Saturday 26 April 2014

Canalside fix

We are unable to go to AmyJo this weekend as tomorrow I am race officer at the sailing club.  Our regulars may recall we are going to move AmyJo to Tattenhall Marina in July so we thought it was about time we visited there and gave them an update.

There was also another reason too if we are honest.  When AmyJo was being built her stable mate Little Bear was also beginning her build.  Little Bear was launched just before Easter and we knew she too would be moored at Tattenhall so we thought we would go and see if her owners, Mike and Helen were aboard (sadly they were not around).  You can certainly tell Little Bear and AmyJo come from the same stable.....

Distinctive Fernwood front end

Chris and I wish Mike and Helen many happy days cruising in Little Bear and we look forward to spending time out on the cut with them.  Little Bear looks brilliant and we love her artwork, especially the A in "BEAR" depicted as a paw print, very clever.

We had a stroll round to our mooring to check out the mooring ring positions and on the way back to the car we spied another boat looking equally resplendent

Seems Mark and Corrinne were not about either, is everyone avoiding us? :-)  I'm sure our paths will cross sometime.

I have now managed to get some of our time lapse videos up onto Youtube and have added another page to the blog to make them easily found.  Unfortunately the camera we use must have been bitten by a tetsi fly as half way through each day's cruising on the way home it went into sleep mode for over two hours.  I'm not happy with this so after much sole searching I've decided to get a new camera so have ordered a Gopro Hero 3+ as its by far a much better camera for the job (and less chunky).  I've still more videos to put up so keep checking in from time to to for updates. 

Friday 25 April 2014

Last day and we go out with a bang - Day 6

Total distance:8.41 miles Elapsed time:5h53m19s Locks:7Bridges:22
Average speed:1.43 mph (2.62 lock/mph)

Not many pictures today as it was murky and damp at first.

The rain stopped overnight and the morning came with heavy mist and cold over the cut. The calm and silence was almost ethereal as we sat drinking our morning cuppa. A couple passed by on their boat and announced it was "Foggy at other end of the tunnel it is".

We set off hoping to get through the tunnel before too many boats were on the move but even so we met two boats coming towards us about mid tunnel. I slowed AmyJo to a stop and laid her against the wall to give as much room as possible. The first boat still going at a rate of knots smacked AmyJo with a whack on the bow and then bounced hard off the opposite wall.  The bang must have been easily heard at either end of the tunnel.  

The owner tried to say he was on the wall but my retort of how far he bounced across the tunnel assured him he was nowhere near it and that he should take it a bit slower passing boats in the tunnel in future. I did not even get an apology. 

 I think the other boat was more tunnel aware (not because of my complaint to the other boater ) as he proceeded more cautiously and though glancing lightly off AmyJo was much much more apologetic. I assured him all was OK and that it could not be helped as the previous encounter had caused AmyJo’s bow to drift out from the tunnel wall slightly. I did loudly thank him for taking care as he passed and we got to the other end without passing any more boats.

The fog must had lifted in the meantime as all was bathed in lovely sunshine and Chris took the helm for a while. At Norton Junction we passed a moored hire boat and the dreamy waft of bacon being fried assaulted our senses. Chris commented how lovely it smelt and the husband who looked distinctly like Nick Knowles popped his head out asking if we wanted some. We both said yes with gusto so he asked his wife but then jokingly said they had run out. We all  laughed, said never mind, wished him well on his holiday and carried on secretly regretting they and not bought more bacon.  It did smell divine though.

At Norton Junction I wanted Chris to turn AmyJo onto the Leicester line to give her some experience and so with a little instruction on throttle technique she winded AmyJo round like an expert and we carried on along one of our favourite bits of the cut in the area.

I took over again when we arrived at Watford locks. After reporting to the volunteer lock keeper we were asked to proceed up two locks and then wait for a while as boats came down. While we waited I prepared the lower lock several times for each passing boat until it was our turn to move up. 

Chris waits for the all clear to proceed from the volunteer lockie

 Once out of the locks I took AmyJo through an empty Crick tunnel and AmyJo got her second free boat wash and then Chris took the helm again to bridge 12 but as there were plenty of boats moored on the cut after the bridge she asked me to take over and we coasted slowly along at tickover getting back to our birth at 2.30pm. We then gave AmyJo a good cleaning inside and out before packing up and heading home.

I did have try at the 16x zoom on the camera before we left though.  This pair were clearly up for the photo shoot and came towards me as I pointed the camera at them.

Oh I nearly forgot.  The upshot of the internet problem, was with EE not our router.  When I bought the SIM I was told the deal was for 6Gb of data per month.  Seems we've only been getting 3Gb all along and had exceeded this month's quota.  So now the wrangle to get the missing 3Gb added again is on.  

I don't hold out much hope so up for any ideas on the best SIM only unlimited data deal with good coverage if you know of one.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Empty Lock Pound and a New Routine - Day 5

Total distance:10.04 miles Elapsed time:8h14m59s Locks:17Bridges:30
Average speed:1.22 mph (3.28 lock/mph)

Today was going to be another long day as we set our goal to get to Braunston turn some 10 miles away. It was another 8.30am start and first order of the day was the climb up the Stockton locks. One drawback with early starts is not many boats are on the move and so after waiting a good while we decided we had to move on alone again (was it something I'd said?).

Worrying sign, the levels were down in the first pound

It was whilst ascending Stockton locks Chris and I found a new routine. Chris would set the lock and I’d take AmyJo in. Chris would then shut the lower gate and set the top paddles to fill the lock.  She would then go on ahead to set the next lock in our favour. I remembered reading Paul’s account on the Manly Ferry of single handing so when the lock was full I would lower the paddles, open the gate and slowly motor out putting AmyJo in reverse as she cleared the gate. I would nip off and shut the gate in time for AmyJo to reverse back to me and I could then motor into the next lock prepared for me by Chris. 

Look mum no hands. You can just see me by the lock paddle on the right
AmyJo coming to a stop as I prepare to shut the gate
I did shut the gate honest, it swung open
as I pulled away and I had not noticed
 We did this all the way up the 9 locks and it worked a treat, it also meant less lock wheeling for Chris. I admit the first few locks I really had to believe AmyJo would indeed return so I could board her and always remained ready to leap aboard if all went wrong, but she always did come back and the method worked a charm. 

That’s when we hit another snag as we ascended to Lock 5. The pound above was completely empty and only a few inches of water remained. In order to proceed we had to fill the pound from the last top lock so we set both sets of paddles open and waited for the pound to fill. Luckily lock 4 is the top lock of the flight so the water levels above were hardly affected. 

Barely a few inches left in the pound
At least we could see where not to go
 It took over 30 minutes to fill the pound so AmyJo could get to the next lock. By now another boat was waiting to come down so this meant the pound should rise a bit more. With all paddles and gates shut we can only assume leakage through the gates of lock 5 over night drained the pound.

It was an uneventful run though to Calcutt locks (going up this time of course) and on to Wigrams turn. We turned here and carried on toward Braunston turn. We did have a near miss at bridge 101. I’d slowed AmyJo right down and sounded the horn as we could not see through the bridge ‘ole and just as we started to enter another boat came towards us at speed. Luckily AmyJo stops quite quickly when going slowly and by both of us putting the boats hard astern we missed colliding by inches. The other boater apologised profusely and went on his way still at speed I might add.

We reached Braunston turn with Chris at the helm and as the moorings were nearly full we decided to carry on as there was still time left.

We made good time up Braunston locks using our new found locking method though by now the wind had picked up so we had to revert to the normal method for the last lock. The weather was turning cold and grey with signs of rain in the air so we decided to stop once clear of the locks

 At the top we had had enough and taking the advise Keith from Hadar had given us to stop early so to get a mooring we decided to moor up at the 48hour moorings above the top lock.  

We were just coming alongside the first, and only free mooring spot before the tunnel, when a highly polished working boat type with a abrupt voiced owner at the helm announced to his wife on the bow “damn it they have pinched my favourite mooring spot” and “Now we’ll just have no choice but to go on.” If looks could kill as he passed by I would have been dead 10 times over. He was ranting on whilst going into the lock and we overheard is wife retort “well there’s nothing we can do about it now is there!”. 

 What they did not realise was that their conversation, being done via by two way radios, just happened to be using the same frequency as ours and we could hear it all. Oh the temptation to have some fun was so overwhelming but I managed to desist in the interest of his poor suffering wife :-).

To make matters worse, for them I guess, a few minutes later  just as we had battened down for the evening the heavens opened and AmyJo got a thorough washing down. At this point I was glad I was not the wife of the previous gent whose favourite mooring we now sat on. We sat enjoying an evening tipple listening to the rain hammering on the cabin roof feeling so lucky we stopped when we did. 

I'm ashamed to admit it but we did have smug chuckle to ourselves.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Bit of an Internet Calamity - Day 4

Total distance:10.51 miles Elapsed time:7h52m17s Locks:14 Bridges:40 
Average speed:1.33 mph (3.11 lock/mph)

What a major pain in the proverbial. We had a really great day on Friday seeing Jo and Keith but that evening after I posted the blog our internet WIFI connections suddenly went limited and we had no internet access at all. No matter how I applied my IT skills the router was having none of it. 

 To make matters worse whilst logged onto the router trying to get it to obey me I accidently turned off the WIFI transmitter on the router admin software and we completely lost all WIFI access. Normally this would not be a problem, plug in an Ethernet cable to the laptop and router, log on and turn WIFI back on and we’re in business. But this is me we’re talking about and my love of gadgets has got the better of me at last. I bought a nice new wizzy 2 in one laptop that doubles as a PC or a tablet just for use on board AmyJo. Pretty cool I thought, until that is, I realised it is so thin (10mm) it does not sport a network cable port.

 Thank god Chris’s little Samsung note book was aboard and that does have a network port. Even with that saving the day we still could not get internet access so we eventually had to give up for the rest of the trip.

So now I have three days worth of posts to catch up with, but I’ll not bore you with it all in one blog so will post over the next few days to bring you up to date.

Unfortunately we did not have the time to explore the city as we had to get back home but from what we did see its well worth a visit.  

The morning dawned as another sunny one that saw us under way at 8.30ish which seems to be normal now.  We started to head back through Leamington Spa. It always seems strange to me that you can pass through somewhere in one direction and then pass through again going the other way and it still looks totally different. You get to see things you miss on the way in. 

Railway Aqueduct on the way out of Leaminton spa

Nice housing estate just a mile from the city centre

Still in town but you would not think so
 Putting a lovely welcome from Keith and Jo aside we really enjoyed our stay here and were quite impressed with the city and the cleanness of the cut.  Very little litter and, Maffi will love this, very little dog poo or poo bunnys to be seen.  In fact the whole area we well kept and maintained.  Boaters seem to be most welcome but you do need to check out mooring spots as most of the cut is concrete walled.  Mooring is only possible via the rings set into the ground and there is nowhere to hammer in pins until you are out of town some way.

We went up Cape Top Lock 25 and made good time though the city. Chris had made a cup of tea and toasted some hot cross buns for breakfast and this was welcomed. We have acquired some thermos mugs with sip through lids that really keep the drink hot for a long time so we can make the most of a cuppa as we go along. You can see them in the picture below

Chris is getting more and more confident on the helm each time we go out

So far it had been very quiet with very few boats out on the cut and we made it across the city without seeing any other boats on the move. We reached Radford bottom lock and waited a while for another boat but all was still so we started our climb as Billy no mates. We also took the opportunity of disposing of our rubbish in the disposal point there. Buy the time we got to Bascoe locks though we had picked up a lock partner whose boat name and owner names I forgot (sorry guys) so we made good time up the locks.

Our first sighting of ducklings this year
When we got to Itchington Bottom lock there was already one boat in the lock so our partners went in and we were Billy no mates once again.

As it was now getting on we decided to stop again at the Blue Lias Pub for the night as we enjoyed it on the way down. Whilst booking the table we found out they had a charity do on that night with live bands playing. 

The first of the Stockton Locks are just after the bridge

Just a few boats about even though its a bank holiday weekend
We had an excellent meal and sat enjoying the entertainment for the evening. Although we did not find out who the bands were because we could enjoy them whilst aboard AmyJo, the music was excellent and worth stopping for.

Friday 18 April 2014

Easter Cruise Day 3 and a Wonderful get together.

Total distance:7.26 miles Elapsed time:4h14m32s Locks:6 Bridges:32 
 Average speed:1.71 mph (3.12 lock/mph) 

This morning I was up at 6.30am and left Chris sleeping soundly again.  I don't know why but when I wake up I have to get up when I'm on AmyJo.  I raddled and stoked the log burner into life again to warm up the boat as it still had some life in it.  I then rolled up the cratch cover onto the cratch board to be greeted with the beautiful view and just sat there taking it in.  I guess this is what life afloat should be like. If only one could freeze time for a while. Just a short while.

Our nearest neighbour

without the zoom you can see we hardly bothered them :-)

 Throughout this trip we have had our time lapse camera mounted on a bracket fixed to the horn and recording the whole trip so far.  When time permits we'll get them up on youtube.

This time we were under way a little after 8.15am and had a shorter run today.  We pushed on for a long day over the last two days as we had a destination to reach today.

 This time we had the 5 Fosse locks to go down then a clear run until we got the other side of Lemmington Spar.

The approaches to Leaminton Spa are quite pretty in places

The suburbs appear to have undergone a lot of re-development as numerous new homes abound the canal side. 

This swan was more than happy to nest outside a housing estate

Aqueduct over the river Avon
 The canal is at its lowest point after Radford bottom lock so we had been going down locks all the way to here (thanks Halfie for correcting me, we went down Calcutt locks not up them). 

The shortest Narrowboat we've seen so far

As we had been heading in this direction it would have been rude not to pay some very good friends a surprise visit and so we came upon their home at the Salisford arm.  The entrance is a bit tricky when coming from our direction as its immediately after bridge 51.  The entrance under bridge 51a is low too and we just squeezed under it without taking off the log burner chimney.

Hadar's mooring in the arm is love

As we started to pass by Hadar, Jo yelled at us and looked so pleased to see us. Keith face was a picture too and it was clear they were both happy to see us and totally surprised.

Space is a bit tight in the arm but the winding hole was ample but not big enough for us to moor as the arm managwr asked us to so we had to come back out of the arm and moor online just opposite the arm entrance with Jo arranging to meet us at At AmyJo at 2pm.

We had a wonderful natter and catch up sitting out in the cratch in the warm sunshine and I have to say Keith is looking so much better after his ordeal.  

Its clear the rest in Saltisford and their garden is doing them both the world of good and it was so lovely to see them again. Chris reckons it was 2 years ago since we last saw them.

After a while Keith started to feel tired so Chris gave them a guided tour of AmyJo and then they headed back to Hadar .  Before they left we realised they are our first visitors aboard so that made the trip doubly worthwhile.

After dinner we went for a stroll down the arm to have a nose at Jo and Keith's garden.  Being a sun trap it will look fantastic when its in full bloom.  You must post pictures of that Jo please.

Of course we could not leave without visiting another celebrity in the arm so we dropped in on Bernard the bear.  Pictures do not do him justice.  He is a fantastic peace of work and a credit to his creator Alan Lorenzen.  Jo is watering him twice daily and it looks like he'd root nicely with signs of buds emerging already.

The sensory garden is a delight and one could sit for hours taking in the surrounding plants in the sunshine.  Each pod is home to plants that stimulate a sense, smell, sight, touch and even taste

So after a lovely day meeting good friends our outward journey is now complete.  Tomorrow we retrace our steps back to Crick over the next 3 days and work our way through the throng of boats out for the holiday weekend.

Well that's the blogging done for today so now its scotch o'clock.  nite nite all.

Eeny...Meeny...Miney.....GO! Easter Cruise Day 2

Total distance:12.18 miles Elapsed time:9h9m9s Locks:19 Bridges:33 

 Average speed:1.33 mph (3.41 lock/mph) 

We could not blog last night as we were moored upstream of Fosse locks and had no signal what so ever, not even for the mobile phones....bliss!


What did we decide in the end.  Well Adam suggested we turn left onto the Grand Union towards Oxford and so that's just what we did. But thats the Oxford canal I hear some of you say.  Well Adam explained in his comment

"By turning left you'll actually be carrying on on the GU -- because the bit between Braunston and Wigram's Turn is shared by the GU and the Oxford. One of my favourite canal facts concerns this section: boats going north on the GU are going one way, while boats going north on the Oxford are going the other way!" Thanks for that one Adam we do like those interesting facts so grateful to you.

Today was going to be our longest run and we knew there would be plenty of locks.  We were under way just after 8.30am which for us is good.

The day started out bright but cold and as the day went on it got cloudier but fortunately no rain appeared and the wind certainly had a bite to it unlike the day before

Just before Flecknoe Locks we came across What-a-Lark's swan with attitude and, like them he attacked AmyJo with vigour!

It was only when a hire boat came passed the other way that the swan decided they were tastier than us and left us for them.  If you are going this way please note there are no beware of the swan signs and he comes at you from nowhere!

The canal here is lovely and before we knew it decision time was on us again, straight on or turn right at Napton junction, Wigram's turn.

We thought, well it was left last time so this time we'll go right. We then locked up the three Calcutt locks and past Calcutt Marina home of Calcutt boats.

It was not long before we reached the 9  Stockton locks.  These are wide locks and Chris insisted on lock wheeling as we were going down them.  A decision she later regretted as after the 6th lock winding those fine threaded paddles she was beginning to feel it so we swapped roles for the last three so she could have a break.

The gates and paddles on these locks are hard work so after the last one we came through a bridge to find the Blue Lias pub with a mooring empty right outside.  As Chris had earned her keep we stopped and I treated her to a lunch. We can recommend the food here, good value and plenty of it, though if you are doing lunch they stop serving at 2pm.  They keep a good beer too.

We then carried on down the Bascote locks and stopped for the night just below Wood Lock 19.  There was only us moored on this stretch and only one other boat in the distance so it was such a lovely spot.  So much so we forgot to take any pictures cos we were worn out and were in bed by 9pm.