Saturday, 4 September 2021

That Special Event

 Saturday 28th August 2021

At the end of my last post, I mentioned a special event that was on the horizon.  The day dawned bright, well dry and not too chilly at least. We needed a dry and relatively warm afternoon.

What was afoot?  It was my 70th birthday.  I had not had any intentions of marking the occasion due to the uncertainties of life with covid around.  When things looked as though some sort of normality was on the cards our daughter in law (Jo) suggested that I might like to share some sort of celebration with our eldest granddaughter (Molly) who would be 18 on 2nd September.  Her due date had been the 20th August, but she kept us waiting.  At one time I thought she might even be a birthday present for me, but no she waited that little bit longer and shares a birthday with our boating friend Sue (Boatwif) from nb Cleddau.

Once the idea had been planted, I put my thinking cap on.  It was decided to have tea, cake and bubbly in the garden in the afternoon followed by a meal out in the evening.

The day started with a family Zoom call - three households from England, one from New Zealand, one on the Isle of Wight and one in mid Wales (note their enviable blue sky!)

The weather played ball for the afternoon and we even got a bit of sunshine every now and then.  I was assured by Jo and Sarah (our daughter) that cake would be provided and they did us proud.  Sarah made an amazing sponge cake and a selection of small cakes as well.

and Jo provided doughnuts and macarons.

Molly and I cut the cake together

The obligatory group photo!

We spent a wonderful couple of hours together before we all headed off to prepare for the evening.  There were 8 of us staying here, 7 in a local Premier Inn and 4 in their home not far from here.  The fleet (5) of taxis arrived on time at the respective places and conveyed us all (suitably booted and suited!) to our chosen venue called The Orangery which is part of an establishment called The Old Rectory.

The Main Entrance

The Lavendar Room as we saw it when we first visited a couple of months ago - it was to be ours for the evening.

Sarah and family had gone ahead with suitable decorations.  The only stipulations from the venue were no confetti on the table and no blu tak on the wallpaper on the far wall.  

The eagle eyed will spot Sue and Ken (Boatwif and The Captain) were among the guests.

The food was first class and the service exemplary.  With that number of people we had had to pre-order.  The first course arrived and as if by magic and every person had the correct dish delivered.  When the same happened with the main, we felt compelled to ask 'how'?  There was no shouting of ' who is having the ****', there was no visible list in front of us, so how did they know?  If you look closely at the table you will see little cards in front of each person.  I had provided these with the name of the person and what they were eating (we all ordered 2 months ago and my brain is like a sieve, so I guessed others might have forgotten as well!).  The head waitress said that as we all sat down she had made a note of our names and where we were sitting.  She then went off and wrote out a plan that they all worked to. It was most impressive!  

All in all it was an immensely successful day.  What more could I ask for than a day with our closest family members and friends.  'Perfick' as a certain fictional gentleman from Kent might have uttered.

Thursday, 26 August 2021

At last it has all gone!

The last of the 'stuff' from the boat that we, family and friends did not want was packed up and taken to our local hospice shop on Tuesday.  What a relief to get our conservatory back!  It has gone to a good cause and I hope they make a bit of money from it all.

The only things we have left are two canal plaques - one for the Oxford Canal and the other from Chirk Aqueduct.  Are there any collectors out there who might be interested.  We don't want money for them - but just would like them to go to a good home.  If you are interested just leave a comment with contact details (I won't publish the comment, so they will remain safe).  NB The Chirk plaque has been spoken for.

I am still struggling with both knees, but we are still here and plodding (literally) on.  We find enough to do to keep ourselves busy and we have a special event coming up this weekend... more of that will follow in due course.  

Monday, 2 August 2021


 Monday 2nd August 2021

We certainly cannot complain about the speed of our sale.  She went on the market with New & Used Boats on Wednesday 21st July.  On Saturday 24th we got an offer which we accepted.  So here we are just 10 days later and everything is done and dusted, the money is in the bank and we met the new owners in the marina this morning to hand over Tentatrice.  

David and Deborah have been out on a boat at least once a year since they got married 35 years ago and they have owned their current 42 foot boat for 12 years.  The time has come for them where they want a bigger boat and will go off further afield.  I know we probably shouldn't care what happens to Tentatrice now she is no longer ours, but we do and we are so glad to know that she has gone to a couple who will love her and look after her in the same way we did.  

David and Deborah's mooring is in Kinver.  They sailed to Hanbury Wharf in their old boat arriving yesterday.  This morning they walked across to Droitwich Spa Marina and were there when we arrived.  We have a granddaughter with us at present and once we had 'handed over' (ie gone through the general workings of the boat etc and answered their questions) David and Deborah were kind enough to allow Evelyn, Monty and I to travel to the top of Hanbury locks on Tentatrice.

Just a few photos of our final trip and David, Deborah and Tess's (Cockerpoo aged one) first trip on Tentatrice.

Tracey (our next door but one neighbour) was there to wave us off.  We will miss seeing her, Jo and boat dog Shackleton, but we will, I am sure, keep in touch.  

Into Hanbury bottom lock

Monty and I got off as the boat got to the top of the lock - Monty was not at all bothered about other people and a 'strange' dog being on 'his' boat!

Tess is not quite tall enough to peer right over the top

There was a boat waiting to come down, so Evelyn had a 'lock mate'.

Last locking duties for Monty

Deborah and Evelyn waiting for the side pound to empty

The top lock plus volunteer lock keeper and Chris arriving with milk for the new Tentatrice crew

Another boat coming down so Deborah joined David on the back deck for the top lock.

Monty reunited with his master and the other VLK

Only three locks today and he still had a lie down on the job,

Evelyn putting her back into the last paddle to be wound up

Tess has found  a good look out point

They are off

Through Hanbury Junction 

And away

We walked to Hanbury Wharf to help them moor up against their old boat Rumah Kita (our home in Malay)

They will certainly have more room now!

We waved farewell as they were already transferring their belongings on to their new boat.  They are aiming to be down on the Severn tonight, so a long day ahead.  It is, at least, dry and warm and I hope it stays that way for them.  Rumah Kita is staying for New & Used to sell for them.  I cannot fault the brokerage - they made the whole process very easy and I would recommend their services is anyone is in need of a broker.  

We wish David and Deborah many happy years and a lot of great adventures on Tentatrice.  If you see the boat, do wave and say hello.  The name may change, possibly to 'Rumah Kita II' - that is a decision they will make in the fullness of time.  The colours and scroll work make her fairly easy to spot, whatever her name is.  We know Tentatrice is in good hands.  

Our final stats are:

3942 miles

3664 locks

240 swing bridges

135 tunnels

I may well pop in every now and then when something special occurs and I will certainly keep reading the blogs that I follow.  The next big event for us is the end of this month....

Until then I will say Au Revoir and if anyone is down this way please give us a shout - we are always ready for a cuppa/ pub lunch etc. 

Thursday, 29 July 2021

Preparations for Sale

 6th - 18th July

I am sure our decision to sell may seem precipitous to some, but it is something we knew might be on the cards and has been discussed between ourselves for quite some time.  If you look back to when we set off on 29th June, you will notice that we were not certain we would make it to Derby, but we were determined to give it a go. Sadly, it was not to be, so the only sensible option is to sell up and find other less strenuous adventures to occupy us.  My knees will (I hope) recover and allow me to walk Monty again and I guess eventually I may get new ones.  Chris's COPD will not improve and we did not want to leave Tentatrice languishing in a marina for a year or so in case I got better.  She was built to cruise.

Boats are selling well at present, so it was just deciding how to sell her - through a broker or privately.  The latter was not an option.  Part of our mooring agreement with the marina specifies that we cannot sell a boat privately from the marina.  New & Used have the concession as brokers at Droitwich which really made the decision for us.

They required us to move everything not boat related (ie windlasses, fenders, boat hooks etc etc) from the boat.  A mammoth task done over many days.  We now have crates, bags and boxes of 'stuff' all over the house!  Once it was empty, the next job was a thorough clean inside and out, neither of which were too bad, but the job still needed to be done.  Sarah once again came to the rescue and on Friday 16th July she came over and spent the day with us getting to all the low down places inside that I cannot get to at the moment.  The next day (one of the hottest of the year) she and her younger son came over to help with the outside.  Sarah was to help me with the blue sides and the roof (she ended up doing at least three quarters) whilst our grandson got stuck in to clean the black.  His lack of height is a definite advantage doing that job!  I have to say he worked very hard and never complained.  I heard him negotiate his 'fee' with his mother - he settled on a bottle of Lucozade!  Needless to say he got some folding money from us!

As you can see above the job was made easier as our pontoon neighbours are away (floating along the Thames I believe), so we could just pull Tentatrice across to do the port side.

The final jobs were for Chris - paint parts of the stove

and touch up the sides

On Monday 19th July we formally handed her over to New and Used.  As I published last week, the details went live on Wednesday 21st July.

We still have mountains of stuff to sort out at home.  That will take a while.  The family have first pick. Most of the rest will end up going to charity.  We have a charity called "New Start" down the road who help those in need to make a 'new start'. Some will go to our local hospice shop, so I am sure it will all find good homes.

So now on to new adventures.  On Monday 19th July we went out for a pub lunch with a friend.  She and I attended our first face to face WI book club since March 2020 in someone's garden that evening.  I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to see 11 other people in the flesh rather than on a screen.  The book was not the best we have read, but we managed to cram in a lot of chatter.  When life was normal whoever was hosting would provide tea and cakes.  Over the last 16 months our numbers have increased (I wonder why?!), so a few people were asked to provide cake.  We ended up with so much, we all had to have 2 slices each!!  Such hardship! It was a memorable evening.  I don't think any of us will ever take meeting people in the flesh for granted again.

The next day was our daughter's eldest son's 14th birthday and we went out for dinner with them to celebrate. On Friday we headed to Derby to visit our son and his family.  I cannot actually remember when we last went to them.  They had a new kitchen in January, so it was good to see that in real life rather than on a screen.  We had a great time with them just relaxing and catching up on the months we have missed in their lives.

Back home now to await the arrival of our daughter in law and youngest granddaughter this today.  Evelyn was supposed to be on the boat with us now, so as a small compensation she is going to spend a few days here instead.  She has recently been gifted a sewing machine that had been languishing in someone's attic for years.  I was able to instruct her how to thread it and sort out the bobbin whilst we were with them and whilst she is here, we hope to get her some material and a pattern, so she can go home in something she has made herself.

I am having an x-ray on my knee on Saturday and I am already receiving physio.  All that is left to do now as far as the boat is concerned is to wait for her to be sold, so watch this space!

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

The end of our very short 'summer cruise' 2nd - 4th July 2021

 Friday 2nd July 2021
The Commandery

A rather belated post!

We woke to sun with every intention of going down one lock to the sanitary station, emptying and filling as required and then heading down the two Diglis locks on to the River Severn and mooring up on the Racecourse moorings.

However.... it was not to be.  Before we set off I wanted to put some washing up to dry on our lines in the bow.  As I stepped up into the bow, my left leg 'cracked' and I was left in a lot of pain.  It is exactly what happened to my right knee 2.5 years ago.  Chris heard my cries for help and somehow I made it to the saloon and the dinette.  It was obvious that we were going nowhere.  What to do and how to get back to the marina?  Our first course of action was to email C&RT and let them know that we might have to overstay (we were on a 48 hour mooring).  As usual, the response was swift and positive - we could stay until the following Wednesday if necessary and if we needed more time we were to get back to them.

We could manage another day without visiting the sanitary station, so we decided to stay put where we were.  I did get out of the boat and stagger using a walking pole to the Commandery all of about 30 feet away.  We enjoyed some time in the fresh air and a toasted sandwich for our lunch.

Saturday 3rd July 2021
The Commandery to above Bridge 2 via the sanitary station and the winding hole
A few hundred yards and 1 lock

We woke to rain and then a lot of activity outside

The first of the competitors in the Droitwich ring paddle - 21 miles in total.

The rain stopped.  The competitors kept coming.

We had to move - both urine containers were full!  I hobbled to the lock, filled it, Chris moved the boat in.  I took over at the helm. There was only one bottom paddle working which Chris struggled to operate - he just does not have enough puff.  He managed, I moved the boat out, picked Chris up and we headed to the sanitary station.  This one lock was enough to show us we would never get back to the marina without assistance.
I am not sure why Chris' face is blurred, but it is him!

The competitors kept coming

We made it to the sanitary station, emptied and filled as required with plenty of action to look at whilst we were there.

It took us back to 1993 and 1994 the years that our son and then our daughter took part in the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race that takes place every Easter - well Covid, foot and mouth and weather permitting.  I am sure some of you are aware of this event, particularly if you have ever been on the K & A over the Easter weekend, but for those that aren't here are a few details.  

The start is on Good Friday.  First off are 19 to 35 year olds in K2s (seniors).  They race straight through. The current (non-stop) course record stands at 15 hours 34 minutes.  The course is 125 miles with 77 locks to portage round.  Those under 19 (juniors), over 35 (veterans) and K1 crews take four days.  Devizes to Newbury, then Marlow, then Teddington and finally from Teddington along the tidal Thames to Westminster.  When we did the route from Teddington to Westminster on Tentatrice we felt very small, so to do so in a canoe takes guts.  Each team needs supporters to feed and water them at the various locks en route.  With two in a canoe that meant two sets of parents and siblings to support, so we could leap frog locks.  Supporters were not allowed to help portage canoes.  If there was a break down, the crew had to lift the canoe out of the water and place it on the ground.  The support crew were then allowed to assist.  It is a really hard event which we enjoyed as support crew and took our hats off to all those who competed.  The interesting thing was that a lot of the younger siblings who supported their older siblings, then decided to give it a go themselves.  They were not put off by the sheer hard graft required to finish the event.  When our daughter took part she and her friend 'hit a brick wall' on the tidal part of the Thames.  All padding is taken out of the canoes for this last stretch to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible.  They were both in a lot of discomfort/pain, both were in tears of exhaustion and pain when a crew of two lads from another school came alongside, chivvied them along and stayed with them giving them encouragement all the way to the finish.  Real sportsmanship to put the girls needs before their own time.  The PE master/canoe coach at their school did the event as seniors with his wife one year (and never again!).  He said you needed the speed of a race horse, the stamina of a cart horse and the brains of a rocking horse!

I have just done a search on Mark and Sarah's results:
Av TimePlaceRaces1st

Gash M R21.22810
Gash Sarah Margaret25.63810

The more I dig into DW, the more fascinating it becomes.  The very first race of senior doubles took place in 1948 with 4 boats and the average time was 79 hours (surely they must have stopped a few times?). The first race for junior had 2 entries back in 1952 and the average time was 73 hours.  In 1993 there were 48 entries and the average time was 21 hours.  In 1994 there were 44 entries and the average time was 21.8 hours.  For some reason there was only 1 junior entry in 2000.    In 2000 there were only 6 boats in the senior race.  In 1987 176 boats took part in the senior doubles.  I have now discovered why the numbers were so low in 2000 and other years were missed all together:

In 2000 heavy rainfall had brought the River Thames up to flood levels with fast flowing water. A number of crews found the conditions on the Thames challenging, especially during the darkness of night-time for the non-stop crews. After an incident at Old Windsor wier the race committee took the decision to abandon the race. As some teams had already reached Teddington (and were waiting to access the tidal stretch) when the decision was made, they decided (against the race organisers instructions) to remove their race numbers and carry on unofficially to Westminster.

In 2001, along with a large number of events in the UK, the race could not take place due to a nationwide outbreak of Foot-and-mouth disease restricting unnecessary access to the countryside (and thus large parts of the course).

In 2016 Storm Katie brought storm force winds to London on Easter Monday meant that a decision was made to cancel the last day of the staged race and the results were based on the times taken to reach Thames Young Mariners. Finishers medals were awarded to those that reached this point and certificates issued marked "shortened course". This decision didn't impact the non-stop race, which had already finished on Easter Sunday

In 2018 heavy rainfall prior to the Easter weekend and throughout Good Friday once again brought the River Thames up to flood levels with fast flowing water. The race committee initially made a decision that no night-time paddling should occur on the Thames, but with conditions worsening then decided that all classes would finish at Reading (Wokingham Canoe Club at Dreadnaught Reach).[8] No finishers medals were issued and certificates were marked with "shortened course".

In 2020 & 2021 the event was cancelled because of the Covid Pandemic

Tragically in 1991 a canoeist from Worcester died on the last leg between Richmond Bridge and Westminster - the only fatality in its 71 year history.  They say it is one of the hardest endurance races - much harder than the London Marathon.  I gather that Sir Steve Redgrave pulled out after 87 miles back in 2012 when he was 50.

Anyway I digress.  We managed to find a lull and safely winded (turned round) without impeding any of the competitors.  We moored up just past B2 below the lock we had come down that morning to await rescue.  That evening we heard something moving around on the roof.  I hobbled out to have a look to find two ducks plodding around.  The male kept his distance, but the female was a lot braver (or hungrier) and came right up to me, eventually taking food from my hand.

Sunday 4th July 2021
Bridge 2, Worcester Birmingham Canal to Droitwich Spa Marina
9.14 miles, 17 locks

Rescue came in the form of our daughter with transport provided by our son in law.  Sarah arrived at 09:50 and we headed off straight away - we had a long day ahead of us.

There is not a lot to say about the journey apart from it being painful and we would never have made it without Sarah.  I managed to hobble about and could work one side of the bottom gates, so at least she did not have to keep walking round.  We were following other boats up all the way, but we all went at the same speed, so no hold ups.  

It was below this lock on the way down that we spent four hours with Chris down the weed hatch.  This time we got though without incident.

Some pounds were still down, so a bit of scraping along the bottom again.

A few hold ups with boats ahead, but no massive queues.

The occasional boat coming down

The horse and the sheep were still in their field, but today the horse had no coat and the sheep were sheltering from the sun under the tree.

Sarah hard at work as we exited the top lock and before we went under the M5.

Fun and games at Hanbury Junction when the boat ahead of us made the left turn towards the Hanbury locks.  It took a few goes and the use of the barge pole,  

but they made it through the very narrow junction without a single touch. We had the feeling that they might have borrowed the boat, but whoever they were they did everything slowly, but absolutely correctly.

It was all made more interesting when another boat came along from the Astwood direction.  They wanted to go straight on, so we had to make the turn into Hanbury before they could continue.  Chris was pleased that he made it round the turn in one, but then he has done it many times.

The Hanbury locks came next with VLKs on duty, so it was an easy ride down.  The hole I reported on on our first day has got bigger.

Just as we exited the bottom lock the heavens opened - literally 10 minutes from our mooring!  The VLKs at Hanbury have helped us more times than I can count.  I am always delighted to see VLKs wherever we are, so a big thank you to the ones who helped us today and all the others on all our previous journeys all over the country.  Will we ever pass through here again?

Not just a bit of rain! Note the coot....

A welcoming committee of the rest of the coot family at the entrance to the marina

Our son in law and one of their sons came to collect Sarah.  It had been a 7 hour trip.  One we would never have managed on our own, so a really big thank you to Sarah for giving up her Sunday and the rest of the family for lending her to us.

Typically the rain did not last long. We did not linger.  Once safely tied up we headed for home - things could be sorted out another day.