Good Bye 2017 – HELLO 2018

Was pleased I managed to bring this website up-to-speed yesterday, it’s essential we have reference points for dates, otherwise our memories are like tangled cobwebs these days, and highly unreliable. 2017 has been our first complete-full year of living, and continuously cruising the glorious inland waterways of England and Wales.

It’s sort of traditional we look back through the past year on the eve of a new year, and make plans for the New Year! We thought this year (our 2nd full year) we’ll cruise South, aiming to spend summer on and around the Kennet & Avon – perhaps we’ll be able to cruise the full length of the navigation, incorporating 105 locks which of course includes the Caen Flight of 29 locks (Note to self: best start getting fit now!).

Loosely our plan is to cruise via the Oxford Canal, through the Napton Flight of locks and onto Pangbourne, returning at the end of the Summer, via the Grand Union.  Returning to ‘where’ is the big question…

The distance between Marston Junction and Pangbourne is 111 miles, and 53 locks.

But (and there’s always a ‘but’) CRT Winter Stoppages come into play! Our plan is to head for Braunston before the start of February (easy peasy), before the ‘Butler’s Leap Stoppage’ starts:

We’ve then got to kick our heals (or rudder) until the Napton Flight Winter Maintenance is complete, around 16th March:

This will give us plenty of time to explore Braunston, and surrounding area. What a lovely time this will be with the ducklings, cygnets, and other young arriving; Spring will have arrived.  Can’t wait now….

First though we’ve got to to sort out our fridge, it’s still not right, and we’ve recorded it as drawing around 7 or 8 amps. Presently we’re purposely mooring away from houses, and other boats, as we have need to start the engine late at night before we go to bed, just so the fridge doesn’t drain the batteries. Despite all of this, the fridge still isn’t cold enough.

Well this our New Year sorted….

Wishing all our Family, Friends, and Fellow Boaters a wonderful, healthy, happy, peaceful, and prosperous 2018!

We’ll be raising a glass of Cava to all our good friends, and we might even keep up the Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes, one for each strike of midnight (to gain a bit of Good Luck for the New Year).

Hope Everyone Had A Lovely Christmas

Hope everyone reading this had as lovely Christmas as us.

Obviously, in our quiet secluded mooring, we didn’t have much excitement – who needs excitement when you live on the cut? 🙂 Having a full rubbish bag blow over the side into the canal was about as much excitement we could take. Don’t worry, the bag luckily floated, and with the help of two boats passing by, the agitation of the water caused the rubbish bag to drift back toward the towpath, it drifted at least far enough to get the grappling hook through it to yank it out.

Seriously, we do hope all our friends had a lovely Christmas. This year, we sadly lost two good friends, and our thoughts have been with their loved ones. It’s a stark reminder that Christmas can be a brutal time for some.

The weather has recently been glorious, and very welcome after such cold freezing conditions.

We stayed at our ‘Christmas Mooring’ for 5 days. Yesterday we ventured onto the Coventry canal, and we headed for the services at Hawkesbury. Once the chores completed, we returned in the direction of Marston Junction, highly relieved to see no ice in the canal.

We moored by Gypsy Lane, in the sunshine.

Today we had a short cruise to Sainsburys, by Dewsons in Nuneaton, our mission was to get a bottle of bubbly to hail in 2018 in style.

After Sainsburys we winded (turned) Cyan around, and were happy to moor back at Gypsy Lane, though by this time it was in strong gales.

I didn’t have my camera close to hand, otherwise I’d have taken a pic of a beautiful tree full of catkins. Forgive me for being an optimist, but Spring is now just around the corner!

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!

Make Bed While It Rains

We haven’t been too happy with our bed, the mattress of thick foam, layered on top with a couple of inches of memory-foam, is brilliant. It’s so comfy. But the bed’s base of marine ply is awkward, and it’s difficult to get to the storage area underneath, it needs two pairs of strong hands to lift the 16mm ply base.

I’ve had this idea in my mind for a while now, to have a bed base like an ottoman, that easily lifts up on gas struts. I found just the base, compete with beech slats, sold on Amazon (made by Bishops Beds). We had the base delivered to Springwood Haven Marina for us to pick up while we were visiting. Together with the ‘gas strut ottoman hinges’ needed to lift up the bed.

The base is extendable, and is suitable for a single, small double, or a double bed frame. It’s just perfect for what we need.

Seeing that the weather was very wet, and the bed base was taking up too much room, and scaring the dog. We decided to moor up and rebuilt our bed.

Three days later, we’ve a lovely comfortable full sized double bed that retracts by 12 inches during the day, giving us the space we need. Another success, though the gas struts do need to be replaced, as the 900Nm pressure is far too fierce, so much so we can’t close the bed! We need to replace the struts with a much lower pressure, possibly 400Nm. When we bought the gas strut hinges, the seller did say he’d replace the struts to a suitable pressure foc. (This problem will have to be shelved for a short time.)

Over the next few days, it was a cold damp cruise to Rugby, where we moored on the public moorings by Tesco, Debenhams, etc., plus of course next to the ‘Barge and Bell’ pub and restaurant.

The fridge engineer visited us here, we temporarily moored (only one day mooring) on the services side of  the canal, right next to a car park, which was convenient for a visiting engineer.

The image shows our first hard frost and snow of the winter.

Dave gassed up the fridge/freezer, and over the next couple of days, I enjoyed a little bit of retail therapy. Three days after Dave’s visit, we phoned him again, as the fridge still wasn’t cold enough. Dave returned, bringing with him a new thermostat. After changing the thermostat we started our journey back to the Coventry Canal, but not before continuing down the Oxford and winding (turning) Cyan at the bottom of Hillmorton Locks.

We had another cold journey through the Oxford canal, before mooring at Ansty, where we woke to a freezing cold morning.

There was nothing for it, but to batten down the hatches for a few days. Eventually we left our mooring on a beautiful sunny winter’s morning.

Faulty Fridges, and Lovely New Galley Cupboards

We had a lovely meal at the Anchor Inn with Ann and Terry. The Inn is very dog friendly, though they are sensitive to some of their guests who might not understand the ‘delights’ of our canine friends. Word of warning though, their garden is beautifully set up for outside eating and entertainment, and it comes complete with a friendly family of rabbits. The rabbits hopping about on the lawn makes a lovely scene, and I’m sure the kiddies love to pet them. BUT Rusty isn’t so charmed at the sentiment as he views rabbits as prey! So when he’s with us, the lovely garden is out of bounds.

After our delicious meal, swapping Christmas presents, and saying good-bye to Ann and Terry, we cast off for our rendezvous with Mr Tesco. We’d arranged to meet him at the CRT yard, by the clock tower, just a couple of bridges from the Anchor Inn.

Once the shopping was safely on board, we cruised a couple 100 yds, and moored up, sitting tightly for a day or two.

Over the next couple of days, it was becoming obvious that the fridge, which we didn’t replace when we renewed the galley, wasn’t getting as cold as it should. A couple of weeks previously, a kind boater at Wigrams had given us the telephone number of a man who fixes 12v fridges (Daventry Refrigeration). After a phone call to ‘Dave’; Dave thought our fridge needed to be topped up with gas. He told us his shop was in Braunston, but he’d come out to Cyan if we could cruise to Hillmorton. As a new 12v fridge/freezer to replace our ‘broken’ one would cost around £650, we thought we’d take a chance to see if it could be fixed.

But first we’d arranged on 14th November for Steve, at Springwood Haven Marina, to complete our galley by adding a triangular cupboard ether end of a 100 cm base unit. He’d already made the cupboards in his workshop, and was waiting for us to arrive to fit them.

Our plan had to start with venturing to the top of Atherstone Lock to wind (turn) Cyan, dumping our rubbish, and using the Elsan facilities. Then make our way back to Springwood Haven Marina.

Passing the alpacas as we cruised to Atherstone.

We spent a day (and a night) in the marina while Steve worked his ‘magic’ – we’re so pleased with his work, his attention to the smallest detail really shows.

The next morning, we topped our tank up with water, and we were soon on our way back towards Hawkesbury Junction, and back onto the Oxford, heading for Hillmorton to meet with Dave, from Daventry Refrigeration.

Amazing how the roses are lasting!

Nature Preparing For Winter

After a beautiful day yesterday, today started off with drizzle. We thought we’d delay breakfast, and get going as soon as we could, in an effort to dodge the predicted rain. We’d planned to go as far as Springwood Haven Marina,  tomorrow we’ll cruise into the marina for services, coal, and dump the rubbish.

We’re booked into the marina next Tuesday to have a little more work done, and John wants to confirm a few things first.

Amazing how some of the trees are still hanging onto leaves, despite the frosts, and winds.

Though where the leaves have fallen, the scene is still beautiful. I suppose it wont take long before the crispy russet coloured leaves turn into black mush as we go deeper into winter.

I suppose you could call this the precursor to WiFi! Telegraph poles; who’d have thought all those years ago that this object would become a historical ‘monument’.

We literally saw one moving boat, coming towards us on today’s journey, and as sod’s law would have it, we passed each other at the moment we were passing a moored boat. This always appears to happen, ‘perfect timing’!

Atherstone Top Lock is closed until 15th December for maintenance, the reason no doubt there’s not many boats about.

We don’t really know what these birds are, except they’re probably getting ready to migrate. At a guess, perhaps they are starlings? They were making quite a din.

Just as we moored up, and were cosy inside Cyan, the heavens opened. We were glad we didn’t get caught in that downpour.

We got an email from the local police station about the safe that was on the towpath. They thanked us, and said they’d be sending someone to check it out.

Looking forward to tomorrow as we’ve got visitors, Anne and Terry, John’s sister. Hope the weather is better than today!

By Gum It’s A Nippy Night

Not sure how low the temperature dropped last night. At a ‘call of nature’ at 2.30 a.m. the towpath looked magical in the light of the bright Hunter’s moon. I did no more than give the fire a bit of a rake, and threw some more coals on it and went back to a warm bed!

We woke to a beautifully sunny day, and a C&RT employee recording Cyan’s details on their iPad ‘thingy’, checking up on us. As we’ve got a ‘Continual Cruiser’ licence, there are restrictions on how long we can moor in one place. Though I ‘think’ in the winter months the restrictions are relaxed somewhat, allowing us to stay for 14 days in a 24 hour mooring. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) Think this system is rather a mockery; as we see many boats moored along the towpath that look to have been abandoned. They sport years out of date licenses in their windows. C&RT have a battle on their hands for sure.

We’re not in any rush to be anywhere at the moment, so we took our time to prepare for the day. Leaving our mooring around 12 noon.

Passing Charity Dock as we went. Funnily enough, John found a old ‘Waterways World’ (Nov 2016) magazine with an article about Charity Dock only this morning. The article is available online, for £1, here is the link. The Dock’s history goes back quite a way.

The Dock is ‘AS SEEN ON TV’, to be precise, the article says Charity Dock was features on ‘Salvage Hunters’, there was a YouTube link, but that seems to have been taken down.

We moored up by Gypsy Lane around 1.30 p.m.  On a walk to stretch Rusty’s legs we came across a safe, dumped under a bridge which had been broken into. It’s most probably been fished out of the canal by C&RT workers

We’ve sent details and a pic to the local police. I expect they’ve had hundreds of pics of this safe already 🙂 – we’re just doing our ‘bit’.

Settling Down For The Weekend

We left Ansty with the sun shining this morning. Hardly any wind, nor boats for that matter. Think we’ve only seen 4 boats on the move for the whole of the day.

After about an hour and half of cruising we passed through Hawkesbury Junction, and turned left towards Coventry. We’d ran out of milk, and one or two other items, so our plans were to visit Tesco at the Ricoh.

Can’t help but think that when they built the Ricoh Centre, Tesco missed a trick. It would have been great if they’d embraced the canal, and built moorings for shoppers with boats. Perhaps this would help regenerate this bit of the Coventry Canal? It’s a shame really. We had to dodge a floating easy chair, a couple of supermarket trolleys, and other sundry detritus.

We cruised on past the Ricoh until just before Bridge 6 where there’s a winding hole.  We ‘about turned’ Cyan, and retraced our ‘swim’ until we moored just after the bridge by Tesco.

John and Rusty stayed behind on Cyan, while I got out the ‘old lady’s’ shopping trolley. Perhaps I am an ‘old lady’ now, though I don’t feel it. Maybe I’ll feel old in three days time, after 5th November, as that’s the day I’m formally going to be an OAP! The cheery cashier in Tesco said, “Good bye dear“. She called me DEAR! Isn’t that what old ladies get called? It’s starting….

It was rather nice to have a good mooch around M&S, and Tesco. Christmas shopping was also officially started.

When I got back to Cyan, John was sitting on the stern ‘sunbathing’! Best make the most of the weather as I think it’s going to be a cold weekend.

We made our way to our ‘regular’ mooring just after Hawkesbury Junction, passing underneath the M6. The M6 bridge carrying busy motorists on a Friday afternoon, who were no doubt relishing their weekend off work. Been there, done of that, now I’m going to enjoy the result!

Wondering what makes a boater moor under a bridge when there’s plenty of room before and after?

Or what makes a boater leave two empty plastic coal bags in a hedge? Surely they’d know what it’s like to have one of those wrapped round the propeller?

Babies are changing the colour of their feathers. Can’t help but wonder if this process is itchy?

One of the 4 boats on the move we’ve seen today, manoeuvring outside the Greyhound pub at the Junction.

Looking forward to a lazy weekend….

Didn’t Expect To Cruise 14 Miles!

For us, we were out of the ‘traps’ early this morning. Our plans at breakfast were to descend three Hillmorton Locks, and perhaps moor somewhere below the locks for the night. The locks were only an hour and half away, and seeing that the day was grey and damp, we thought that would be enough cruising for the day.

When we passed this way about 10 days ago, growth on the off-side of the canal was a pain. Since then it looked like the ‘fairies’ have been, and have cut out the overhanging branches that makes the canal appear so narrow. Miles and miles of the Oxford now looks pristine!

Sometimes there’s an ‘uncomfortable’ cruising to experience. Poor old, cracked bridge, hope it can take the strain of the van while we pass under.

It was my turn to take Cyan into the three locks. This time all 3 pairs of locks were working. With two lock volunteers, and a boat coming up as we were going down, we’d gone through them in minutes.

Surprising to see birds of prey on top of a narrowboat. Obviously they were tethered to their perches, and we just had to take a snap of these magnificent birds. The owner was nearby, I did ask, as we cruised by if I could take a picture, luckily he agreed.  He said they were Harris Hawks. Looking up their spec on Wiki, they are awesome birds, but not birds that are native to the UK. They are the only raptors who hunt as a team. Pretty awesome! I loved the opportunity to see them, but I’m not a fan of having birds caged or tethered.

The part of the Oxford we travelled today was mainly through cuttings, meaning there were high banks either side of the canal. Plus there’s not a lot of moorings. Eventually we’ve moored at Ansty. It’s really been too long a cruise for us today, and we were cold through the dank weather. Still after a hot lunch, a glass of amber nectar, and being toasted by a hot fire, we soon dosed! This is one of the few joys of winter!

I’m also pleased to have now caught up with the diary. If I don’t keep it up, we’ve got no ‘register’ of time and places. It’s our memory aid!

Stunning Sunset

John wanted to pay a visit to Midland Chandlers at the Braunston Junction.

While John bought his bits and bobs for his electrical project, light switches, power sockets, and an LED tunnel lamp, Rusty and I watched the canal traffic.

By the length of time it took John to shop (and chat), we were frozen and now bored!

We were soon on our way again, and passing the famous Braunston Church. I’m pretty sure this view of the church, and the ridge and furrow field, hasn’t changed in a couple of hundred years. Baring the changes in the trees of course.

We moored just before Barby Wood Bridge (# 78). Where the sunset over the Oxford was amazing!