Thursday, 29 May 2014

Locks, wet, locks & wet

Tuesday 27th May 2014

Monty’s double strikes again…

Earlswood to Lapworth between locks 14 & 15
5.25 miles, 13 locks

We have had two days with no internet and it is not brilliant here, so this may get posted without photos - it all depends.....

We awoke to the sounds of a cuckoo calling and a woodpecker drumming.  Later in the day we were aware of a number of peacocks screaming – not so melodious.

A fairly unremarkable journey with a quick stop at Hockley Heath for some milk and a paper.

We filled up with water, emptied rubbish and bought some coal at Swallow Cruisers just before the first swing bridge before the Lapworth flight.  A boat (Tel Afeq) went past,

so a long slow climb was inevitable, especially when we discovered that this was their first ever lock. The drawbridge just before the locks is really hard work – keep winding, winding and winding!!  No need for a trip to the gym for me today.   After 4 locks we took a quick break for a sandwich hoping they would pull ahead.  Another boat came along behind us, so off we went and had caught Tel Afeq up by the third lock, but they speeded up from there and we all made reasonable time.  The weather was very spitty and spotty for most of the day, so we were glad to moor between locks 14 and 15.  A quick nip into the pub – The Boot to see if they had a table free for tonight.  They do! This pub is in the same group (Lovely Pubs) that the Queens Head, so we are hoping the food is as good here as it is there.  It was, but perhaps not quite as good as the Queen’s Head.

Our dog, Monty, has a double when he has his naughty head on and oh boy did he have it on today.  His recall is usually very good, but today he decided he does not like boating and was not going to come when called.  He put his bottom in the air, barked and just skipped off if we got anywhere near him.  If he was made to stay on the boat he just whinged.  It is obvious he is not too happy with this boating lark – we are hoping he will get used to it or else it is going to be a very long 3-4 months!  We met this lovely female collie showing how it should be done. 

Wed 28th May

Wet, wet, wet again

Lapworth to the top of Hatton Locks
6.5 miles, 6 locks

The sound of rain hammering on the roof kept me awake for quite a bit of the night and it was not much better first thing, but go we did.  Booted, gaitered and waterproofed we were all set for the last 6 locks before the turn to the Grand Union. 

A murky start, but not too wet – yet!  

By the time we moored at the top of the Hatton Flight it was hammering it down again. 

Poor Monty was in a state

and needed a wash in the bucket – something he hates, but tolerates. 

I am glad to say that he had his good head on today and was much better behaved.  The fire was lit, wet clothes and boots spread around and we settled down for a quiet afternoon.  The trip was pretty despite being wet

 and we found what Boatwif (nb Cleddau) has always needed – a butty for sale to carry her books!
It is so wet and dirty that poor Monty had to be bucketed again after a very short walk to ease springs.  I decided to make a cake (apple and cinnamon) – it will be the first one cooked on board, so hopefully the oven will not disappoint.   It looks and smells good, so I hope it taste as good.

Late afternoon and there was a lot of engine noise down the cut – a boat trying to wind (turn around) had managed to get completely stuck – the bow was solidly aground on the far side of the canal.

Mum, Dad and daughter were on board and the young son (around 11/12) was left on the tow path trying to pull it off.  I was out with Monty, so went back to the boat to leave Monty, get some gloves and I went back to lend some extra pulling power.  The three on board got on the stern and rocked and we had success – they were free.  They had been told by the hire company to go to the top of Hatton Flight to turn round before heading back to where they had started from.  What they did not have was a map!  I think they might have got round, but the far side of the canal is shallow.
They tried reversing (the winding hole was a good half mile away, but that did not work,
then they tried to wind again unsuccessfully, so in the end they went down a lock, winded and came back up, but it was getting late by then.  They were a lovely family and I hope it did not put them off for life.

Meanwhile a family of ducks and ducklings came past with a Canada goose in attendance.  He/she was bending his/her neck and it looked as though it was herding the ducks.  Anyone have any explanation of this behaviour?  It did not appear to be aggressive and neither Mother duck or the babies seemed to be bothered.

Back at base I asked a question as we finished washing up – did Chris know how to get the tap onto spray mode.  He was not sure, had a fiddle and it worked!!

Thursday 29th May 2014

The bad and the good…

Hatton Top Lock to Leamington Spa
6 miles 23 locks

The bad is that I have hurt my back – temporary I hope, but it made me do a lot of the steering as we went down Hatton locks.  I am not the most confident or competent of helmsmen, but I had to get on with it and coped okay.  No major disasters and it has boosted my confidence, so maybe a happy injury as long as it is nothing serious.

A walk back along the cut this morning found another boat preparing to head down the flight – it was agreed that we would go together at 10am.  So much easier than on our own.   

The major excitement en route was the arrival of President and Kildare on their way up, presumably back from Crick.  For me a major test – it was in the one pound on the flight where Chris was unable to get over to take a rope, so I had to cope, and cope I did, even to the extent of being able to take a photo.  I am sure not a big deal to most of you, but a major confidence boost to me.

I was taken by surprise a couple of times and the back deck (and my feet!) got a good hosing down!

There were a couple of VLK’s on duty – one helped us for a couple of locks, but then went off to help singleton boats.  Having just done this flight I have immense respect  for them as it is a hard job, so well done to them and thank you.  Our job at Stoke Prior (when we are there) is easy by comparison.

Now having just done 21 hard locks I did not expect to have to pay!  Sign at the bottom lock!!

Our companion boat was stopping at the Cape of Good Hope for lunch, so we carried on alone.  As we got to Cape locks there was a boat just finishing taking on water, so we went down the two locks with them and their Border Collie, Freddo.  He is only a couple of years older than Monty, but a lot calmer about life!  Hopefully Monty will learn to love the boating life in due course. 
We saw our first family of cygnets today

 and crossed the first aqueduct of the trip – how more to come I wonder before we get home?
The sky had been threatening for a while and just was we approached a long railway tunnel the heavens opened.  We had just pulled in to let Monty and I off for a walk, so we stayed there for around 15 minutes until the worst was over – very good timing.
 We moored in Leamington Spa
and went into the High Street to buy me a new waterproof as I ripped mine yesterday.  We came home with one for Chris, but sadly nothing for me.  Tomorrow is another day yet more locks!

ps - update on the cake - the verdict - it is very tasty!

Monday, 26 May 2014

That worked well

Tardebigge New Wharf to Earlswood Reservoir
19  miles 4 tunnels

As planned our daughter arrived this morning to take us to the boat and a last minute decision was for them all to come with us to for 3 miles and 2 tunnels.  A bit of car re-positioning and they arrived to set off.

All aboard safe, sound and life jacketed. 

G had brought the olive oil – see yesterday’s post!- I am glad to say we did not need it!! 

J (aged 2.5) having a steer!! 

As we got to Alvechurch we caught sight of a camera crew – it is likely that we will appear on television on ‘A Place in the Sun’.

They jumped ship at Withybed Green and we bade farewell until July.  Mixed feelings as we see them most weeks, but this was always our plan, so onwards and upwards.

 Under our first motorway this trip (M42) – I wonder how many we will have gone under by the time we get home?

The route was a familiar one: 
Bittel Reservoir (not too wet for fishermen today)

 Norton Junction

 Shirley Drawbridge (the boat ahead is a fellow Droitwich Spa Boat – As Time Goes By on their way to Cropedy.

Dickens Heath where the water was running this year – it was bone dry when we went past last year.

We moored in pretty much the same place as last  year – it is quiet and safe.

Things we saw on the way: 
Somewhere we would all rather avoid: HMP Hewell

This Santa was hanging on last year and is still there 

This was a rather unsettling sight!  I hope we do not come across too many of these!

A rather kamikaze canoeist who headed away when he saw us coming, turned around, came back and then headed away again.  He got close enough for Chris to have to reverse and take avoiding action.  He came from another narrow boat, so you would think he would have known better, but hey ho, no harm done. 

The flora was wonderful

The weather was fair – a small amount of light rain, but the real stuff did not arrive until after we had moored.  All in all a very good day.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Above and beyond.....

The Queen's Head to Tardebigge New Wharf
2.75 miles, 30 locks

the call of daughterly duties!  Plan A was for our daughter and her eldest son (aged nearly 6) to help us up Tardebigge, but in view of the weather we decided to not bring the youngster.  When he went to bed last night he was expecting to join us.  Last weekend they were in Vines Park, Droitwich and watched two boats in a broad lock that had some difficulty getting out - apparently the gate did not open as far as expected, so it was a tight squeeze and lots of wriggling was required before one was able to exit.  On rising this morning at 06:30 (!!) G told his mother that he had been worrying all night about us getting stuck somewhere, so he had decided he needed to take a bottle of olive oil to ease any close encounters with lock walls!!  He was very disappointed when he was told he could not come, but understood and decided he did not want to get WET!  We also made the decision to leave Monty at home as he does not have enough sense to sit inside and he would have ended up very, very wet and cold.  Walking in the rain is one thing, but sitting around waiting for locks for 4.5 hours is quite another.

It was WET
 WET - same daughter, just dryer clothes
   Even too wet for the fisherman! 
 and WETTER still 
We did eventually make it to the top
We were the last in a convoy of four boats, but the ones ahead were all very efficient and did not hold us up.  No 3 in the convoy was this one:
A Canaltime boat, which made very good time with their crew of 2

We only saw one boat coming down

Once we had moored and stripped off layers of very wet clothing which was placed into dustbin bags we got into Chris' car (pre-positioned early this morning) and drove to The Queen's Head to collect my car. Whilst there we treated our daughter to lunch.  It was wonderful to spend some time with her even though we were all wet and soggy and thanks also go to her husband for holding the fort at home with the boys to allow Sarah time to help her parents out. It really was appreciated.  As we came out of the pub after lunch the rain stopped and the rest of the afternoon was dry and sunny!!  Clothes have been washed with re-waterproofing liquid and are now drying on an airer in the conservatory.  Our boots were so wet there was no mud on them - just grass.  They too are drying out.  

Tomorrow we are taking a day off and Sarah will take us to Tardebigge on Monday for the first 'proper' day or our summer - did I say summer??!! cruise.  Here is hoping we can try to avoid the worst of the rain over the coming days/weeks/months.  My first job when we are under way on Monday - clean all the mud and grass off the floor and wipe down all the kitchen units (reverse layout, so they get any mess there is to be made).