Saturday 20th May
Droitwich Spa Marina to The Queen's Head, Stoke Pound
4.5 miles, 15 locks
Final preparations were made
Monty supervised the hose
The local swan came by to see us on our way
And finally we were off on our Summer Cruise - did someone say 'SUMMER'?!!
It was so wet that even Monty needed his coat, but there was a welcome sight in the distance at the Hanbury Flight - a willing Voluntary Lock Keeper who braved the elements and assisted our passage up the flight. It is rare for Hanbury not to have a VLK and we are always delighted to see them as the locks are big and with the side ponds as well it is a much easier job with an extra pair of hands.
The rain persisted, but we had an uneventful trip and safely negotiated the Astwood flight.
Work is going on at the top lock to make a new lock landing.
The rain eased enough for us to eat a sandwich on the run before we reached the bottom lock at Stoke. Crafted Boats (aka Pinders, where Tentatrice was turned from a flat piece of steel into the boat she is today) is on the left as you approach the bottom lock at Stoke Prior. They were busy working, but a couple of them spotted us and stopped to wave, have a quick chat and wish us Bon Voyage.
So into the bottom lock at Stoke we went. Chris has popped the central heating on after the last lock at Astwood to try and get a bit of warmth into the boat and he went back inside to switch it off as we went into the lock. Meanwhile I had raised the paddles to let the water in for us to rise majestically up the lock. However, things were not going to plan. As Chris opened the cupboard to turn off the heating he noticed water where water should not be. The stern steps were moved and the cover to the 'dry' bilge was removed. Consternation all round - it was far from dry, in fact it was overflowing! The bilge pump was not working, so we tried bailing it out to no avail. What to do next? Well we knew Crafted Boats were open with engineers on site, so we made the decision to go back down the lock and reverse. Meanwhile, having not seen any boats all day, there was a boat behind us waiting to come up the lock. I started to empty the lock for us to descend when a Black Prince employee (the lock is right by a hire base) came over to ask if we were okay and did I know we were going back down! We explained and he kindly set to and helped us with the lock. I made a quick phone call to Crafted Boats to alert them that we were returning and they were ready to help catch ropes and secure us for them to examine the problem.
Aaron was enlisted to assist us
Monty tried to help - well he is a fully qualified supervisor at most tasks be they on land or on the water.
'Stuff' was removed from the steps
and the cupboard by the shower
The water pumps were checked
but no obvious cause for the leak could be found. The water needed to be removed, so the big wet vac was deployed.
and eventually we were fairly dry. Rags were stuffed in the hole and a temporary repair was made to the bildge pump and it was deemed safe for us to continue as our destination was only to the top of Tardebigge as we were booked to go into their dry dock on the Monday for bottom blacking and a few other little jobs. Investigating the leak and fix the bilge pump were added to the list (and the bill!)
So on we went through the bottom lock at Stoke for the second time of asking and the weather just got wetter and wetter,
Water, water everywhere
By this time we were late - the plan had been to meet our family once we had moored. Our son and family had come down from Derby and they needed a key to our house as three of them would be sleeping there that night. Mark walked along to meet us along with Vespa who took to the water as soon as she was off the lead!
Keys were handed over and they left Molly and Noah with us as they went to unload their stuff and settle the dogs down. Our daughter and family had also arrived by this time - the original plan had been for either her or her husband to drive one of us back to the marina to collect our car. As we were so behind time, they both went over and Sarah drove our car to the pub. A quick shower and change (both much needed!!) and all 11 of us convened in the pub for an early dinner.
We all enjoyed an excellent meal and each others company. It is not often we are all in the same place at the same time.
George and Evelyn busy doing something! It certainly looks engrossing
Jamie has moved over to join in
Something has caused great hilarity - evidence that the tooth fairy has been busy
Here is Jamie (note just half a plaster cast now), Molly, Noah, me, Evelyn and our daughter in law, Jo
And finally our daughter, Sarah and son in law, Paul (not sure what he is doing!!) with Noah, Chris and our son,Mark behind them.
Sunday 21st May 2017
Queen's Head, Stoke Pound to Tardebigge New Wharf
2 miles, 30 locks
Molly and Noah had stayed on the boat overnight whilst Evelyn went to our house with her parents. A peaceful night and we were up and about bright and early to get ready to tackle the 30 locks of the Tardebigge Flight.
There was just to be the 7 of us as George was taking part in a gymnastics competition, but 7 is plenty and thankfully the day dawned dry, bright, sunny and warm and indeed quite hot at times.
Jo started off with the best seat - enjoying the morning sun
Everyone set to - Evelyn (8) soon got the hang of things and was more than capable of working the bottom paddles and gates solo.
Molly and Noah putting their backs into moving a top gate. Molly is strong enough now to wind most of the top gate paddles which can be very stiff and heavy. The paddles at these top gates have spindles either side, so Noah could wind from the 'dry' side whilst an adult wound from the other side.
Noah working a bottom gate and Mark in charge of Vespa (black lab - she was confined to the lead to stop her swimming!) and Luna (Clumber Spaniel).
Luna was able to spend most of the time off the lead
A nice picture of Jo and Noah
The family all went up to have a look at the reservoir - if you come this way it is worth spending a few moments here - the view is definitely worth the short climb.
Monty in his usual supervisory role
The children all had a go at steering
At lock 57 we all climbed back on board for the 750 metre pound to the last lock and Mark took the tiller for a short while.
Jo and I headed to the galley to lay out the lunch - it was going to be a well deserved meal for all of us. This was our view of our crowded back deck. Monty, as ever, has to see what he is missing
It was a fantastic day - 30 locks done and dusted in around 3.25 hours - not a record by any means, but we were not in a hurry - are boaters ever in a hurry? After lunch Mark and I walked back to The Queen's Head to get our cars before they loaded up and headed for home. Thank you all for your help - we must do it again one day.
It was good to see that Monty has not forgotten his favourite look out post over the winter.
Monty's verdict of the day - exhausting supervising 7 people, 2 dogs and a boat!
Monday morning we delivered Tentatrice to Crafted Boats where she was taken into the dry dock and we headed for home. As I type the bottom has been blacked, tunnel bands re-painted, service performed, Boat Safety Inspection done (MOT for boats, but every 4 years, not annually) and the shower tray re-sealed. Despite extensive searching (including using a camera to look in places not easily accessible) they have not found out where the water came from. All is dry now and the bilge pump has been repaired. Whilst she was out of the water they noticed that one of the blades on the bow thruster propeller was badly damaged, so a new propeller has been ordered. Sadly due to the Bank Holiday this is proving to be rather slow in arriving, so instead of being on our way to Stratford as planned we are still kicking out heels at home. We do hope to be on our way early next week, so watch this space.