that the problem was almost certainly a duff battery in the leisure bank of 4 x 120ah units. A discussion with the manufacturers resulted in an offer to deliver replacement units in 24 hours, so an overnight in the marina, connected to a shore line, and 2 temp batteries with a trickle charger to hold the voltage until replacement units arrive in the morning!

The bonus is we have a massive WiFi signal due to being in line of sight of 2 communication transmitters, we have 50 meg of broadband download and my laptop is red hot….. 🙂

Multi fuel stove is glowing brightly, and we still have the diesel central heating in reserve. Cushty!

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 (, 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!
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!

It was great to see canal-side pubs, boaters, and boatyards entering into the ‘spirit’ of Halloween!
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!

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!
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!

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.

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!

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.

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!