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Summer Cruise 2019

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2019 by netmanianick

DSCF6882I know, I know! But the great thing about writing this cruise up now, is that it is cold, dark and damp outside, and it is great to escape the winter (at least in my mind) by looking back over our adventures during the summer!

Plans for our summer cruise went through many different versions. Originally we intended to complete the Leicester Ring, which we failed to do last year as we enjoyed the Ashby Canal so much. Then we toyed with the idea of going to Llangollen and back – doable, but this would require quite a few very long days. Then Rob and Lindsay said that they wouldn’t be able to come along anyway, so it was back to the drawing board.

In the last few days before we set off, we settled on the trip down to Stourport on Severn as being very pleasant and relaxing.

On the night before departure Rob and Lindsay found that they could join us after all, and we arranged to meet at the marina the following afternoon. As usual our loading took much longer than planned, with water, diesel and pump-out needing to be attended to, as well as the repeated trips between car and boat to load our provisions. The service wharf at the marina was busy, so I decided to chance getting the pump out and diesel at the Anglo Welsh boatyard instead. I sent Rob a text to say that we would meet them at Tixall Wide, and we set off.

With the servicing now completed we made our way to the Wide, and found a good mooring spot for the night. Lindsay had been held up at work, so they wouldn’t begin their trip until the morning.

The next morning we were up and ready to go, so we set off through the picturesque Tixall Lock, and wound our way through Milford. Soon we were passing the Stafford Boat Club, and then climbing Deptmore Lock, to head through Acton Trussell.

img_0876-1At the next lock it started to drizzle a bit, but we pressed on through Park Gate Lock and carried on towards Penkridge. Filance Lock delayed us a long time. There was a boat ahead of us in the lock, and they seemed to be taking an age. The problem was that the bottom gates were leaking so badly, that if you closed one of the top paddles before opening the gate the level dropped so quickly that it became impossible. Even with both top paddles open the gate needed a couple of nudges to get the last half inch to fill. Eventually it was our turn, and just as we drove into the lock the heavens opened. By the time we reached the top we were both completely drenched, so we tied up at the first available spot and went inside to dry out. As soon as we went inside the sun came out, and stayed out for the rest of the day.

Rob and Lindsay caught us up in Lakeland Belle, and we enjoyed a nice meal together that evening.

The sun was shining for day 3 and we deliberately planned some short days. Today we were aiming for Coven Heath, and we completed the climb up to Gailey without incident. With the water topped up and the rubbish disposed of we had a pleasant day’s cruise across the 10 mile summit pound. We found a shady spot to moor for the night, and all agreed that it had been a very relaxing day.

DSCF6875The next day we wanted to get to Compton, where we hoped to stop at the superb Italian Restaurant by the canal. This looked to be an easy plan to achieve, and it would have been if we hadn’t picked up a whole duvet around our propellor just outside the Wildside Activity Centre in Wolverhampton. It took me nearly two hours to cut it free using just about every sharp object I could lay my hands on!

Arriving at Compton Lock there was something of a queue, and so we were delayed again by a further hour, and then the visitor moorings were completely full, so we scrapped the dinner plans and continued on to Whitwick, where we found a couple of spaces out in the countryside.

In keeping with the plan for gentle days we headed for the Bratch for our next overnight stop. There were plenty of boats on the move, so we found that we didn’t have to wait long at any one lock, there was usually someone coming up through it so that we could drive straight in. We could then leave the bottom gates open ready for the next boat to come up.

We tied up opposite the cricket pitch, which is a lovely place to be, although there is a small risk of stray cricket balls coming to visit!

The following day was drizzly, and we needed to go a bit further as we needed water and waste disposal. The next facilities were at Greensforge, so we set off early to descend the Bratch, conveniently disposing of the waterlogged duvet from the prop in the bins by the bottom lock.

A pause at Wombourne enabled the cupboards to be restocked, and we arrived at Greensforge a little damp, but certainly not dispirited. We moored below the lock in a cutting so it seemed quite dark and gloomy.

DSCF6879The following day we stopped for lunch at Stourton Junction, and then carried on down to Kinver where we were able to visit the excellent butcher’s shop for some delicious steaks for tea.¬†Kinver is a delightful place to visit, and one day I aim to stop a while longer to explore the rock houses.

We decided to complete the run to Stourport in one day, with a pause at the supermarket in Kidderminster, and moored for the night outside the Bird In Hand pub. On previous visits they have served some excellent meals, but on this occasion it was disappointing to say the least.

DSCF6902The following morning we pulled down on to the moorings near Lidl, and Rob and I went for an explore in the basins, stopping for a much needed pint! I do enjoy Stourport as there is so much going on!

With a day mostly devoted to lounging around, we started to consider the return trip, and realised that we would need to put in some longer days if we were to make it back to Great Haywood by the end of the holiday.

DSCF6889With this in mind we serviced the boats in the basin at Stourport and began the climb back up towards Kinver. Clearly City of Durham didn’t want to leave, as the engine cut out as I entered the lock. The overheating warning light was on. We roped the boat through the lock and onto the mooring outside, and I took the deck boards up for a look. All the hoses seemed intact, so I topped up the coolant and crossed my fingers. The boat started, and then ran fine for the rest of the trip.

We made it to Kinver for our first stop on the return trip, and again visited the town for supplies. I also managed to pick up a pump out token which I planned to use in the service block the next morning. When we arrived at the service block, I found that there was still credit on the machine, so didn’t need to use my token.

58265506526__6B7D2FD6-DA13-4DBC-A002-AD8B919DD683Day two was a harder day with 12 locks to get us to the bottom of the Bratch, but the payoff was that the following day we were able to stop in Compton for our delayed Italian meal – and very good it was too!

Day 4 saw us crossing the 10 mile summit pound from Compton to Gailey, the only delay being a long wait at the narrows at Pendeford Rockin’ for a convoy of boats to come through from the other side. We watered up at Gailey, and then descended the top lock for the night.

The following morning we headed back to Great Haywood, stopping only at Acton Trussell for some lunch. With the light fading we pulled onto our berth and then began the unpleasant task of packing and setting off for home.

Miles: 94

Locks: 82

Hours: 55

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Fire in the Galley!

In Uncategorized on May 27, 2019 by netmanianick

27th May 2019

On Sunday morning we pulled pins heading for Star Lock at Stone where we wanted to top up the water tank. Although it was drizzling, it was quite warm and there was little wind, so the trip up was very pleasant.

We pulled onto the visitor moorings below the lock, and Anne set off for Morrisons while I gathered the rubbish and took it to the bins. We were moored a couple of boats away from nb Oleanna, owned by Mick and Pip, and whose blog I have followed for many years, indeed from the time they had their previous boat, Lillianne. It was good to meet them and have the opportunity to thank them for the entertainment they have delivered via their blog.

With the shopping done, we pulled up to the water point. This had a notice draped on it, but this was illegible, the ink having run into a blue blur in the rain. It turned out that it meant that the water point was out of service, so we coiled the hose back up, and reversed back to the winding hole where we turned around to return to the moorings at Burston. The day brighter considerably on this leg.

We managed to get in almost exactly at the same spot we had departed from this morning. Being Sunday, Anne decided that she would prepare a full roast lamb dinner in the new oven. As this would take about two and a half hours, I decided to take a nap.

As I was drifting off to sleep I thought I could smell burning, but I put it down to the smell of a new cooker. Moments later I heard an anguished shout from Anne, so I rushed down the boat to see what was wrong.

The Galley was filling with thick black smoke, that was coming from the grill. It turned out that Anne had accidentally lit the grill instead of the oven, as the knobs on the new cooker are the other way round from the old one. The grill pan had a detachable handle and this was well alight. She had the presence of mind to turn the grill off as she shouted for me. I grabbed a fire extinguisher and a quick burst from it soon had the fire out. We had to evacuate, as the fumes from the fire and the powder from the extinguisher made it very hard to see or breathe.

As we sat outside in the fresh air, the shock began to set in, and we couldn’t help thinking about all the possible endings that this story could have had.

However, we had been very lucky and spent some time talking about the lessons learned:

1. Always light the oven or grill with the door open, and confirm that it is properly lit.

2. Know how to raise the alarm properly. I wasn’t properly asleep, so I heard and understood Anne’s shout. But if I had been actually asleep then things might have been different!

3. Know your escape routes! The obvious way out might be blocked. On City of Durham there are two ways out of the front of the boat – we don’t have the traditional doors onto the front deck. Instead there is a side hatch on one side, and on the other the window slides out to create an escape route. It seems obvious now, but in the last five years we have never talked about how we would get out of the boat in an emergency.

4. Know where your fire extinguishers are! Again this sounds obvious, but in practice I did something odd: I very quickly made the decision to use a fire extinguisher, but then took about five steps to the rear of the boat to get the one by the door. It is opposite where I usually sit, and therefore clearly in my mind. However I was actually standing right next to another one in the galley, which had never registered on my consciousness.

5. Powder from the extinguisher goes everywhere – and I mean everywhere! An initial clean up took a couple of hours, but by the next morning a further layer had settled from the air and covered everything again. But never let this fact put you off from using one if you need it!

As I said, we have been very lucky, the only lasting damage was the grill pan handle which will need to be replaced.

Dinner was of course delayed somewhat, but with the galley cleaned and the correct knob used on the oven, it was very tasty!

We awoke on Monday morning to the sound of heavy rain on the roof. Neither of us had slept too well, so we waited for the rain to stop before setting off back to the marina. We left Burston in bright, warm sunshine, but by the time we left Sandon Lock the heavens opened and we both became soaked to the skin. By Weston Lock it had eased to a steady drizzle, and once we were through the lock the sun came out. We decided to stop at Ingestre for a rest and change of clothes. There were another couple of showers while we were stopped, and we set off for the final leg with the sun peeking through once more. There were still some very dark clouds over to the west, and the wind was picking up, so we expected another soaking before we arrived back. However our luck was in, and the wind dropped and the sun shone making our reverse back onto the pontoon a piece of cake (for a change!)

Well, that was an eventful Bank Holiday weekend. We will spend the evenings this week doing a deep clean on board, and then aim to be away again on Friday night, for a hopefully calmer trip!

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Preparing for our Summer Cruise

In Uncategorized on May 25, 2019 by netmanianick

25th May 2019

While we were away at Easter we had begun to compile a list of jobs that needed doing on City of Durham. Our eventual plan is to do some extended cruising when we both retire, and our list was created with that in mind. But as we have our summer trip coming up shortly we decided to make a start, and ended up doing most of them!

The first job to tackle was the replacement of the hob and oven. These were original with the boat in 2002, and sadly showing their age. In fact only one burner on the hob worked, and some of the knobs were stuck solid. The flame in the oven was feeble, and the grill was only capable of browning half a slice of toast at a time. Sadly the company that made the hob and oven is long defunct, and parts are becoming very hard to source.

After much measuring and head scratching replacements were found and purchased. That meant a trip to the good folks at Canal Cruising in Stone, who would fit them for us – I prefer to use professionals when it comes to the gas installation.

We had a very pleasant cruise to the boat yard over two days. This was unusually relaxing as we only cruised for about three hours to get to Burston on the Saturday, arriving in the early afternoon. We spent the afternoon watching the boisterous bullocks in the field opposite, and then later strolled up to the Greyhound for dinner. We lingered for a while at the village pond, enjoying the serenity. For the Sunday it was just a short hop up to Stone where we left the boat to have the work done.

The whole job was completed the following day, so on the Tuesday we brought the boat back to the marina.

Now, apparently, the fridge also needed to be replaced. There’s two main types of fridges that are used on boats, a standard mains one that runs off the inverter, or a 12 volt one that runs directly off the batteries. A domestic fridge would cost about ¬£ 100 to replace, a 12 volt one about five or six times that. How I hoped our old fridge was mains powered! Unfortunately it was not to be – a 12 volt one would be required as it could be much more expensive to get mains cabling through the boat to the galley. Midland Chandlers were offering a discount, so the new fridge was acquired, the old one removed and donated to Rob and Lindsay for Lakeland Belle, and the new one put in its place.

It is now the bank holiday weekend, so time to try out all of these items. We escaped the marina at about 5pm on Friday, and after rising through Hoo Mill Lock, moored up at the Ingestre moorings. Dinner was a great success!

This morning, I took the opportunity to wash down the roof and towpath side of the boat, before we set off for Burston again. It really was a fantastic day to be on the water, and after we tied up I set to replacing the hinges on the folding table in the galley. These have been bent so out of shape over the years that the table leans and most things slide off if you are not careful. With the new hinges fitted, and a horizontal surface, I was able to take an afternoon nap with a clear conscience!

Tomorrow we will head to Star Lock for water, and then return to this delightful spot at Burston.

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Easter Cruise – A final dash

In Uncategorized on May 11, 2019 by netmanianick

Storm Hannah came and went, and although we were buffeted around a little, we were sheltered enough to avoid the worst it had to offer.

At first light on Sunday we set off for the final trek to Great Haywood. It was still blustery, and there was a lot of flotsam that Hannah had deposited in the canal. There were still many boats on the move today, and at Hopwas I pulled tight over to the side to let a huge working pair make their way past.

Whittington and Huddlesford came and went, and we soon arrived at Streethay Wharf where we took the opportunity to stop for a pump out. While we were being serviced a boat overtook us, but ten minutes later they were still only just ahead. We followed them for an age, and we had to keep dropping into neutral to avoid getting too close. I reckon we were lucky if we managed 1 mile per hour all the way to Fradley South.

Once clear of the A38 road bridge, I sounded my horn and finally overtook on the first long straight that we had come to. From there, the cruise up to Fradley Junction was smooth, and although busy it worked in our favour. The swing bridge was opened for us, and at each of the locks rising away from the junction we met a boat coming down. We had hit it just right, and were leaving Wood End lock in under an hour.

The weather had brightened and the wind had dropped a little so that the cruise through Ravenshaw Wood was delightful. Anne took a turn on the tiller, and I went inside for a while to eat my lunch.

Handsacre was busy, but it wasn’t until we emerged from the Armitage tunnel that we realised quite how busy it was. The canal past Spode Hall (now called Hawkesyard Hall) is a concrete trough, put in to combat mining subsidence. On the off-side are long term moorings, and the towpath side has in my memory, always been an undesirable place to moor. But today it was full of moored boats all the way from the tunnel to the water point about half a mile away. On this same stretch we encountered no less that six boats coming towards us in convoy. The last of these was an elderly fibreglass cruiser which must have turned around soon afterwards as we let them past us near the Moseley pub.

On we continued only to find the same cruiser now heading towards us again, and the steerer apologised to us as he came alongside. They had forgotten something, and had to head back.

We managed to get through the centre of Rugeley without stopping, and as we emerged from St Augustine’s bridge our cruiser friends were back on our tail. We let them past. Rugeley too had more moored boats than I have ever seen, with the line trailing nearly all the way to Brindley Bank, where we met the cruiser on its way back yet again!

“We must stop meeting like this!” I said as we passed.

The afternoon was turning into evening when we finally arrived at the marina. It had taken ten hours to get here, and the wind had one last trick to play before we could go home. Although not very strong it was coming from just the wrong angle to allow me to spin round to reverse onto our pontoon. I had three goes, but in the end had to settle for driving in bow first. This is no big deal, but it does mean that our power cable won’t reach the shore socket, So I need to remember to turn the boat around at some point!

The last two days of cruising have been a marathon, and not something we would normally do, but although we were very tired at the end of it, it was very satisfying and gave us perhaps a tiny flavour of what it would have been like for the original boat people who would have had to journey like that every day, regardless of the weather.

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Easter Cruise Part Five

In Uncategorized on April 27, 2019 by netmanianick

DSCF6801

We debated whether to have a day off at the Battlefield Moorings, but in the end decided to push on to Snarestone, where we could meet Ben and Kate to go for dinner in the excellent pub on top of the tunnel.

Today was Easter Monday, and allegedly the last day of the exceptionally fine weather, so we concluded that we should make the most of it and pulled pins shortly after 9.00 am.

The top end of the Ashby is really pretty, and peaceful and we wound our way past Market Bosworth and up to Shackerstone which looks wonderful from the canal.

After the village is a fabulous wooded section before we finally arrived at the portal to the Snarestone Tunnel.

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The tunnel has a kink in it which means that you really can’t see if anything is coming through from the other direction until you are almost in it. Today nothing was in our way so we made the short dark passage in no time. At the other end it is just a short distance to the water point and Ashby Canal Trust shop where they sell a wide range of interesting bric a brac in aid of the restoration funds. While I dealt with the boat servicing Anne disappeared into the shop, and judging by the amount of stuff she brought back I reckon she must have paid for at least another couple of yards of canal!

There were plenty of boats on the move today, so we didn’t linger and were soon on our way back through the tunnel to moor just beyond. I wandered up to the pub to book a table for the evening only to discover that they stopped serving meals at 4pm as it was a bank holiday. Our meal with Ben and Kate was re-arranged for the following evening and we settled down to a home cooked meal for two aboard.

The following morning we set off early with the plan to moor at the Farm Shop by Bridge 23. In the early morning the canal was peaceful and we didn’t see another boat moving for at least a couple of hours. Then suddenly it was mayhem with boats coming at us from every direction!

We stopped again at Sutton Wharf to fill with water and dispose of rubbish, and then continued on to Stoke Golding where I took the opportunity to top up the diesel tank, and pump out the loo tank.

One bridge later and we tied up just beyond bridge 23. We took a stroll to the farm shop to discover it was closed.

DSCF6821

I had to take a break from cruising to go to work, so that evening we out for the long promised meal with Ben and Kate, and then we dropped Anne back off to the boat, while Ben ran me home.

Anne tells me that she had a wonderful couple of days relaxing on board, although the farm shop didn’t open the next day, and the weather took a definite turn for the worse.

When I returned we reviewed our options. Storm Hannah is scheduled to pass through on Saturday, which means that if we were to return to the Marina by Sunday night, we would have to set off immediately and at least get near to the bottom of the Ashby for the night. We made it to Bridge 3 where we were sufficiently distant from the railway line to get a peaceful night.

I set the alarm for the next morning as we had a marathon day ahead. It was bright but breezy when we left bridge 3, and stayed that way as we cruised back through Nuneaton. I say “we”, Anne was actually still in bed until we were well on our way to Hartshill. When she did appear, it was with a welcome coffee, soon to be followed by bacon sandwiches, so no complaints from me! After breakfast I asked Anne to take a spell on the tiller so that I could go for a comfort break. Within seconds of my getting inside a fierce hailstorm struck, and I had to hurry back outside as Anne didn’t have a coat.

A short while later I saw lighting in the field next to us, followed by a loud rumble of thunder. It wasn’t actually raining over the canal, but I could clearly see the bad weather alongside. Then a helicopter passed low and fast overhead, and seemed to be heading straight for the centre of the storm. I hope they landed before they got there!

We arrived at Atherstone and began the descent of the 11 locks, mooring after the first five for a quick top up shop at the Co-op, and then continued down through the remaining six. At the bottom we stopped at Grendon for the services, and whilst I would normally have wanted to stop by now, we needed to continue. It was early evening by the time we descended the two locks at Glascote. Anne had been watching the volunteer lock keeper at Atherstone earlier in the day, and seen how he managed to open both of the bottom gates without having to walk around the lock. Once the lock had emptied, he closed the paddle on the offside gate, and then partially opened it so that there was only a foot or two gap between the gates. He then crossed to the middle of the gates, and used a foot to push the offside gate open. He then finished crossing the lock to push open the other gate in the normal way. Anne decided to give this a go, and it worked, saving quite a time in getting through the lock. Each day we learn some new technique!

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Through Glascote, and then we crossed the river on the aqueduct, and made our way to Fazeley Junction. We continued for a short distance up towards Fradley, finally stopping after 11 hours by Sutton Road Bridge. We are now within a day’s cruise of the marina, and can afford to wait out Storm Hannah tomorrow.

 

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Easter Cruise Part 4

In Uncategorized on April 21, 2019 by netmanianick

Yet another beautiful morning greeted us, and as we were just an hour from the water point, I had a shower which set me up well for the day.

We set off at 8.30 through the quiet countryside, and fed a large number of ducks and moorhens along the way. At the A5 bridge we pulled in for water, and I took the opportunity to give the roof and sides a quick spray with the hose, to dislodge a layer of dust or sand that had settled overnight when we were at Hartshill.

While waiting for the tank to fill, I prepared Anne’s new twin tub washing machine for its first go. If it works it will be handy for dealing with laundry on the go, and as it is small it uses little power, and only a small amount of water.

While I steered Anne processed the laundry. Firstly she would fill the washer section with water and soap, add the clothes and then switch on to let things agitate for a while. The water is then drained and fresh put in for the rinse cycle. After that, the clothes are taken out and placed in the second receptacle which spin dries. The laundry comes out almost completely dry, and just needed a few minutes on the whirl washing line which we set up when we moored up. The only real drawback to the system is that the machine can only take small loads, so in fact Anne was working away for a couple of hours.

Meanwhile I was steering, and having quite a difficult day. Firstly it was hot, which didn’t help, secondly the canal was very busy, and thirdly we seemed to struggle to make progress through the water, which I put down to the canal being shallow. We kept being caught up by other boats, so I would pull over to let them past. One time the front end became stuck fast in the mud, and I had to ask Anne to take a break from playing with the washing machine to wield the pole so we could get going again.

It felt like a long hard slog. Anne finished the laundry just as we approached the services at Sutton Wharf, so we were able to replenish the water tank, and get rid of our rubbish. Upon leaving Anne untied the front rope and pushed out, noticing as she did so that we had a very large branch wedged under the front of the boat, and sticking out for about four feet on one side. Somehow she managed to free it, and the boat shot forwards. Normal cruising had been resumed!

About 45 minutes later we pulled in to the Battlefield Moorings, where we had stayed for a couple of days last summer. It was pleasantly cool in the shade and we were able to spend the afternoon watching all the passing boats (there were many) and watching the laundry dry.

Such a wonderful spot!

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2019 Easter Cruise Part Three

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2019 by netmanianick

Through the slurry that is Nuneaton

Keeping to my word I was up early (ish) and we were under way by 8.15 this morning. The area around Hartshill is delightful, especially so in the morning sunshine.

Sadly though, the beauty was not to last, as we began to approach the outskirts of Nuneaton. This town is on the canal route that forms the Leicester Ring, which includes such delights as Fradley Junction, the River Soar, Foxton and Watford Staircase Locks, Braunston Tunnel, Hawkesbury Junction and so on. It is a popular cruising route during the season, and many holiday makers hire boats to complete all or part of this circular route.

I bet none of them stop in Nuneaton though!

The litter begins right at the edge of town and gets progressively worse as you approach the centre. On the offside bank are industrial areas and evidence of all manner of tipping into the canal from over the hedge. This not only includes numerous plastic bottles but all kinds of detritus including lorry tyres.

As you come into the town centre, there are stretches of piling with optimistically placed mooring rings, but the canal is awash with beer cans, traffic cones, fridges, supermarket trollies and goodness knows what else. Any available wall space is covered in graffiti and the whole area feels incredibly hostile. The mess continues for about an hour, although the canal didn’t get any cleaner, at one point it was like cruising through a carpet of hedge trimmings. It is clear that contractors have been clearing the off side vegetation, but whether they were responsible for dumping all the rubbish in the canal is not proven! If they did do this, then at the very least they should be made to return to clear it up, or lose their contract.

Of course, it is very easy to moan about things, it is quite another to do something about it. I guess it depends on how much you care. In my case an hour later I was turning onto the beautiful Ashby Canal, where we shall linger for a while, and no doubt spend money in the local shops along our way.

We didn’t stop to shop in Nuneaton for obvious reasons. Maybe the local council and traders might begin to care a little when they realise how much money they are missing from their local economy.

The Ashby is a blessed relief from Nuneaton, as it immediately becomes rural and beautiful. We enjoyed a pleasant pootle up to bridge 6 near Burton Hastings, where we have set up camp for the night.