Wondering If We’ll Get Any Sleep Tonight!

We waited for the rain to stop before we set off this morning. The rain stopped right on que as predicted by the Met Office.

We’d just dropped down our first lock (Top Side Lock #56), when a boat approached behind us. We pushed off to set the next lock for the two boats. Luckily a huge wide beam was just coming out of the lock, and we sailed in. We waited a short time in the lock for the other boat, owned by a lovely couple, to join us.

It was great, we had companions to drop down the following locks together, sharing the work.

There was no point taking many photos, because the sunshine was missing today, it was a very grey day.

Daffodils are just about in full bloom.

We moored just before Boxmoor Bottom Lock (#64), though we did try to moor before Station Road Bridge, but we couldn’t get into the side because of silting. Wish we hadn’t tried as it took us several minutes to manoeuvre Cyan’s bow out of the silt where she was stuck.

The towpath is sodden, and the mud is black and loamy, which isn’t great when you’ve a big hairy dog that needs to go for walks.

Just across the way is a travelling circus, it’s about 100 metres away from where we’re moored. At the time of writing, they’re setting up their entertainment music. Now we’re wondering what’s in store for us tonight? We slept soundly last night, despite being about 50 metres away from 2 train tracks that was busy carrying goods and passengers. But the base of the music from the circus is vibrating through our boat, making us feel we’re sitting inside a drum!  They’ve got a sound system that would rival Anfield. I’m not keen on circuses for obvious reasons, tonight I might be cursing them. OMG am I really getting old 🙁

Time to fezz up; I haven’t mention my today’s ‘senior moment’, if I didn’t John said he would snitch on me. At our last lock of the day, I was distracted by a boat that wanted to come up the lock, then I watched our ‘companion boat’ enter the lock, and I started to close the gate. A ‘manic’ shout from John woke me up, he’d just lined Cyan up to enter the lock, when I started to closed the gate, Cyan had momentum and couldn’t stop (no brakes on a narrowboat!). I moved quick to push the gate open again. Luckily the gate opened with barely an inch to spare, and disaster was diverted! It was one of those moments that appeared to be in slow motion, and we all let out a breath of air when Cyan missed the gate! Phew!

Funnily enough, today we’ve had a text alert from C&RT Kennet & Avon, it appears navigation has stopped because of a boat causing chaos:

Today we’ve cruised 2.7 miles, and through 8 locks.

Totem Pole And A Sore Foot!

Within the next ten or so miles ahead, we’ve got 25 big, fat, Grand Union locks to traverse.

After taking Rusty for a walk, John barely managed to hobble back to Cyan; we think (we’re not sure) he’s twisted his ankle. You can imagine, I’m a little concerned.

This morning after a shower, Ibuprofen gel was massaged into John’s foot, and an elastic bandage applied. He did manage to work our three locks of the day, and said his foot “Wasn’t too bad!” (I’ve got my finger’s crossed his foot will soon be better!)

Our journey started with cruising fifty metres or so, before stopping outside Waitrose, on the 4 hour ‘shop and drop’ mooring. I wanted to pick up a few fresh vegetables, and to buy three 10kg bags of coal. Jules Fuels are presently in Stoke Bruerne, and can’t supply us with coal any time soon. I’ve sent an email to ‘M and P Carriers’ asking their position, but as yet have not heard from them.

Over the past week we’ve only been lighting the fire after 4:00 pm, and we don’t put any more coal on the stove in the evening. Therefore, hopefully this 30kg of coal will last us until the Autumn!  The diesel heating gets fired up for about 20 minutes in the morning, which stops our teeth from chattering 🙂 .

New pristine lock gates, John said the gates were lightly balanced and easy to use. A great example of C&RT craftsmanship, and fit for another 25 years!

Never thought we’d see a totem pole today:

“The Berkhamsted Canadian totem pole sits adjacent to the canal, close to Castle Street Bridge. In the early 1960s, Roger Alsford, a great-grandson of the founder of the timber company, James Alsford (1841–1912), went to work at the Tahsis lumber mill on Vancouver Island. During a strike, he was rescued from starvation by a local Kwakiutl community. Alsford’s brother, William John Alsford, visited the island, and in gratitude for the local people’s hospitality, commissioned a totem pole from the Canadian First Nations artist Henry Hunt. The western red cedar pole, 30 feet (9 m) high and 3 feet (1 m) in diameter, was carved by Hunt at Thunderbird Park, a centre for First Nation monuments. The completed pole was shipped to Britain and erected at Alsford’s Wharf in 1968.” Source.

It’s not my imagination, Spring is definately here; it’s exciting!

We just did three locks today, and cruised just over one and half miles.

Berkhamsted For The Weekend

We skipped breakfast this morning, and promised ourselves a hearty lunch when we stopped. We weren’t hungry due to ketogenic dieting/intermediate fasting.

It was about 9:30 pm when Cyan slipped her mooring, and she cruised into the first Dudswell Lock. There’s a message on the lock gates telling boaters to leave a paddle on the bottom gate open. This is to leave the lock chambers empty to reduce leakages through the lock walls.

We noticed these huge nests where we were moored, we’re presume they are herons nests?

At the second Dudswell lock, we were lucky as a wide beam was coming up the lock.

Noticing a paddle was open on Northchurch lock, John closed it, and was just about to fill the lock when he saw C&RT’s maintenance boats approaching. They were returning their machinery back to ‘port’, after it had been been used on the Apsley locks repairs. The C&RT men reminded John to leave a paddle open on the lock.

The rest of today’s locks we found had a paddle open, so we left the locks as we found them, with a paddle open.

The lock was built in 1876, not the oldest lock on the network, but it still boggles the mind that these locks are still in use.

Some take the ‘fast lane’, and others would rather choose a ‘snail’s pace’.

I’m pretty certain Spring is going to ‘explode’ into life as soon as we get a few days of high temperatures.

We’re now moored, probably until Monday, at Berkhamsted. We’re within easy distance of a Waitrose, and I can’t wait to have a good scout through! I’m pretty sure there will be a yummy fayre of different food from what we’re used to from Mr Tesco. Shame we missed the ‘Farmer’s Market’, as it’s only here on the third Saturday of the month.

Berhamsted also have a good old fashioned high street – hopefully still full of ‘unique’ shops.

Within an hour of mooring; we tucked into a 200g ribeye steak, served with a roquefort cream sauce, creamed cauli and spinach, and butter coated sprouts. In case anyone is worried about our colesterol levels, there’s no need 🙂 (About Keto).

We’re planning to have a gander around the ruins of Berkhamsted Castle, it was the place where:

“William the Conqueror received the submission of the English at Berkhamsted Castle after the Battle of Hastings. His half-brother, Robert of Mortain, built a timber castle there in about 1070. It was in the classic Norman motte-and-bailey form, with a defensive conical mound and oval bailey below.

The castle stayed in royal hands, and in 1155 Thomas Becket was granted the honour of Berkhamsted by King Henry II. As chancellor, Becket was the king’s right hand man and enjoyed great favour. He rebuilt the castle to befit his new status and house his large staff. Becket’s buildings probably included the huge stone curtain wall.

Later in 1164, during his quarrel with the king, Becket was accused of embezzlement. He was disgraced and deprived of the honour of Berkhamsted.” From English Heritage – more…

Latest information re Middlewich Breach:

Today we have cruised 2 miles, and dropped through 6 locks.

Leaving The Wendover Arm

We left our mooring on the Wendover Arm of the Grand Union in glorious Spring sunshine at about 10:00 am.

But not before taking time for yet ‘another’ walk, taking the opportunity to snap a few pictures of the restoration work on the un-navigable section of the canal.

Cyan nestling in the Chilterns

We can still keep an eye on Cyan

A new wooden footbridge has been built over the un-navigable part of the canal.

Notice the ‘beast from the East’ is still hanging around!

We’re now cruising under the bridge and are exiting the arm; re-joining the Grand Union Main Line.

We turned right at the junction, and headed towards Cowroast, leaving Marsworth Locks behind.

When we visited the butchers in Tring yesterday, there was rather a bit of ‘excitement’ due to the opticians across the way being broken into, and several policemen were inside gathering evidence. The butcher said they were having a spate of robberies lately, including boats being broken into near this junction. It maybe hearsay, but it’s always a good reminder to be careful.

As we were cruising through a cutting, the sun went in, and it turned cold. We decided to call it a day after sanny duties, and the first lock.

Leaving Cowroast Lock, after sanny, rubbish, and filling water tank duties completed.

We’re now moored just before the first Dudswell Lock. As soon as we moored, the sun came out!

This cottage is on the side of Cowroast Lock; we passed it today!

Today we’ve cruised just under 5 miles, and 1 lock.

Spring In Dacorum

We’ve been floating in a beautiful spot at the end of the navigable section of the Wendover Arm, while waiting for our letter to arrive from Hermes.

Today we received an automated message saying our package had arrived at the Tring Hermes Parcelshop. Despite the Hermes sign outside the shop saying it was a collect and postal service for Hermes, and despite the Hermes website saying people could collect parcels from their local Parcelshop; apparently this isn’t the case as they only deal with Retail customers. When we called at the shop to collect our letter, the assistant said we shouldn’t have used this service!

We’re trying to get this clarified with Hermes, which is proving a bit problematic. Nevertheless….. WE HAVE OUR LETTER! The letter contained our new debit and credit cards, so it was very important for them to be safely in our possession.

Tomorrow we can now untie our moorings, and once more (no pun intended) be on our way! Can’t wait, despite being moored in such an idyllic spot.

The weekend was a bit parky!

On our walk to Tring High Street, there were signs everywhere that Spring is really springing!

At a sheltered spot, the hawthorne has clearly woken up

The cherry blossom can’t wait any longer to show off its glorious blossom

It wont be long before one of my favourite plants will be in full bloom, that’s the foxglove

Tring High Street is looking very pretty. This is clearly the land of 4x4s. It’s also within the Dacorum Borough.

Wiki says:

“The name Dacorum comes from Latin and it means “hundred of the Dacians”. The latter word was used mistakenly in the Middle Ages for ‘Danes’. This happened because of a legend asserting that certain tribes from Dacia had migrated to Denmark. The hundred of Dacorum was first recorded in 1196, although it has existed since the 9th and 10th centuries, when it lay near the southern boundary of the Danelaw, on the River Lea. In 1086, the Domesday Book records the hundreds of Tring and Danais in places that became parts of the hundred of Dacorum.”

My Hermes – Probably My Hero!

What a shock to hear about the canal breach, between the first and second lock on the Middlewich Arm of the Shroppie, near to the Trent & Mersey Junction.

How lucky was the boater in that boat. What a fright he must have had and to be rescued by the police.

I understand no one was hurt, but I expect many were shocked, and a lot of boaters are inconvenienced, but really pleased there wasn’t a tragedy. Sympathies go out to those boaters who are stranded. I suppose at the moment, until the damage is assessed, it’s a case of ‘how long’s a piece of string’.

Looks like there are 15-20 stranded boats.  The breach has exposed a mass of rusty cycles, leisure batteries (Grrr!), and even a rusty handgun! The police have taken away the handgun to determine whether it’s a replica or a real one. If it’s real, then I guess a police ‘cold case’ will be wheeled out.

C&RT’s Stoppage Notice

It’s a cold cold day today! Not even Rusty wanted to go for a walk. Think we’ve been a bit spoilt by the springlike weather over the last few days – and the cold has returned with a vengeance.

What a daft duck sitting on a cold stone block. Surely she could find herself a warmer spot?

To continue with the saga of our letter that was posted to Leighton Buzzard Post Office without ‘Post Restante’ written on it. We managed to track it down to within inches away from us. Yet the Royal Mail (on Tues, 6th March) would not hand it over to us, saying it had to be returned to sender.

We complained to the Royal Mail, where we basically received ‘lip service’, and ‘rules are rules’, but we did get the ‘confession’ that ‘commonsense should have prevailed’. (Honest ‘Mi Lud’ we don’t normally make a habit of complaining, despite the ‘evidence’ lately in this blog.)

The letter was to be returned to John’s sister’s address on the 6th March, but by Saturday 10th some 5 days later, the letter still hadn’t been returned. John’s sister flew out to South Africa on the 10th for a couple of weeks, which meant there would be no one ‘at home’. Our niece who works away from home, luckily returned home this weekend, and has confirmed she’s received the letter. There’s an apologetic note from the Royal Mail saying the letter has been damaged!

Edited to say: Hermes service may not be as written below – please see next blog.

We’ve now discovered ‘My Hermes‘! How come we’ve not heard of this company before? What a brilliant concept! (Trust we’re not speaking too soon 🙂 )

Basically, our Niece will register the letter on-line, print off the delivery label, than take the letter to the nearest ‘My Hermes Point’, which happens to be a local CoOp shop just 5 minutes away from her. The letter will be delivered to the nearest ‘My Hermes Point’ to us, which is ‘The Convenience Store’ in Tring, just under a mile away. The cost being  £2.79 , inclusive of ‘tracking’, which is about the cost of the Royal Mail Recorded Delivery paid originally.

Message to the Royal Mail: Thank you for all your past service, but it appears (that maybe) you are now no longer required!

Moored On The Summit!

We wasn’t too sure if we should stay where we were moored because of the weather, but after a night of rain turning the towpath into a mud bath, we decided to move. The weather forecast rightly predicted the heavy rain would pass over around 10:00 am, so at about 11:00 am, we pushed Cyan off.

Cyan soon ascended the first two Marsworth locks (# 37 and #38), and we pleasantly cruised towards the Marsworth Services.

Marsworth Services must be one of the smartest sanny stations we’ve seen, which is probably because it is new and tagged onto the end of a trendy housing estate.

We tied Cyan to the mooring rings, then gathered our rubbish. It wasn’t obvious where we were to dump the rubbish, so we asked the maintenance man who was cleaning the area. The maintenance man also told John where the Elsan point was.

After dumping our rubbish John took the cassette to the Elsan point. He didn’t think there was a problem with the door being unlocked, because the maintenance man was there. John put the cassette down, then flushed the bowl to clean it before he tipped up the cassette. At that point a 35ish year old man stood at the doorway and gave John a tirade of verbal abuse – think of the worse words you can, and these are all the words the man shouted at John. It seems the man was a plumber, and he was there to mend a water pipe. There wasn’t an ‘Out Of Order’ notice on the door. If there was John wouldn’t have ignored it. John stood his ground, but I could tell he was physically shaken.

It was about 12:30 pm when we started to ascend the rest of the Marsworth Locks, starting at Lock #39, in the now pouring rain. The top gate was a pig, and John struggled to budge it, so I’m afraid Cyan gave the gate a gentle nudge to open it.

We cruised to Lock #40, and could see quite a lot of water was pouring out of the bottom lock gates. I tied Cyan to a bollard to be secure, as it looked like an awful lot of water would have to be emptied from the lock, causing rather a bit of turbulence. When John walked to the lock he saw that all four of the paddles on the top gates were open. Very odd considering Tring Summit has a water shortage problem. He closed the top paddles, and opened the lower ones to let the water out of the lock. While he waited for the lock to empty, he phoned C&RT to report the paddles being left open. No one at C&RT had opened the paddles, and they confirmed the paddles should be down. While John was on the phone he made a complaint about the abuse he’d received at the sanny. C&RT was very apologetic, and said no boater should take abuse from any C&RT contractor, and that they’d get the Area Manager to phone John back. So far no phone call; we’ll wait until tomorrow, if the Area Manager doesn’t respond, we’ll escalate our complaint.

Because  the paddles were left open, the water in the pounds between the locks was very low.

In full sunshine, we finally got to the top of Marsworth Locks! Then John saw a notice on the bridge over the Wendover Arm.

The notice was an invitation to explore one and half ‘lock-free miles’ of the Wendover Arm. The notice said; at the end of the arm there’s a turning point, and 48 hour moorings.  How could we miss the opportunity for an ‘adventure’!

Just as we were about to turn into the arm, loads of school kids with several teachers suddenly appeared…

… and they stood on the bridge to watch Cyan turn, waving and shouting as we passed under them.

There was a short stretch where the scenery wasn’t ‘the best’. The ‘stretch’ had tight bends, and Cyan had to be reversed a couple of times to get round.

Heygates Flour Mill

Even in the early Spring the Wendover Arm is pretty.

Plus it comes complete with it’s own swans…

… and other wild life:

Wild flowers are starting to show! Give us a week of warm sunshine, and Spring will definitely burst forth!

Cat’s Ears, or Dandelions?

We’re at the end of the Arm, and Cyan starts to wind.

Where we have moored it’s very quiet, it’s a beautiful spot, it’s in full sun, and it’s sheltered. Plus it’s got loads of footpaths to walk, and a nature reserve to discover. WiFi is insanely fast, and digital TV is wall-to-wall!  We just might stay here until the two yellow weather alerts for Saturday and Sunday have been resolved.

You can see on the map below that we are moored right at the end of the arm. For more information regarding restoring the Arm see Wendover Arm Trust. The Patron of the Trust is no other than David Suchet CBE, better known as Poirot.

If you click on ‘View larger map’ below, the towpath has been ‘street viewed’ – you can follow the canal down the towpath, like on Google Street View.

Today we’ve cruised 3.5 miles, and 9 locks.

Many Hands Makes Light Work Of 6 Locks!

Though we moored at 4:00 pm yesterday, we had no need to start our engine until 8:00 this morning when we turned on the Mikuni heater. This is sheer ‘magic’ for us! Looking at our diagnostics, our battery didn’t drop lower than 12.5 V overnight.  We’re delighted! Project done!

The weather forecast said the wind would pick up after 11:00 am, therefore we planned an early start. The forecast predicted a wind strength of around 20 mph, and gusts double that.

At around 9:00 am, we were just slipping our mooring when a boat passed us. I shouted “Can we keep you company going through the locks?” The reply was “Yes, we’ll keep the lock warm for you!”

We caught up with the boat as it entered the lock. With a male crew of four on the boat, it was brilliant for us to share the locks with them, and we soon got into a rhythm of us exiting the lock first, leaving the men to close the gates, while we motored on to set the next lock’s gates.

We moored just after Pitstone Wharf, and just before Marsworth Lock #37. Whilst we were mooring our ‘lock buddies’ sailed past us, and we all waved! ‘Ships in the Night’ comes to mind.

At our second lock of the day, we came across a ‘500 dairy cow farm’, where these ‘little girls’ were having their breakfast as we passed.

Tomorrow (windy weather willing) we hope to tackle the Marsworth flight of 9 locks. We will need to keep in mind the C&RT notice:

“Due to a pump breakdown we are needing to carefully manage water resources and restrict navigation on the Marsworth flight between lock 39 to Lock 45.

The navigation will be open from 11am to 4pm, with last entry into flight 2:30pm.”

Today we’ve cruised through 6 locks, 1 swing bridge, and 4 miles.

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.