Rudely Woken By A Choked Chimney.

Yesterday we left our mooring outside of Great Haywood Marina. We only travelled the minuscule trip into the Marina for Sani duties, and a diesel top up.

The diesel tank was brimmed with just 50 litres of diesel. While we were there we made a reservation to stay in the marina for a week at the end of January. John also had a chat in the boatyard regarding having Cyan’s bottom blacked. Blacking was only done around September 2017, but it looks like it needs doing again urgently. Ideally the end of March would be a good time when danger of ice should have passed.

We returned to where we were moored, only this time Cyan facing the ‘other way’ round, with easy access to the chimney. We’d planned to give our chimney an urgent brushing as we had an issue a couple of nights ago where we were woken by the CO alarm, it was showing we had Carbon Monoxide in the boat. A pretty dangerous situation!

It was rather shocking to see how much the chimney had been blocked.

John gave the chimney a good brush with the huge bottle brush, he rattled a chain down the chimney, and he clawed at the clinker with a metal hook.

It was a good job well done! We made a promise to give the chimney another sweep in a couple of weeks, and not to leave it too long next time.

This morning we left our mooring, stopping a short time at the Junction where the Staffordshire and Worcester canal branches off. After filling the water tank, and disposing of rubbish, we set off, turning right onto the Staffordshire and Worcester canal.

Anglo Welsh hire boats look to be waiting for their first crews of the year.

We stopped just after the widest part of ‘Tixall Wide‘, and facing a splendid building. It does look rather spooky though. The building is ‘Tixall Gatehouse’ a Grade One listed building. For two weeks in 1586, it was used as a prison for Mary, Queen of Scots while her previous residence was searched for incriminating evidence. Originally it was thought Tixall was going to be Mary’s permanent jail, but Elizabeth I had planned for Mary to stay in Fotheringay Castle instead.

The Gatehouse was also a place where the assasination of Charles II was plotted.

Built in 1555 by Sir Edward Aston, this gatehouse was once the grand entrance to an even grander house.

The main house was rebuilt, demolished and rebuilt again over the next 3 centuries, until in 1928 when the house was demolished, with the material re-used to build the Saint John’s Church Chancel at Littleworth.

Near to where we are moored, there’s a memorial patch in memory of Beau the Bassett Boater, a much loved boater’s companion. It’s lovely to see the primroses.

Waking Up In A White World

After rolling up the galley blinds, the outside world looked lovely this morning. A heavy frost lay over the ground, over trees and hedgerows. It was ‘picture beautiful’. By the time I’d got myself decent to take a picture, the sun had appeared, and the frost all but disappeared.

It was a perfect day for cruising, It was cold, but being dressed to keep the cold out made travelling a pleasure.

We passed Shugborough Hall. The Shugborough estate was owned by the Bishops of Lichfield until the Dissolution of the Monasteries around 1540.

The Hall was until recently ‘a council house’, housing Staffordshire County Council.

Following the death of the 4th Earl of Lichfield in 1960, the estate was allocated to the National Trust in lieu of death duties, and then immediately leased to Staffordshire County Council. Management of the estate was returned to the National Trust in 2016. More information….

The Hall is open to the public and comprises the hall, museum, kitchen garden and a model farm.

We had one lock to pass through today, Haywood Lock (#22) and we were pleased to see the lock has had new runners replaced along the top gates, with the wooden runners being longer, allowing someone with shorter legs like me, the ability to get to the other side of the lock. There’s no bridge to access the other side. We used to call this lock ‘devil lock’ when I did the locks because I hadn’t learnt to steer Cyan.

Today we travelled around 2 miles, and through one lock.

I Know It’s January, But It Feels Like Spring!

We were woken early this morning, about 6am, by the Carbon Monoxide Alarm sounding off by our bed at the stern of the boat.

John rushed to the back of the boat to open the stern doors, while I raced to the front, opening windows as I went down the boat before opening the bow doors, and unzipping the cratch covers to get more air into the boat.

The stove was riddled, ash was emptied, and the stove was turned up to burn the smouldering cinders. We couldn’t see any reason why any CO had escaped. The alarm at the front near the stove registered 45ppm (this one didn’t sound the alarm), and the stern alarm which had woken us up, registered 55ppm.

Thank goodness it wasn’t such a cold night seeing that Cyan was now open to the elements, though the wind was rather high which could have been the culprit; blowing down the chimney.

We’ve promised to give the flue a good brushing at the first opportunity we get when the towpath is on the chimney side.

We had stayed at our spot by the aqueduct over the weekend, though it was rather quiet. With the weather being in the doldrums, we stayed indoors keeping cosy.

This morning, after breakfast, the sun came out, just at the time we were leaving. It was such a pleasure to cruise in the sunshine after the bleak weather we had over the weekend.

Colwich Lock

After going through Colwich Lock, we found a good spot to moor for the night.

Today we’ve travelled just under 3 miles.

Just A Short Journey Today

It was a lovely bright morning first thing, sad it didn’t last though. Still the wind had calmed down, which made motoring easy. I haven’t been having much ‘practice’ of late on the tiller, so today was my day to be ‘captain’.

Weather couldn’t make up its mind what it wanted to do.

We had planned to moor somewhere at the bottom of Buckby Locks, but circumstances changed that.

As we approached several moored boats we slowed down; but while we were going slow a boat in front of us pushed off from his mooring, forcing us to ‘tread water’ for a minute or so. It wouldn’t have been so annoying if the boater was in a hurry, but he was excruciatingly slow. Then it started to rain….  Rather than get upset with the boater, we took the rain to be a sign, and moored up for the day.

The seasons are changing with a bumper crop from this apple tree!

John took the chance to change a cupboard door in the bathroom, and I made a batch of current scones to try out the blackberry jam I made yesterday. I also made a small loaf while I was in ‘the mood’. We’d run out of cream for the scones, though we did have a tub of mascarpone cheese instead, which worked deliciously well.

This past week the fresh water gauge had decided to pack up again. It stopped working last winter, then a few months ago it started working again. Obviously it’s a loose connection somewhere. John found the problem under the cratch, a loose connection on the sender unit next to the tank. Having a gauge is really handy, when we didn’t have it last year it was a question of counting how many times the washing machine had been on, and how many showers we’d had.

Today we’ve travelled around 4 miles, and no locks.

Catching Up On The Grand Union

The best place to catch up is to start where we left off!

Week last Thursday (9th August)

We left our Ditchford FOTRN mooring on the Nene fairly early for us.

We’d booked to stay the night at White Mills Marina, a promise we made when we’d previously stayed at the marina on our way to the Ouse. We were in need of topping the diesel tank, using the sanny service, and to off load our growing rubbish mountain. A huge Tesco order had also been booked for delivery at the Marina.

The weather forecast advised us that rain was on the way again, and with having 6 locks to go through before we get to the marina at the anticipated time of 2pm, an early start was planned.

With the recent heavy rain, sailing out of the locks was a bit of a nightmare as there was a gentle flow on the river due to the recent rains, the flow had washed downstream a huge amount of weed, which had congregated at the top lock gates.

Just as we were going through White Mills Lock, our last lock of the day, the heavens opened. As fast as we could, while at the same time manoeuvring the tight marina entrance, and going dead slow in the marina, we reached the service jetty where we were helped to temporarily moor. The staff took cover from the rain while we battened down our hatches, and waited for the violent thunderstorm to pass.

When the storm had passed, our diesel tank was brimmed, together with sanny and rubbish duties carried out, an empty gas bottle was exchanged for a full one, and we were helped by obliging staff to our overnight mooring.

Saturday (10/11th August)

Our Tesco delivery arrived on time, though it took quite a while finding space in Cyan for all our delivery.

Looking at the weather forecast, we thought it best to stay another night in the marina. The weather forecast was once again spot on; only this time hailstones was added to the mix of thunder, lightening, and torrential rain.

Sunday (12th August)

Waking up to a fine sunny day, we’d planned to travel through five locks, and hopefully stop on the 48 hr EA mooring just after Weston Favell Lock Flood Gates.

This is a great mooring for Rusty as there’s a park alongside the mooring where he could have a good run.

Monday (13th August)

Not a good day weatherwise, and it was an easy decision to stop on our mooring one more night. By the afternoon the rain clouds had passed over, and it was quite a pleasant afternoon. We were tempted, despite windy conditions, to continue our journey. In the end we plumed for a good start in the morning, and perhaps even climb the 17 Northampton Arm locks, including the Rotherthorpe Flight.

Tuesday (14th August)

A sharp start to the much calmer day, saw us leaving our mooring before breakfast around 7:30 a.m.

We had 3 locks to go through before we reached Northamption Junction, and the end of the Nene.

Just after we’d gone through Rush Mills Lock, once again the heavens opened. We found a spare gap on the EA mooring before Northampton Lock, where we had a good breakfast while we waited for the rain to stop. Luckily it wasn’t long after breakfast that the sun came out, and we were once again on our way.

After Northampton Lock, my lock duties had been completed! It was now John’s turn to work the locks, and the first one, Cotton Lock no.17, took us onto CRT waters.

The journey through the Norhampton Arm was fraught trying to avoid the weeds, but the crystal clear water was fabulous. There’s a huge stock of fish in the canal, and it was fascinating to watch them swim about, some were quite big too.

At the last two locks we were helped by a CRT employee. Luckily we were in time, though we hadn’t realised there was a ‘curfew’ on the locks. The flight of locks are being padlocked between 6:00 pm, and 9:00 am, due to water shortage. See CRT Information.

It had been a long day, and we were pleased, yet very satisfied, to moor just before Gayton Junction.

Wednesday (15th August)

We’d been thinking about having a few adjustments done to Cyan once we got back onto the canals. One of the urgent jobs was  Cyan’s drainage system. The waste from the kitchen sink, the bathroom sink, and the shower flows into a sump. Once the water gets to a certain level in the sump, the ‘Whale Gulper’ kicks in and expels the water into the cut. This has been such a pain, as every 6 weeks or so the sump has to be dismantled, and cleaned of grease and gunge that had built up. As you can imagine it’s not a job we look forward too. Plus it’s a pain (literally) for John to get on his arthritic knees to access the sump. There is also, with this system, the potential to flood the bilge should the ‘Gulper’ fail to work.

As we were across the ‘way’ from Gayton Marina, we made enquiries via a telephone call to see if they’d like to quote for the work. Unfortunately the guy who could help us was having a day off, and that he’d give us a call when he returned.

In the meantime, John was chatting to another boater about the work we wanted doing, and he recommended the boatyard next to Gayton Services (Grand Junction Boat Co). John walked to the boatyard, and after having a chat with the manager, we were booked into the boatyard on Friday to have the work done. They will be cutting two holes in the hull, one for the kitchen sink waste, and one for bathroom basin, so the waste from the sinks are drained straight into the cut. A pipe will be welded into each hole, and attached to the sink’s waste pipe. The shower waste will be connected directly to the gulper, and the water evacuated through the original sump hole.

Thursday (16th August)

We had a gentle cruise to Bugbrook winding hole where we winded Cyan, returning and mooring just before Gayton Junction.

Once moored, John dismantled panels in the bathroom so the boatyard staff could access necessary areas.

Friday (17th August)

We set off early on Friday as we were booked into the boatyard for 9:00 am.

As soon as we arrived we were direct where to moor, and the work was promptly started. All went to plan, with one snag, which is no big deal.

The bathroom sink waste pipe is now lower than the hole in the hull where the waste water will flow out. Meaning the water will not flow out through the pipe, water doesn’t travel uphill. The hole in the hull had to be 10 inches above the waterline for obvious reasons (we don’t want to sink), the hole was just on 10 inches. We’ve planned to have a cabinet made in the bathroom to support the sink, rather than the chrome pedestal we presently have, it’ll make better use of the space for storage purposes. This job now looks to be a priority. Presently the bathroom waste from the sink is draining into a bucket.

Work wasn’t completed until after 5:00 pm. After paying our bill to the boatyard, we pulled forward onto the sanny services to take on water, use the Elsan services, and dump our rubbish.

It was late for us when we finally moored at basically the same spot we were the night previous.

Saturday (18th August)

Time to get straight again. John ‘rebuilt’ the bathroom, and completed the project of installing new/extra LED lights in the bathroom. Trouble was, the bathroom ceiling fan came on automatically when the light was switched on. We don’t always need the fan, and it was decided that an isolater switch be installed so we could switch off the fan, and turn it on when needed.

Sunday (today)

We stayed put today, we’ve chilled, and I’ve caught up with our blog. This morning we picked about a kilo of blackberries for a pie, and make a couple of pots of blackberry jam. The weather was rather windy this morning, and I doubt it would have been a great idea to battle with the wind by cruising. Lots of boats, especially hire boats, have passed us, but we’ve not envied their challenging wind conditions.

Tomorrow the weather looks to be a calmer, and dry.

We’ve planned our next journey which will take us through Braunston, down the Oxford, and onto the Coventry. We’re hoping to call into Springwood Haven Marina on the Coventry where Steve fitted out our kitchen last Autumn. He made such a perfect job of it that we’d like him to build the new bathroom cabinet/sink unit. Hopefully he’ll be able to fit us in quite soon, then we’ll be on our way again. Down the Coventry, turning right at Fradley Junction, through the Trent & Mersey…. and onto Crick down the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union…. and who knows where after that!

An Enthusiastic Gongoozler

We left our mooring around about 10, weather wise it felt much cooler, what a relief.

We nearly made a rather  embarrassing mistake at our first lock of the day ‘Lower Ringstead Lock’, saved only for a man that was lying full length on a hammock next to his boat. What was he shouting at us? Had he been drinking? Was he telling us to slow down? We were already going very slow as we were trying to work out where the lock was, we could only see a weir in front of us, and we wanted to see which side the lock landing was. At the last minute, we understood….. he was shouting “Go Left!” Normally there’s a sign with an arrow directing boats to the correct navigational channel, but this time it was missing. “Thank you that man! Sorry we misjudged you!”

Irthlingborough’s beautiful 14th century bridge.

We met a lovely young chap (about 14 years old), at Higham Ferrers Lock. He was with his mother and brother on the bank by the lock. But he came running up to me at the lock as he was so interested how locks worked, and was desperate to be hands-on. Higham Ferrers lock was the first lock for months we’ve had to work that has 2 gates at the top, and two at the bottom. Apparently boaters (for some reason) don’t have to leave this lock empty, so I had to let the water out first, obviously before I could open the gates. The boy asked so many questions, he’d never seen a lock worked before, and wanted to know all the ins and outs. He did me a favour though, as he helped with the really heavy gates. It was fabulous to see a youngster so enthusiastic to learn. Perhaps he will one day be a dedicated boater?

Just before our last lock of the day, Ditchford Lock, with its electric ‘up and over’ bottom gate, Cyan managed to get stuck in the mud by a nettle infested bank. This stretch of the river is quite narrow in places, with several 45 deg angled bends. A couple of times John sounded the horn as he couldn’t see 10′ beyond Cyan’s bow. Coming around one of the bends, at quite a lick, was a narrowboat (John thought it was a hire boat), with 2 or 3 young kiddies sitting on the roof. We were very nearly t-boned! The other boater could hardly get around the bend in time, and as he swung around, his stern was inches off our bow. John successfully, thank goodness, took avoiding action which put us into the bank. After shuffling and pushing off with the pole, we eventually were freed. Not that the other boater cared, he just sailed away with a couple of, hopefully embarrassed, backward glances.

Today we’ve travelled just over 8 miles, and 5 locks.

Planning Our Last Few Days On The Nene

We left our mooring at around 9:15 am, both of us feeling a little jaded after not sleeping very well, it was far too hot! Think last night’s heat was the warmest since this summer’s heat wave began. I must say the anticipated ‘reprieve’ being forecast will be very welcome. How long will it be before we’re all moaning about the rain and cold again?

John spotted a red kite that swooped down to the ground, and landed on the bank. By the time I fumbled with the camera, the kite was taking off.

For miles the kite looked to be following us.

There was just one lock today where I didn’t have to empty the lock after John sailed Cyan through. The boaters who were entering the full lock said they were on their way to the River Ouse. They’d decided on their journey after being fed up with North/West canals being short of water.

Travelling through Thrapston, and under the 9 arch bridge. Its origins are medieval, and was probably rebuilt in 1795

We’ve moored for the day on Woodford ‘Friends of the Nene’ mooring. When we moored we could hear a cow bellowing, and wondered if she was shouting for her calf, and fearing the shouting could last all night. Then we spotted the bull in the field just across from the river. At first he wasn’t too interested, but now he appears to be ‘fired up’, and is desperate to find way to cross the river.

Poor lovelorn bull!

  • Tomorrow night we’ve planned to moor above Ditchford Lock.
  • For Thursday night we’ve booked ourselves into White Mills Marina. We’re in need of diesel,  a replacement gas bottle, as well as sanny services. A Tesco delivery has been ordered for Friday morning.
  • Friday night we’ve planned to stay (if we can get in) just after Weston Favell Flood Gates.
  • Saturday night our plan is to moor just before the Nene/Grand Union junction.
  • If all goes to plan, we’ll be climbing the 17 Rotherthorpe Locks on Sunday.
  • On Monday, we’ll be having a rest, and plan our next adventure.

Today we’ve travelled over 7 miles, and through 4 locks.

Moored At The Kings Head

Sunday saw us travelling from Fotheringhay to just above Ashton Lock where we found a ‘Friends of the River Nene’ mooring. It must be a new mooring as it wasn’t noted in the two Nene maps we have.

We were pleased to find the mooring, as the day was hot, and the river was quite busy with ‘Sunday Boaters’. At two  of the locks we found the lock landing occupied by boaters that appeared to be ‘taking a break’! This made it rather awkward as Cyan had to tread water outside the lock while I reset the guillotine gates, then of course when I wanted to get back on Cyan, it was a case of ‘legs hanging over the lock wall’ while I slid down. The waterways have been designed for everyone to share, as safely as possible. It’s fabulous to see so many people enjoying themselves, but we all do need to share.

Little did we know though (until the evening), that alongside our mooring there’s a stagnant, but small pond under the trees in the hedge, a perfect breeding ground for mosquitos. Despite the heat, Cyan’s windows had to be closed.

We set off yesterday morning with an aim to arrive at Thrapston. We remember passing through Thrapston, and thought this would be a fabulous place to stop on our return.

Sorry about the dark pictures, the camera was set wrong 🙁

Our first lock of the day was Lower Barnwell, we were helped through by Environment Agency workmen who were waiting to take their huge work boat down the lock. They are busy repairing lock landings.

At Upper Barnwell lock we found yet another boat on the lock landing where the boaters were having a cup of tea (perhaps this is normal on the River Nene?) This time the boater came over and apologised, and insisted they’d lower the guillotine gate to save Cyan ‘hovering’ while John waited for me to set the lock.

Our next lock was Lilford, as we approached, we saw there was a boat in the lock going up. John dropped me off on the landing, and I climbed the stairs to offer help. The lady boater asked if we’d  overtaken a boat, as they’d been waiting half an hour for another boat to arrive as they were sharing locks with them. With that I mentioned there was a boat moored on the lock landing at the last lock landing, making it awkward for other boaters…. blah blah I moaned…! I quickly shut up when I realised this lady’s boat was one of those that was moored on a landing on Sunday! Whoops, ‘foot firmly put in mouth’! (Still if the cap fits 😉 )

By way of helping to relieve my embarrassment, I told her to jump on her boat, and that I’d set the guillotine gates. Whilst raising the guillotine gates after Cyan had gone through, I noticed the boat we’d left at the lock behind us was approaching.

The ‘defunct’ Archimedes Screw at Wadenhoe Lock. Think it was defunct due to the amount of silt it had ‘misplaced’.

At Wadenhoe Lock, the boat in front was waiting for us to join them. Despite the embarrassment about the lock landing, they were pleasant, and obliging, they thought we’d be joining them for the next few locks. But we’d had enough, the weather had been very hot, and the Kings Head at the top of lock looked very inviting!

With help from another boater, who was moored by the pub, we moored at the bottom of the ‘garden’, just as half a dozen canoeists decided to do the same!

It’s £10 per night to stay here, but if you have a meal, mooring is for free. So we had a lovely meal! Potted crab, steak and ale pie, and ice cream for afters. Fabulous!

We’re not sure where we’ll be staying tonight, the last of the current heatwave. The day so far is an unwritten page!

Yesterday we travelled over 5 miles, and through 4 locks.

Mooring Between Two Weddings

We left our mooring by the Nene Valley Railway Museum after a hearty breakfast as we’re not sure how far we’d be travelling today, this stretch of the Nene appears to be rather short of moorings. The decision was taken to ‘go with the flow’ and see what the day brings.

It was a lovely day weather wise, the sun was shining, and it felt pleasant thanks to a coolish breeze.

The cormorant below had been up early for his breakfast, we  spotted him high on a branch drying off his feathers.

Our journey today saw us travelling through four locks, and we were lucky enough to meet a boat at three of the locks that wanted to descend down the locks, meaning I only had to empty (reset) one lock.

At Yarwell lock we stopped to fill our almost empty water tank, the water flow was so strong, the water tank was filled within minutes. Though it was a little disconcerting as the ‘noise’ of the water going into the tank was a sound we hadn’t heard before due to the pressure of water going into the tank.

At one of the locks while waiting (with my thumb on the button) for the guillotine gate to lower, I felt something crawling up my 3/4 length baggy trousers. I tried to shake it off, only to get painfully stung! I’m sure I put on a pretty dance show in front of several fishermen and canoeists tying to get rid of the thing (wasp?), but at least I didn’t in my panic, shed my trousers!

Talking of being trouserless, or naked to be exact, steering one of the three boats we passed coming the other way from us, was a man who was bare naked except for some tattoos! He was trying to catch as many sunrays as possible – this was a situation where I wish I could un-see the spectacle.

At Fotheringhay we decided we’d moor, and pay the farmer a fiver. Just like the last time we’d moored here, we’d hardly knocked in the mooring pins, when the farmer appeared with his tin. The farmer did warn us though that it might be noisy. The next field on both sides where we moored had wedding marquees in the fields.

We had a leisurely bbq for dinner, and the evening air was very pleasant. As we sipped our Rioja, sounds of a solo trumpeter belting out from one of the maquees entertained us for over half an hour…. it was ‘magic our morris!’

Today we’ve travelled almost 10 miles, and through 4 locks.

The Nene Valley Railway Museum

It’s was going to be hot today; so to beat some of the heat we left our mooring at Ferry Meadow just before 9:00 am.

The weather, though hot, was calm, as was the water.

We were quite lucky at Alwalton Lock, our first lock of the day. Just as John took Cyan out, another boat sailed into the lock. The other boaters were happy, as we were, it saved us having to empty the lock, and saved them having to fill it. On the Nene boaters are obliged to leave locks empty with the bottom gates open, or the guillotine in the ‘up’ position.

At our next lock, Waternewton Lock, a boat behind us caught us up just as Cyan was again sailing out of the lock. One of the crew from the boat behind kindly said she’ll take over from me setting/emptying the lock. Well that must be Karma, as I did the same for this lady at Ashline Lock on the Middle Levels when we were behind their boat, guess it was pay-back time.

The church by the lock is beautiful, and it looks like there’s a wedding being prepared for tomorrow. How lovely for the church to host a marque in its grounds.

This time we managed to moor at Wansford Station Railway Bridge mooring. John was hoping get on this mooring as it was occupied last time we passed, and he did so want to look around at the railway museum.

When we were working through Alwalton Lock, a man came to watch us go through. After chatting to him, it turns out he’s the lock keeper for the Dog and Doublet Lock, and his remit stretches to keeping watch on Alwalton and Waternewton Locks. John mentioned we were hoping to stop at the Nene Valley Railway Museum, and perhaps see a steam engine ‘fired’ for action. The lock keeper told John that due to dry weather, the museum has had to stop firing up engines, as sparks from the train could start landscape fires. We were left wondering; what did they do in the ‘old days’?

John was delighted to find the steam engine ’92 Squadron’ (see their website) was fired up and running.

Today at the museum was ‘Driver Experience Day’, meaning two (paying) passengers get to ride on the ‘plate’, and even have a go driving the engine for about an hour; food, drink, and professional photographs all included. Each time the engine is fired up, it apparently costs c. £1,400! The cost for one passenger is around £300 for a trip, and we can understand why.

In the evening, the engine was hitched to several carriages, including a diner, where passengers were treated to a ride with an evening dinner included.

Today we’ve travelled almost 4 miles, and through 2 locks.