Friday 13 November 2009

Stockton to Napton

Fri 13 Nov
Last night as planned we went to The Boat to eat. They are offering a deal of 2 courses for £5 Monday to Friday, we didn't partake of this but ordered from the regular menu. The rain eased during the evening but had returned by bedtime. 
This morning when we woke up it was still raining but that soon changed and the cruise from Stockton to Calcutt was quite pleasant. We topped the diesel tank up at Calcutt Marina at 67 p/lt. We then continued up the flight to fill with water. The water gauge I fitted earlier this week was indicating empty just as the pump started to suck air, so the calibration was spot on. Just as we were leaving the water point in the rain two boats were leaving the top lock, but we were just ahead of them as I didn't want to end up following them up the Napton Flight. At Napton Junction we turned right along the South Oxford as did the boat following us, but they then turned into Napton Marina. The Napton flight were all with us. We stopped in the top lock to unload the boat to the car and while we were their, one of our fellow moorers was unloading a new fridge from his car, so we took it up to the moorings on our front deck.
We are now back home in Suffolk listening to the wind picking up.

Thursday 12 November 2009

Watford to Stockton

Thurs 12 Nov
Last night we went to bed to the sound of rain on the roof, this morning we woke up to sunshine. A Kate hire boat came passed towards the Watford flight and back again before we had set off at 9 30 am. It was some time before we saw another boat on the move. Back to Norton Junction and sharp right towards Braunston. As we approached the tunnel there was another Kingfisher, quite content to sit there as we passed by. I don't know if its the time of year or weather, but I have never known Kingfishers to sit around like this as boats pass before, they normally zoom off down the cut ahead of you.
We didn't meet anything in the tunnel  but  the light at the far end looked very dim, this turned out to be the hire boat we had seen earlier and as we approached Braunston Top Lock they had just left, but kindly agreed to wait for us at the next, this doesn't save any water but it does save a bit of time and effort, the water went with us using the top lock. We didn't meet any boats in the flight and it wasn't until we got to Butchers Bridge we saw a boat coming towards us. Chatting to the lady from the hire boat she said she was most upset by the attitude of some private boaters to her as a hirer, some down right rude. As a private boater I could only apologise to her. They were not beginners but are trying different boats and cruising at different times of year before maybe buying their own boat when they retire. As we came through Braunston we met Brian and Jill who were bringing their new to them, boat home and were moored in Braunston. It turned out it was them I met in the tunnel yesterday.
At Napton Junction we turned left up the South Oxford/Grand Union, Braunston was a lot busier today than yesterday with nowhere near so many vacant moorings, but there was still lots of room right in the centre. A few boats were moored along the Puddle Banks and also a bit further out of Braunston, but we met very little. We stopped just before Wigrams Turn to pick some sloes, lowering the branches with a boat hook to get the best of the crop, then it was right at Wigrams and down to Calcutt Locks. A pair of Ownership boats were just leaving the locks, going down as we arrived, but the crew from one hung about and drew a paddle for us, she said that they moored their boat at Calcutt and were stopping just below the lock. The other Ownerships boat was on his way back to Stockton so they waited in the next lock for us and we did the last two together.
It was quite busy at Stockton Marina with Ownership returning ready to hand over in the morning and many of the Kate fleet moored in the cut, some three abreast almost opposite the long term moorings.  We carried on past the marina and winded just above Stockton Top Lock, I can get Harnser round here with about nine inches to spare if I get in exactly the right spot and then headed back passed the marina to moor in the first vacant piece of towing path we came to almost opposite The Boat pub. By now it had started to rain and we tied up to a pair of very conveniently spaced mooring rings just on 4 pm.

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Braunston at Watford Locks

Last night dinner and a couple of pints were taken at The Old Plough and very enjoyable there were, the size of the pud was something else.
Braunston was very quiet with lots of moorings and very few passing boats. We set off a few minutes past 11 this morning and had to wait at the bottom lock for a boat coming down, this was the first of several Ownership boats we were to meet today, as well as a couple of ex Challenger ones as well. We entered the bottom lock and spotted a boat coming through Butchers Bridge so we waited for them. It was Water Jester, also a shared ownership boat, we use to have a share in Water Witch that were originally run by Southshore Narrowboats. They invited us to leave the lock first and carry on alone as they had some shopping to do, in the end they caught us up at the next lock as the only stopped for a couple of minuets to get milk, and the boat coming down turned the lock without looking, I saw him just walk to the top gate and draw the paddles, however he got his own back as just as he left the lock some one turned the bottom lock on him. We continued up the flight with Water Jester meeting boats at several of the locks. At the Nelson Lock an ex Challenger boat was coming down breasted to another narrow boat with engine problems.
There was an awful lot of water running down at the tunnel mouth where the land slip was, the bank must have been quite fluid in the past. BW really need to cut the vegetation on the land slip as it badly obscures the visibility entering and leaving the tunnel. We only met one boat in the tunnel and they were having problems seeing where they were going, their tunnel light shot straight ahead along the water not illuminating the walls at all and sir was standing on the bow with a hand lamp aimed at the near side wall so madam could see where she was.
At Norton Junction we turned left up the Leicester Arm and continued as far as the winding hole at the bottom of the flight. We moored on the water point and took a walk up the flight. BW have the bottom lock scaffolded out and were working on the top gate, they are also working on the paddle gear of the second lock. We walked to the top of the flight and then back down the other side of the side pounds, It looks as these may have been dredged recently as there is a lot of spoil just below the bottom side pound with a fence round it saying "Deep Mud" The lock cottage at the top of the flight is up for auction on the 6 December, it looks out over the side pounds so has some very nice views but it is very close to the M1 A5 and railway. The bottom lock cottage was also empty.
We returned to Harnser and retraced our steps towards Norton Junction mooring for the night just outside Welton Hythe Marina at about 3-30 pm. So far I have seen 5 Kingfishers on this short stretch of canal, two of them remained sitting there as we went passed them and on the second one I stopped the boat and reversed back to photograph it.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

Hillmorton to Braunston

Tues 10 Nov
After topping up the engine start battery we set off in drizzle at 10 am.  It was a miserable cruise to Braunston passing both Rosy and Draco both with no sign of life on ether boats. We continued on into the hart of Braunston and moored just by Butchers Bridge before having lunch at a little after 1 pm. We were just having an after lunch cup of tea when the phone rang, it was Chard the Ipswich IWA Branch Chairman enquiring where we were, it turned out he was also in Braunston so they came round for a cup of tea and a chat. Tonight we intend to meet them in the Old Plough for a meal.

Monday 9 November 2009

Ansty to Hillmorton

Mon 9 Nov
We were a bit late setting off this morning as I wanted to check the voltage of the individual batteries just to make sure that the faulty one was an old one and not the new one I fitted earlier this year in which case it would have to go back to Bishop Stortford, but as expected it was another of the old ones that had dropped a cell, I fitted them in February 2005 so I suppose they have not done to bad considering they only get recharged by the engine driven alternator. Another thing I needed to do was find out what my 3 mobile number is so that I can contact them. As I don't use the sim in a phone, only the internet dongle the only way I could find out was to visit the 3 web site and open one of my monthly invoices.
We were away just before 11 am to a misty, still morning. We met a few boats on our travels but not as many as on the Ashby Canal. Diana took over driving while I emailed 3 Mobile to ask them what sort of offer they were prepared to make for me to continue with my prepaid contract. In January when VAT goes back to 17.5% I will be paying £10 a month or £120 a year. I can buy a years package for just £80 a saving of £40 a year, so if they don't come back with an offer of £8 or less I will close my contract.
At All Oaks Wood BW were still hard at work with 3 men standing in the water laying sandbags to support the towing path. Even wearing the dry suits and chest waders its not a job I would fancy in this weather. We met a boat at Stretton Stop so the swing bridge was opened for us, but I did close it as we passed. Once through the bridge there were hire boats moored two abreast and a private boat on the out side of them, as we passed him he dropped his rope off and started to set off coming another foot out into the canal and then complaining it was a bit tight.
We stopped at Brownsover, not for Diana to visit Tesco but for me to go to Homebase to buy a new chisel, it was nice to see on the receipt "over 18" and then to Halfords to get some deionised water as the engine starter battery could do with a drop. We considered mooring by the golf course but it was the pleasantest afternoon so far so continued on to Hillmorton. All the visitor moorings below the locks were taken so we continued up the flight, as we entered the first lock a hire boat from Clifton Cruisers came up to the other lock, they had never done a lock before and Diana showed them how it worked, They were a foreign couple and obviously the verbal instructions of working a lock had not completely sunk in. The pound above the second lock was down by about 10", this must have been quite a recent drop as the stones were still quite wet. We moored on the visitor moorings above the locks at about 4 30 pm.

Sunday 8 November 2009

Hinckley to Ansty

Sun 8 Nov
I woke up this morning and looked at the weather station, the atmospheric pressure was the highest its been all week, the symbol at the top showed sun, no cloud. I looked out of the port hole and it was chucking it down with rain, only one thing to do, stay in bed.
We set off at 10 30 am. the sky was showing a bit of blue and the sun was taking the odd peep out from round the clouds but looking into the distance it looked quite hazy.  Our first stop was Trinity Marina to fill up with 80 lts of diesel at 62.9 p/lt plus duty. Its a self service pump and you pay in the office. They have pre printed forms to fill in with your name and address, percentage split you are claiming on the duty split and if it is being used for heating, generator or boat. I always claim 50/50 because of the diesel cooking and heating. We carried onto Marston Junction where the Ashby Canal joins the Coventry Canal and turned left back to Hawkesbury Junction. There was a boat moored between the gauging lock and the junction and as I approached they unties but still stayed there, I thought they may be waiting for a boat to come out of the junction, but as I entered the gauging lock I could see that the junction was clear and just a tug and barge were entering the lock to go up the North Oxford, I indicated to the moored boat that I was intending to turn left into the junction and they waved me passed. As I passed I could see it was the community trip boat Hargreaves and the skipper said they were waiting for me to pass before turning round in the junction. I carried on round and Diana indicated that a boat was coming the other way into the lock so I pulled alongside the police station to give them a clear run out of the lock and round the junction. By now the Hargreaves had completed his turn, but as soon as the other boat had left, the Hargreaves reversed back into the junction again and turned round the other way again, I can only surmise that they were doing crew training and winding practice.
Once clear of the lock I just had to negotiate the long bend with boats moored ether side, a wooden cruiser on my side and a narrow boat coming towards me, why he didn't just hold back until I was clear I don't know, I didn't touch the wooden boat but he ran round against the narrowboat moored on the outside of the bend. We carried on for another hour and moored for the night on the Ansty visitor moorings opposite the Rose and Castle pub at about 3 30 pm. The colours of the sunset as I write this are a very soft pinky yellow glow turning to a blueish purple higher in the sky.

Saturday 7 November 2009

Snarestone to Hinckley

Fri 7 Nov

The meal in the Globe last night was fine and the portion size generous, both main course and sweet. A very useful place to stop.
We set off at 9 30 am this morning, both the sun and the moon were well up in the a clear blue sky at roughly the same elevation but about 110 deg. apart and the sun stayed out all day. We met a steady steam of boats and stopped at Market Bosworth to fill the water tank and calibrate the new water gauge. There were several boats absent from the Ashby Boat Company yard, one was moored just ahead of us last night, so I expect they must have quite a few short break hires this weekend. I don't know if they have repainted some of their boat this year already but the ones we have seen have looked very smart and shiny. Looking to the sky we were able to watch a crow hassling a buzzard, the size difference is quite great and I am always surprised that the buzzards let them get away with this behaviour. We moored for the night at 3 30 pm just before the Triumph factory and as I write this I can hear lots of fire works going off around us.

Friday 6 November 2009

Dadlington to Snarestone tunnel

Fri 6 Nov
I didn't realise just how noisy it was at Hawkesbury Junction with the continuous background noise from the motorway 24 hrs a day. What a contrast to last night when the only sound was the Water Vole chewing the reeds on the far side of the canal.
I changed the halogen down light in the boatman's cabin to LED's while Diana took Magic for a walk round Dadlington,  when they returned we pushed off just before 10 am. BW are doing quite a bit of dredging  along the canal and they have now got as far as Market Bosworth. I saw a couple more Water Voles in the water as we travelled along, looking at the number of holes in the offside they look quite plentiful. After lunch Diana took over driving while I moved the light fittings from the boatman's cabin to the lounge, the reason behind this is that the new LED's are brighter than the old ones, but I had to modify the light fittings to fit the old style LED's the new ones are a straight replacement. We thought it would be better to have the brighter light in the lounge, hence I had swap the fitting round. We carried on towards the terminus of the Ashby canal, through Snarestone tunnel  and winded just before the very end. Work her to extend the canal is ongoing, there is now a concrete structure to take a set of lock gates and two sets of stop planks. It seems that there is now some doubt as to whether the lock gates are required or not, it was my understanding that there was talk of a full size lock being built and running the new section of canal at a different level to prove nothing was leaking. Once the stop planks are in place they will be able to start excavating the canal. They have already excavated a new channel parallel with the canal from the winding hole to the bridge, this is a wild life haven and is only connected to the canal by a piece of pipe, why it was needed I am not sure, as no wildlife water habitat has been removed and several more miles of water will be opened up.
Diana bought some paper back books from the trusts shop before we headed back through the tunnel to moor for the night on the 48 hr moorings. The plan tonight is to eat in the Globe pub on top of the tunnel and when we walked the dog we went up there to book a table. Another job I did this afternoon was to fit the upgraded water gauge with the LCD readout from MSC. To do this I had to get to the plumbing under the floor just behind the water tank, this meant laying flat out under the bed and then reaching under the floor to where the water feed comes from the tank, we now need to fill the water tank to complete the calibration, a job for tomorrow.

Thursday 5 November 2009

Sutton Stop to Dadlington

Thus 5 Nov 09
Last night we had another first class meal in the Greyhound, It was very good when we went earlier this year as well, much better than when I have visited in the past, the menu is quite extensive and the food we had and saw was well cooked.
The plan today was to start a bit earlier before the rain started, I just untied the bows when it started tipping it down, so I tied up again and went back inside until 10 30 am when it decided to stop. At the lock there was a "posse"of police persons at the small police station by the lock. We saw about 10 including the Community Officers let alone those inside.  Today the  police were having a  awareness day, as it seemed that the little police station is 100 years old today. It has not always been a police station, BW only leased it to the Police 3 years ago and it is working days, it was an office that "Issued Orders" to boaters for the transport of coal from the Warwickshire coal pits. 
We were given a bag of goodies by a lady in civilian clothes, not sure if she was police or BW as they were both there, in the bag were leaflets on boat security and safety, also a pen that shows up under ultraviolet  light for marking personal belongings.  I did suggest that the toe rags of Coventry would be having a field day with half the force at the lock. I don't see much point of the pens, you can only see it in ultraviolet light, so the tea-leaf taking it wouldn't know its marked and take it anyway and if you wanted to sell your camera etc. no shop would buy it as it has a post code marked with a pen that says its stolen. We did a 180 turn under the bridge onto the Coventry canal and headed towards the Ashby, or entry into the Ashby was not as clean as it might have been as a boat came out just as we approached the bridge on the main line so we didn't see him until we came through the bridge and he was right where we wanted to be to turn in. I thought the Ashby would be peaceful, but we met 7 boats in the first five miles, the busiest canal we have been on this week. We wanted to stop at Stoke Golding to have a look round the village, the last time we went there was with Diana's mother when we had Water Witch. The 48 hr visitor moorings looked pretty full but there was a space about 65 foot long right on the bend where people were feeding the ducks. I eased Harnser in and we moored with just the bow and the stern touching the bank, I had to shoo the last duck out from between the bank and the boat before we secured each end. Just before we moored up I passed a green boat with no name, the chap said I read your blog, you said you were coming, it was n.b.Pickles No.2
We spent an hour wandering up to and around the village which boasts 3 pubs. The church has a very strange roof line, during the second world war the church tower was demolished as it was in the flight path of Lindley Aerodrome, all the stones were numbered and it was rebuilt after the war. The original roof line is still visible on the tower even thought the roof is now much shorter . As well as the church they have 3 chapels and a church school. The village has grown up to completely surround one of the farms, I hope the home owners enjoy the rural aroma that hangs over the area.
When we returned to the boat I counted 83 ducks in the cut just by the boat, some of them were having afternoon tea on the weed growing on Harnser's hull just below the water line. We considered for a few moments what it would be like when they came back for breakfast, just before day break and decided that maybe it would be advisable to move on now and not in the morning. We only did about another mile to moor to the piling just beyond Dadlington Wharf at about 4 30 pm.

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Hillmorton to Sutton Stop

Last night was very clear with a full moon, the temperature outside dropped to 2.5 deg C and this morning started sunny but cool, however by 10 30 am. things had warmed up nicely.
We were a bit late starting today, not getting away until 10 am. We would have been off sooner but were invited to have a look round n/b/Oakfield as they filled with water and very nice it is to. I especially liked the show/ toilet which is of the walk through design and very spacious. We met several boats again today, a majority of them being Ownership ones, the do keep the place alive out of the main season. At Rugby I had a word with Bill and Fanny on n.b. Rosy while Diana went to Tesco's for a few thing we needed to top up on. Some one has repaired the lights in Newbold Tunnel and all except a green one at the very end were working, this is the most I have ever seen on. At the south end of the tunnel is a new board with information about the tunnel on it, but it is to small to read from the boat so I will have a look at it on our return. BW and May Gurney  are doing sterling work repairing the bank at All Oaks Wood just before Brinklow using sandbags. They had a barge full of them and three chaps in the water up to their chests laying them to edge up the towing path, I didn't realise the water was so deep along that section. By 2 30 pm the rain had stared again and continued all the way to Hawkesbury Junction, also know as Sutton Stop. Just as we arrived the rain stopped, the sun reappeared and a full rainbow crossed the sky. We found a mooring spot a short way before the lock and tied up at about 3 30 pm, a little while later a shorter boat than us managed to get in between us and the boat in front.

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Napton Bridge Inn to Hillmorton

Tues 3 Nov
Last night was a full moon, but we didn't see much of it as it soon turned very cloudy and shortly after going to bed it was raining heavily, it continued like this on and off all night but by 8 30 this morning it was bright sunshine and blue sky's.
We set off at about 9 30 am the domestic battery voltage was sitting at a steady 22.5 volts so it will be a new set for Christmas. We hadn't been on the move long before the hat and coat was called for. We met several boats on the move, a majority of them being "Ownership" craft and I received the greeting "nice to put a face to a name" from one, but have no idea who he was. As we traversed the Puddle Banks I noticed that the wooden cruiser "Odessa" was gone, last time we passed she was sitting on the bottom, I hope they managed to float her. To the west was a full arched rainbow that chose to display its self between the showers.
By the time we reached Braunston and turning left up the North Oxford it was tipping it down, we pulled over to fill with water just by Midland Chandlers, there are 4 taps hear to chose from so I took the one that was pointing downwards with a screwed end on it. The water pressure was quite good and it didn't take long to fill the tank. There was also a hire boat tied up here but they weren't taking water, just trying to keep out of it. They had tied an umbrella in a parasol base on the back deck to try to keep dry while boating. I could only see 3 things wrong with this, the back rope fouled the tiller, it was to high to go under the bridges and it was all about to blow away. Once full of water we left them to it. It wasn't long before the rain stopped and things brightened up again.
We decided to stop for lunch at Willoughby and get our wet clothes off for a bit. Once refuelled Diana decided to steer for a bit and as we approached Barby Straight we spotted Draco moored on the towing path so we pulled along side and had bit of a chat with Mike before continuing on our way to Hillmorton locks. We met a couple of boats on the way so expected to find the locks in out favour, wrong, they were both empty and one had all the paddle gear wrapped in orange netting. I hadn't noticed it before , but one of each of the Hillmorton pair of locks has ground paddles at the top and the bottom of the lock. The norm is ground paddles at the top and gate paddles at the bottom, I assume these are the original locks and the second lock was added later. nb. Nackered Navvy was moored outside the Bistro but there was no sign of life as we passed. We moored for the night at 4 pm just beyond the water point on the rings. We took the dog for a walk and just round the corner we found nb Oakfield and nb, Piston Broke moored up so on out way back we gave them a knock and introduced ourselves.
I also fitted the new Dutch bolt to the back door and changed the bedroom halogen lights to LED's. The new halogen LED replacements are much brighter than the old cluster ones are that we have in the lounge.

Monday 2 November 2009

Napton Top Lock to Napton Bridge Inn

Monday 2 Nov
Well we are back on the boat going no where in particular. The weather started dry but was drizzling by 5 pm. We pushed off from the moorings about 2 pm, The boat was hard on the bottom but we dragged off backwards, I am glad we are on the end of the moorings as I can't push the boat out sideways. Just before we left an Oxfordshire Narrowboats boat came by, I hope he is not planning to get back south along the canal as Claydon flight closed today for annual maintenance.
We stopped in the mouth of the top lock and unloaded all the gear out of the car and onto the boat before heading off down the flight with all the locks against us. The sun was pleasant but it was turning much cooler by the time we reached the bottom of the flight. At the blind right hand bend at the end of the meadow I met a boat, we passed OK but I only just managed to complete the turn without hitting the towing path piling after he had passed. We continued on to just passed the Bridge Inn and moored at the far end of the piling at about 4 pm. By now Diana had packed all the food etc away and I started doing a few odds and ends that needed attention, one of them is to fit a long brass bolt to the rear door so you can reach over the door from outside and unbolt it. I saw the very thing on nb. Unwindin,  called Dutch or French bolts and available from Carlisle Brass.
As we sat eating our dinner the lights suddenly dimmed, I checked the battery voltage and it had dropped by 2 volts from 24.5 to 22.5 so it looks like another battery has lost a cell. I changed one battery a few weeks back and knew the others were on their way out, but I was hoping that the rest would last until the spring when I was going to fit a set of Trojan 6 volt batteries, I think these are about 4 years old now and not having a shore supply never get fully recharged, I do the best I can with the engine, but limited engine running at the IWA National etc. takes its toll on them.