Thursday, 5 March 2020

Boat Jobs Complete, some VIP guests & a Canal Society Talk - 2nd - 4th March 2020

Monday 2nd March 2020

Sue and Ken (Boatwif and The Captain from nb Cleddau) arrived mid afternoon to find we were 'nursing' a sick grandson.  Thankfully it was something and nothing and he was fit and well enough to go back to school on Tuesday.  The four of us spent a very pleasant evening together with good food and glass or two of wine.  We had a lot to catch up on.

Tuesday 3rd March 2020

We set off for our local NT property (Hanbury Hall) mid morning. 

It was a first visit for Sue and Ken, so they went to explore the house and formal gardens whilst Chris and I took Monty for a walk and admired the views.

After we returned Monty to the car, we had a very quick peek at a small part of the formal gardens before joining Sue and Ken in the cafe for a light lunch.

Whilst waiting to join a tour of the house I was rather taken by this splendid peacock.  Sadly the lady who was due to lead the tour had not arrived, so we will just all have to go back again one day.  We made for the car which turned out to be perfect timing as the rain started when we were just a few feet from the car.

The main reason for Sue and Ken's visit was to attend the Worcester Birmingham and Droitwich Canal Society monthly meeting where the guest speaker was - ME!!

The subject of my talk:

'The Droitwich Fingerpost Challenge";

There is, of course, no such thing as the "Droitwich Challenge", but the superb fingerpost in Vines Park (Droitwich) points to the extremities of the canal and river system navigable from Droitwich and did spur us on to go to all of them.  There was a very tense start to the presentation when my laptop, on being switched on, decided it just had to complete a Windows update and nothing we tried stopped it.  All I could do was be thankful we had arrived early and hope it did not take too long.  It made it just in time, but I was also dealt two further mishaps when the laptop froze twice during the presentation each of which required a re-boot!  The annoying thing was that I had run through the entire presentation on the laptop on Monday without a hitch!  Despite all that it seemed to go down well and I hope was enjoyed by all the society members present. Sue and Ken (on Cleddau) accompanied us on the four journeys, north, east, south and west.

This video of our Wash crossing in 2018 caused a few 'oohs and aahs'

Wednesday 4th March 2020
Crafted Boats to Droitwich Spa Marina
3.5 miles, 9 locks

Sue and Ken had very kindly 'volunteered' (or were they press ganged?) to help us return our boat from Crafted Boats at Stoke Prior to the marina at Droitwich now all the jobs had been done.  We were up early and on the road by 08:45.  First stop was to load Chris, Monty, hats, coats, gloves and boots etc onto the boat and then Sue, Ken and I delivered our car to the marina before making our way back to Crafted Boats.

The most important job was investigation and repair (we hope) around the chimney as we had sprung a leak.  Second was the installation of two solar panels.

Our original stern hatch had rotten wood on the inside and the top was badly rusted despite constant treatment and repainting.  The rusting was due mainly to the life ring stowage - four large 'spikes' that held the latter in place.  A great idea (plus a good storage solution for 'Monty bags' until the next dog box is found), but water just kept getting trapped under the ring causing many of the rust issues.

 It was eventually decided we would have a new hatch and inner and very smart it looks too.

A hook has been added to the stern rail to keep the life ring near at hand in case of need.

We also had an engine and Eberspacher service, a cupboard door re-attached (a casualty of the Wash crossing) and couple of other bits and bobs done. 10:10 and it was time to set sail.  A straight run through to the top lock at Astwood.

As you would expect with two extra hands we sped down even though all the locks were "set" against us.
 I am sure there is a new gnome at the lock cottage at lock 18, or maybe they are just more visible at this time of year.

Signs of spring and I am sure when we go past in a month's time there will be even more colour to admire

The winter pots are still looking lovely.
Waiting for the boat to arrive at the bottom lock

There was time for a much needed cuppa to warm ourselves up before we arrived at the three Hanbury locks.  The side ponds were empty and the pounds were low, but we made it down in safety - full waterproofs were out by this time!

First sight of the marina

We were back in the marina and moored up in almost exactly two hours - probably a record for us for this run.  The winter has not dulled our locking skills.

As soon as the boat was secured we headed back to Stoke Prior to collect Sue and Ken's car and head to The Navigation for a well deserved lunch before they headed home.

It was great to see them both again - our first get together since we waved each other farewell at Tixall Wide on 7 August last year.  As you can imagine quite a few 'cruising conversations' took place over the three days.  They hope to head off in the not too distant future and if all goes to plan we should meet up on the North Stratford Canal in mid April - watch this space....

Monday, 3 February 2020

And a Jump - 3rd February 2020

Monday 3rd February 2020
Astwood to Crafted Boats 
1.5 miles, 2 locks

We had done the hop and skip, so today it was the final jump - mind you we have 'skipped' a day in between!  Yesterday we stayed put at Astwood whilst our daughter collected Chris so he could position our car at Stoke Wharf in readiness for us today.  My job for the day was some very very deep cleaning in the galley!  It feels good to have it done ready for the off in April.

Considering the rain we have had of recent months we certainly chose the right few days to do this trip as we certainly saw more sun than we have done in months.  Today was no exception and we had a smooth run to the bottom lock at Stoke Prior which we entered and went up.  The first job was to get rid of the rubbish and empty the wee pots before Chris winded and re-entered the lock.  By now the side hatch was opposite the car, so we were able to unload the boat with ease.

 The last job (or so we thought) was to remove the chimney and put the cap on

I opened the paddles and emptied the lock, and opened the gate on the towpath side.  Round I went to open the other gate, but it was not to be.  This big stick was firmly wedged.  I tried wriggling the gate to see if it would shift, but it wouldn't.

Plan B - Chris nudged the boat forward and came to the bow with his trusty book hook

He managed to move it out the way

 and we escaped taking the stick with us

I then drove to Crafted Boats whilst Chris travelled the couple of hundred yards or so to moor up outside their office.  We are now facing the right way to go back to Droitwich on (we hope) 4th March once the jobs have been done.

A successful few days.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Skip..... 1st February 2020

Saturday 1st February 2020
Hanbury Junction to B41 Astwood
2 miles, 6 locks

I did say we were taking it slowly!  We woke to sun and blue skies - such a rare commodity of late.

Naturally we have the fire going and we usually put the short chimney on when we are on the move.  Today we decided to see if we could manage without swapping - we thought the bridges were all high enough.  Would we fit?

Yes - room to spare.

The sky just got bluer and bluer - there was just a very strong wind to contend with.

Chris waiting at the bottom lock.  A boat had gone past us yesterday afternoon, so it was no surprise to find it full to the brim.

The view from the first lock

and there in the distance a canoeist

who turned out to be two and a lot quicker round the lock than we were.

There it is - the boat that past us yesterday just below the second lock.  The helmsman had just got the lock ready and was heading in - bad timing on our part.  I went and lent a hand.

The second lock (No 18) is the one with lock cottage and the wonderful garden on the offside.  We have never seen it in winter - all trimmed back and ready for spring growth,

 but still with some colourful pots outside the front door.

The helmsman on the boat ahead of us reckoned a crew of two would be quicker than he was on his own and when we got to the next lock, he had got it ready for us and let us go ahead.  There really are some wonderful boaters around.

I am not sure that we were much, if any, quicker than he was, but we were grateful for his consideration and kindness, especially as he was going further than we were today (up the 6 Stoke locks to Stoke Pound ready to do Tardebigge tomorrow).  I did open a paddle for him on the bottom gates, which I hope helped him a bit.  Once we got to the top lock I left Chris waiting and went back to the fifth lock to our kindly boater up the last two.

We went ahead and moored up and

waved as he went past on his way.

The sky was certainly darker when we moored at around 12:15, but as I type at nearly 17:00 the sun only left us about half an hour ago.  Thankfully the wind is blowing us onto the towpath and even that has abated a bit. 

Friday, 31 January 2020

A Hop.... 31st January 2020

Friday 31st January 2020
Droitwich Spa Marina to Hanbury Junction
0.4 miles, 3 locks

We are taking things very slowly!  First stop this morning was by car to Droitwich to walk Monty round the park (tarmac paths and a lot less mud than the towpath!) and to pop into Waitrose for our 'Friday fish' and the paper.

The boat engine was a little reluctant to start, but once it had caught, all was well and we were off

out of the marina, turn left and there in front of us was the bottom lock at Hanbury with a bottom gate open.  It was our lucky day as there was one bottom gate open on all three locks.  They were not blown open - the top one needs a wooden wedge to keep it open and that was in place.  Whilst doing ranger duties at Tardebigge recently we came across a lot of locks with one bottom gate open - we reckon someone has been down and just shut one gate to save walking round!

The side ponds were all empty, so we were draining the pounds which were looking rather low by the time we had been through.

Either one of the lock keepers nips up to the top lock regularly or maybe someone who does a ranger patrol tops up the bird feeders.  Either way I am sure the birds are very grateful.

The Severn is shown as water falling, proceed with caution - thankfully we are not going that way.

 After our mammoth journey (all 45 minutes of it!) we moored up with two other boats.  They are both Star Line hire boats from Stourport that are unoccupied  - our guess is that the last hirers got caught out by rising water on the Salwarpe and the Severn and had to be rescued by road.  We guess they will be here until the hire company need them again in the Spring.

Just as we got inside it started to rain - not much, but we certainly timed it right.