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.

The Beast From The East Is Dead!

Now I’ve some idea how Noah felt when he sent out his doves looking for evidence the ‘weather front’ was over!

At 6:30 this morning I got really excited when I saw the puddle of water on the canal. Has the thaw set in?

Then I checked the Met Office website…….Yes! 🙂

Now to plan our ‘escape’!

We’ve got our fingers crossed we’ll be able to move on Tuesday, because Tuesday is when desperation sets in; this morning we changed to our 3rd and LAST Elsan cassette!

Water is now on ‘ration’; washing up just twice a day, no laundry, and I’m afraid no showers – just strip washes and ‘wet wipes’. (God…. PLEASE let the thaw be quick!)

Food and drink…. we’ve plenty of.

When we ‘escape’ our plan is to wind at ‘Grove Lock Arm’, just a mile ahead, cruise back to the sanny station (which is presently just behind us), complete our chores, including filling the water tank, wind Cyan at the sanny, reverse under the bridge, and onto the Tesco shop moorings. (John; Jen’ loves to issue challenges to my boat handling skills!)

Hopefully while we’re ‘faffing’ we’ll cross paths with Jules Fuels who are presently icebound on the Tesco moorings. Jules Fuels I wouldn’t think would move if there’s too much ice. We heard (from another boater) they did venture through the ice a few years ago while they were under pressure from boaters who needed fuel. Unfortunately the ice popped one of Towcester’s rivets, causing the vintage boat to spout a pretty bad leak! These fuel boat boaters are absolute diamonds!

Cyan’s Lost Her Bounce!

We’re not swaying anymore! Getting on and off Cyan doesn’t cause the ‘normal’ lilt. It’s like she’s out of water, and standing on bricks, similar as she was at the end of last summer when she was getting her ‘bottom’ blacked at Aqueduct Marina.

Some cupboards are not shutting properly, and the drawers within a kitchen unit have become ‘fierce’. If we don’t carefully shut them, they slam shut!

All this is caused because Cyan is firmly, and tightly, icebound! Before, when we’ve been frozen in, we’ve had a slight buffer of ‘melted ice’ (water of course 🙂 ) between the boat, and the ice. I expect the ice is now so thick, it’s really got a tight ‘grip’ on Cyan. One positive; when we had high winds last night, Cyan didn’t budge!

I’ve been concerned about the poor souls in fibreglass cruisers. I’ve heard the ice can crack them.

The pic below shows the rim of a tin can in the canal. I’ve been watching this tin can since ‘the freeze’ as a sort of reference point. When I first noticed it, the rim was a good two inches out of the ice. Over the past few days, snow has fallen, turned to slush, and then turned to ice (on top of the ice). At the time of writing, the can has completely disappeared. So I would imagine, the ice is about 5 or 6 inches deep presently – deeper and shallower in different areas of course.

We set out on our ‘trek’ to the post office in Leighton Buzzard to pick up some post. As we’d be passing C&RT rubbish bins, we managed to dispose of most of our rubbish.

On the way, and near the rubbish area, we were pleasantly surprised to find a part of the canal ‘liquid’. Ducks and Swans appeared to be sharing quite a small area of water.

Leighton Buzzard looked almost derelict, and I can’t blame anyone for not bothering to venture out. Though quite a lot of the shops were open. The pavements and roads were lethal, despite us both trying to safely ‘walk like penguins’! Rusty wasn’t very happy either, we had to stop several times to take miniature ‘snowballs’ from between his toes. It must have been painful.

Sadly though, the letter hadn’t arrived despite it being posted 1st class recorded delivery last Wednesday. We tried to phone the post office before we set off to ask if the letter had arrived, apparently it’s an impossible task these days to phone a post office. The post office clerk kindly took John’s phone number, and said she’d give him a call when the letter arrives. Not surprised the post is disrupted by Brexit the snowy blizzard!

By the time we returned to Cyan, our ‘bones’ were frozen!

Regarding having Cyan’s batteries replaced, the electrical engineer has pencilled us in for week beginning 12th March. We’ll order the batteries, and the engineer will install them. He’s also going to give our electric system a ‘once over’ with the view of making the system more efficient.

Forever being positive, it looks like ‘slightly’ warmer weather is on the way!

Complaints To The Headmaster!

The weather is the topic of many conversations. The Met Office was correct, there really is a ‘Beast’!

We hear Jules Fuels are stuck in the ice just behind us, on the Tesco Shopping moorings, which will come very handy (for us) if we’re here much longer. We might toddle down with a trolley to pick up some more wood from them.

Tomorrow we’ve more or less got to pass Jules Fuels on the way to the post office. Ann, John’s sister has sent our new bank cards ‘Post Restante’ to Leighton Buzzard’s post office for us to collect. She went to post them yesterday, but unfortunately the post office in Suffolk where Ann lives, said their delivery van couldn’t get through because of the weather. We’ve got our fingers crossed they’ll make it.

Every now and again we get a flurry of fine snow, it’s so fine it’s managed to get under the canvas of the hood at the stern. The flurries are being blown into small drifts. Hope that’s all they’ll be ‘small’! We’re waiting to see what happens later as we’ve a yellow alert for snow and ice up to midnight.

Across the way from where we’re moored is a jetty for the local canoe club. It’s also on the way to the local school, and the canal is a ‘draw’ to pupils. The other morning, some kids were inquisitive about the ice, and they started to smash it with sticks. The noise was horrendous in the boat through vibrations; Rusty was going berserk thinking we were under attack! 🙂 After a few minutes of this, the kiddies were getting more and more boisterous, so I knocked on the window to get their attention, and asked them (as pleasantly as we could) to stop. Since then, Cyan has been pelted with snowballs and sticks while the kids were going too and from school.

The first day the kids started pelting Cyan, we got the mobile phone, as if to take their pictures. The abuse that came back went something like “Stop taking our pictures you pervert!” The little blighters!

This morning it came to a head as there were about a group of 10 kids messing about, I just about managed to take a picture of one of them as he was running away (he’s about 14-16 years old). As soon as he saw me with my camera through the window he tried to hide his face.

The picture wasn’t great, but I’m sure the lad can easily be identified by his sports bag, trainers and gloves. It was easy to find the school via Google Maps, and a quick letter of complaint, together with a copy of the image was sent to the headmaster. I had planned to write to the headmaster in any case, asking him to warn his pupils of the danger of frozen canals.

We’ve seen some sights while we’ve been moored here, regarding what these kids have been getting up too. This morning one of them was trying to stand up on the ice, trying to decide if the ice would support his weight, with one hand on the jetty amongst the ice and snow – he saw us looking through the window at him, and he moved on. Earlier another kid (innocently) threw a stick onto the ice, unfortunately a woman who was walking her dog on the other side (the towpath side), the dog decided to run after the stick: splosh… the dog was under the ice. Luckily the woman had the dog on an extended lead, therefore she was able to drag the dog out.

Trouble is, if a child does go into the water, another child might jump in to assist, with the result that both kid’s lives are in danger. Think it was yesterday a man drowned trying to save his dog that had fallen in a frozen lake.  Anyway, I got a very positive reply from the Head:

Dear Mrs Massey

I am really sorry about this.  I have emailed parents and sent a note to all lessons.

I will also do my best to identify the student in the photo. If you wanted to come in and look at photos you would be most welcome as I don’t want this sort of unpleasant behaviour.

Best wishes

I replied thanking him, and said I’ll just keep my camera close 🙂 .

The RNLI in an article said that only 3% of people would know what to do if they fell into frozen water. I found this webpage which we’ll be studying.

Cyan looking very cold and lonely!

On Rusty’s walk last evening.