Thursday, 21 May 2015

A recce to Sharpness and Portishead

It won't be long before we are off again this year (a little later than planned - more about that later). We are meeting up with nb Cleddau again and part of the plan is to go from Sharpness to Portishead towards the end of next month.  The sun was shining yesterday so Chris and I set off to have a look at what to expect.  Our first port of call was Portishead and we popped into Sharpness on the way home. As when we go by boat we will be going from Sharpness to Portishead I will post the pictures and comment from that perspective.

Sharpness was not that easy to find by road - well I am sure the village would have been, but we wanted the marina, the moorings and the lock.  Our first impressions were of an industrial area,

albeit with some good views in the background.

We parked near the Sharpness Dockers Club and this is the view of the canal from that club

We walked along a very minor road up a hill having no idea where it went, but we were in luck as it came out at the marina which is predominantly cruisers on one side

but with a selection of narrow boats on the other

One oddity - why is Mr Elf on the side of a boat with the name 'Bunty' underneath.  Now you will need to have children or grandchildren to have a clue what I am talking about!

I was also taken by these 'storage benches'.

Whilst in the marina we came across this plaque

which explained the memorial we had passed near the Dockers Club

At the end of the marina is the canal - this is where we will be coming from

There are a lot of good, dog friendly 14 day moorings, so we can wait around for the tide, weather and pilot if need be.  Pearsons says there is a shop in the village, but I have no idea how far away that is, but it looks as though there is a bus we can catch if we stuck for a few days.  I think we should go with a good supply of provisions.

We then walked back along the marina and straight on to The Sharpness Rescue Station which is part of SARA (Severn Authority Rescue Association).
The Range Rover is classed as a 'lifeboat' and I am sure it has seen a lot of action over the years.

Their own boat, however, looks rather high and dry!

Finally from Sharpness this is a view of the Severn from The Sharpness Rescue Station

and one of the two Severn Bridges - it all looks rather large even when the tide is out!

So where is the lock which is what we went to see?  Well we think it is in a highly industrial area with big signs specify 'Entry only for authorised personnel'.  We did not think we were authorised, so that remains to be a surprise on the day we travel!

And so to Portishead - a place we both loved.  I am sure the town itself is nothing that special, but the area round the marina and lock said 'hello and please come back' to us.  The buildings are many and varied both is size, shape and colour.

Behind this window is someone's bedroom - I can think of worse places to wake up every morning!

The marina is huge, but we have been assured we will be able to get a mooring (at a price, but hey ho that was to be expected!) if we give them a few days notice.

If you look at this you will see how different the area looked in the 1950's

And so onto the lock which is huge as we expected.  In the background here is the marina office, but I am not sure we will ever be able to show our faces in there again.  Unfortunately Monty decided to be sick! Whilst I left with him at high speed to find some grass, Chris was left behind to mop up. Fortunately it was not much and Monty seems fine in himself.

As the tide was out there was very little activity, but we were lucky as this small boat came along to go up the lock, so we could gongoozle (someone who watches at locks)

there is a floating pontoon to tie on to

And despite quite a lot of flowing water it does not look too ferocious

They are up and on their way

We had lunch outside of a restaurant called 'La Marina'.  A little cold when the sun went in, but pleasant enough and a good panini.

This the view across to Avonmouth

And this to the Severn bridges

And finally two shots I just managed to get of Avonmouth as we whipped along the M5 as we headed north.

All in all it was a grand day out and did give us some idea what to expect next month.  I am hoping the pictures will help the Cleddau crew.

So why haven't we set off yet? If you read the last blog it stated we were due to set sail on 16th March - a typo - I typed it from home in April!  We should have set off on 16th May, however I had an accident on Easter Monday which has forced us to delay our departure.  I was acting as a VLK (volunteer lock keeper) on the Stoke flight (Worcester and Birmingham canal) when I fell in and must have hit my shin on the boat I was supposed to be helping. The blog before last has more details and states the leg was healing.  Alas I was wrong as it got infected and is still far from better.  Apparently it is now classed as a leg ulcer and may take months.  However we have the go ahead to set sail next month, so the only section of the journey we have cancelled is the first one up to Tixall Wide to meet up with Cleddau to travel back to Worcester.  We will now meet them on the 11th June at Worcester for the boat festival.  Chris has been trained to change my dressings and if need be I can visit local GP surgeries or a minor injuries unit.  Fingers crossed that won't be necessary.  I am trying to be good and keep my leg up where possible, but we have to escape for the odd day out.  The next one is Sunday when we will be at Crick.  Will we meet anyone we know - that is to be seen!

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

And back again......

Stoke Works to Droitwich Spa Marina
3 miles, 9 locks

It was bright and sunny, but cold and blustery with the odd spot of rain and even a few hail stones! Not a bad day to boat and we think one of the better ones for this week, so we set off from Stoke Works to return Tentatrice to her mooring in Droitwich Spa Marina.  It was, I am glad to say, an uneventful trip, but oh how we enjoyed it.  Roll on 16th May when we head off for the summer.

There was boat traffic about including two boats traversing the Astwood flight with just one person doing all the locking for both boats!  Two very slow boats to China, but thankfully we crossed paths rather than following behind them.  Then at Hanbury locks there was another boat - well what can I say, where do I start..!  We were in the top lock and were joined by a VLK (volunteer lock keeper) who stayed with our boat to open the bottom gates whilst I went to the next lock to get it ready.  I spied a boat in the bottom lock coming up, so naturally, as the lock was empty, I went to open the bottom gates ready for them.  I really do not know what went on at that first lock, but they took an age.  They left the gates open (thankfully) but left both paddles up!  By the time they reached the middle lock both crew were on board - for those that do not know Hanbury the locks are possibly 200 yards apart, so not exactly an arduous walk.  They are very deep, so if you go into a lock on the boat it is not an easy job to get out.  In they came and there they stayed just waiting for things to happen round them!!  The VLK had joined me by that time and went back up to the top lock with them and once again I think both crew stayed on the boat waiting for the VLK to do all the work!  I don't know if he got thanked, but certainly there was no word of thanks to me or even recognition that I might actually have been doing something to help them!!  We quietly went on down to the bottom lock and back to the marina.

Not many photos today

The pretty lock cottage at the lock before the bottom Astwood lock is coming alive with spring colour

They are still flying the flags of the USA

Wales, the UK and Canada - but these pictures are better than the last lot with no washing in the background!

Hanbury bottom lock which shows how deep these locks are and also how close together which was why I was so astounded that one member of the crew on the boat coming up did not walk!

Back to the marina and the new office is open and the old metal cabin has gone.  The offices are lovely inside if a little basic at present.  There will be a waiting area for boat crews downstairs with chairs that are relatively comfortable - they do not want to encourage one to tarry and disturb the working of the office.  For chat and socialisation they are going to furnish a boaters lounge upstairs with coffee machines etc.  Definitely a valuable addition to the marina.  It has come a long way in 4 years, is always busy and virtually full.

We had to wait until we got to the marina to see any ducklings - a family with five youngsters

and a Mum with just two

So that is it until 16th March when we head off for the summer - first north to Tixall Wide via Birmingham, Fazeley and Fradley Junctions.  There we will meet up with Boatwif and the Captain from nb Cleddau.  Then back down to Worcester for the Worcester boat festival on 12/13 June - if anyone reading this is going, please let us know and we will look out for you - we are booked in for the weekend.  It is our home canal and they are celebrating their bicentennial - something we felt we could not miss. From there down the Severn to Sharpness and onto Bristol (weather, tides and pilot permitting), next along the Kennet and Avon to London with diversions down the Basingstoke and the Wey before we think about heading for home. That should keep us out of mischief for a while.  If you see us, do give us a wave and say hello.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Family Outing & some thoughts about life jackets

Saturday 11th April 2015
Droitwich Spa Marina to Stoke Works
3.25 miles, 11 locks

Just a quick trip back to Stoke Works accompanied by our daughter, son in law, their two boys (the Bromsgrove Boys) and our eldest granddaughter from Derby.  The sun shone, the journey was uneventful, but fun which was the aim of the game.  This was a first trip to include locks for the younger of the Bromsgrove Boys.  He is now 3.5 and was up for helping for a while. There were plenty of people to help him watch a DVD when boredom set in!  The other two Derby grandchildren were supposed to be with us, but sadly missed out due to upset tummies which don't go well with boating!  Just a few photos for posterity.

 Just to show that Monty has not forgotten his 'locking drill'!

Now to life jackets.  I was doing a stint of volunteer lock keeping on Easter Monday and somehow (I still don't really know how) I ended up in the canal just below a lock.  Because I was on duty for the C&RT I was wearing a life jacket.  The water was very deep and I have to say that I was very glad that the life jacket did it's stuff and popped me up to the surface.  I must have hit my leg on the underside of a boat I although I did not realise I had hurt myself until I had 'squelched' my way the mile back to the car! It is still being dressed as it became infected, but it is on the mend.  I visited minor injuries the next day and they gave me a tetanus booster (something we had not thought of).  I am a good swimmer, but the shock of unexpectedly finding myself underwater really made me appreciate the life jacket. We always wear ours on big rivers & at sea (well the Wash!), but at no other time.  It has made me wonder if we should round locks - particularly long flights.  It was dry underfoot & I had sensible shoes on, so it can happen any time.  Food for thought perhaps?

If the boaters I was with read this - thank you for your help and concern - it was really appreciated, especially escorting me back to our car.

Friday, 20 February 2015

The Final Chapter of the Summer 2014 Cruise!

Wednesday 20th February 2015
Stoke Works to Droitwich Spa Marina
3 miles, 9 locks

Although we have not moved for months this really was the final leg of our summer cruise of 2014, rather than the start of 2015.  Tentatrice has been with Pinder’s since the end of September.  First for bottom blacking at the top of the Tarbebigge flight .  We then moved down the Tardebigge and Stoke Flights in October and she stayed at Pinder’s works at Stoke until today.  We had just a few little jobs and one big one to be done.  The little ones were done soon after she arrived – all aimed at making life a bit easier:

2 new shelves in the galley

Repositioning of the bow thruster control- It used to be down the far side of this box where the blank plate it now – by the time we (well me in particular) had moved forward, bent over, applied two fingers to switch it on, selected port or starboard and moved back to resume steering we were often over the other side of the cut!! 

This new position on top of the box should make life a lot easier 

The end of the bed used to be one big drawer, but it took two to open it, so we asked them to split it into two 

The water tank filler used to be accessed from inside the locker which often got wet when we filled up, but more importantly it was also a pain to keep the lid propped open whilst we were filling with water and made it hard to get on and off the bow.  

An extra ‘hole’ in the floor for the table legs – this will allow us to erect one of the tables at the end of the dinette for use with the computer without having to have wires trailing around all over the place – it will also make a better side table for a cuppa (or something stronger!!). 

The final big job was the floor (see above for the new floor) – we made a big mistake choosing non slip vinyl which seemed such a good idea at the time and it certainly was non slip for Monty, however it was very hard to clean (hands and knees and a scrubbing brush was all too common an occurrence) and worse still (and the reason we changed the floor) it was too soft and after one season we had three holes in it.  Pinder’s had a lot of work on (they still have) and needed to wait until after Christmas before starting this job.  As they had the space to keep Tentatrice, there was no point in moving her just to bring her back again.  We are delighted with the new floor – it looks good, is a lot harder and we hope it will be easier to clean.  It is in planks, so if we do have a disaster we have a few spares.  Monty slips a lot, but he is used to hard slippery floors at home and will soon learn to ‘walk, not run’!!  If we had had a pound for every time we told our son that when he was small it would probably have paid for the boat!! 

So to the final leg of our trip.  This is us already to go:

 We left Droitwich Spa Marina on 23 May 2014 under a very heavy sky

It was not long before the heavens opened and stayed that way for two days whilst we tackled the 45 locks to the top of Tardebigge!

He was not happy!!

Also note the 'winter hat' and many layers worn last May
Our daughter helped us on the second day whilst we went up the Tardebigge flight and she got so wet, she went through two sets of clothes

This trip was a complete contrast - a wonderful blue sky and plenty of sunshine

Warm clothes were still needed, but not the waterproof lined hat

It was a really wonderful cruise and all too short.  We got through the 6 locks at Astwood in really good time.  There is a very pretty cottage at lock 19 that has a stunning garden through the spring, summer and autumn.  Today it was flying an array of flags (shame about the washing!).

Monty had not forgotten how to supervise locking duties.

He was wearing his coat to protect his back where he had a lump removed just under two weeks ago. I am glad to say the lump was benign and the scar is healing well.

The three locks at Hanbury are the final leg and we were very lucky to find one of the C&RT employees that we know from our litter picking and lock keeping duties there.  He offered to help us through and we never turn down offers of help!  It was a lovely day, but he is a hardy and brave soul to be sporting a t-shirt!!

At the second of the Hanbury locks you get the first good view of Droitwich Spa Marina peeking through the trees

Once through the 'Hanbury three' it is a right turn and we were back in the marina.  When we left last May they were just starting to build the new office block

Now it is almost finished
I have just noticed that the sky looks a bit grey - we must have finished our short cruise at an opportune moment!

In no time at all we were back at the mooring we left nearly 9 months ago

I know when Jaq and Les were at Cowroast Marina they felt very hemmed in.  I was sure we had more space between the boats in this marina, but I don't think we do and I don't think the pontoons are any wider, however, I have never felt constricted here.  I think it must be because the marina is so large and there is so much open space.  Mind you we have never had to live here.  The good news for the marina is that they are now full, but it is bad news for us - we had to decide whether pay for the year or risk no mooring availability next autumn when we come back again.  We wimped out took the former course, so having paid Pinder's and the annual mooring fees our bank account is feeling the pinch!

It was wonderful to be afloat again.  We have a lot of deep cleaning to do and re-stocking of the boat, but that will wait for a week or two - we are off to Pembroke for a week from 28th February with Sue and Ken from nb Cleddau.  We will be taking our water proofs, boots and winter walking trousers!

Finally the stats for those who like these things (that would be me then!) of our summer cruise:

We travelled 641.25 miles, went through 406 locks, 14 tunnels and 9 swing bridges, over 19 aqueducts and cruised for around 310 hours.