Tuesday 26 May 2015

Trains and boats and Crick.

What a fab bank holiday weekend Chris and I have had, non stop all the way. We do so hope yours was a good one too.

Saturday morning we rose early for a very special trip. Part of my company 35 year service award was due and this part we have been really looking forward to. The final part of my award consisted of a days excursion aboard the British Belmond Express train to Bristol and back. You can read all the express on their website here.  

The carriages have been restored to their former glory of days gone by with no expense spared. As you will see from the photos, they are truly opulent. We spent the day being treated as royalty, on arrival at the platform we were greeted with a red carpet at the carriage door and our very own concierge to welcome us aboard with a glass of bubbly. Silver service, champers, and being waited on hand and foot throughout the journey. Everything sir or madam required to eat or drink sir or madam could have. The brunch was exquisite and wine a delight. 

Our carriage crew greet us on the platform

Our carriage for the day

Georgia our concierge welcomes us on the red carpet
The tables inside set for our brunch

Lovely artwork on the ceiling
In the photo's one can see the incredible marquetry on the panels of our carriage. James, our train manager, informed me they had managed to commission the very same company that had originally created the art work when the carriage was first built in the 70's to do the work during restoration in 2000. 5 generations of the family later the amazing skill in the work is still evident and not lost.

Amazing marquetry on the wall panels
Personalised menu just for us.
Belmond Bellinis.  Concentrated peach juice and champaign
 In the afternoon, on arrival at Bristol, we were escorted onto a packet Steamer for a trip down the river and a VIP tour of the SS Great Britain in all her restored glory before returning home on the Belmond Express. 

Lovely Bristol quay side
A designer bridge across the river
Old dock cranes remain as a tourist attraction
A creative colour scheme for this wide beam
SS Great Britain hoves into view
Not only can you go aboard the ship itself you can also wonder around the rusting hull that is now preserved in a humidity controlled environment that is sealed off by a glass sea above.  Sadly the lower hull is now rusted so badly  you can see in the photo the black gaping holes in her plates.  Only her steel ribs and keel keep her in shape today.  Her steel plates like flaky pastry in many places almost dropping off.

The hull is preserved below a glass sea complete with water
 and you can walk around below it.

The bow and ship towers above

Chris is dwarfed by the propeller
The view up on deck

Just could not resist could she :-)
Did not have the heart to tell her she was facing the wrong way round
Dressed in flags for the tourists

The dock side being set up to reflect the period when the ship was docked
The view across one of Bristols many marina docks

Once below deck we had the good fortune to have an audience with the young Isambard Brunel himself in the ladies parlour room.  He entertained us with his stories of the ship's build and her voyages. For a 250 year old he was surprisingly knowledgeable.

The young Isambard Brunel
The contrast between 1st, 2nd and 3rd class aboard was striking.  1st class was spacious and clean whilst 3rd class, in steerage, looked more like cattle stalls than cabins.   Privacy here was non existent and people were force to live so close to each other.

Chris just had to try out the 2nd class bunk, Despite its small size
she reckoned it was quite cosy.
While in contrast the hold was a miserable existence for the less well off
The 1st class dining room was quite opulent for the era.

and promenade deck spacious.  Passengers would be entertained and danced the nights away here.

Hair cut in 2nd class
The 1st class ladies parlour a quiet room to relax in.

The seemingly bare captains cabin.
The ship's restoration has been carried out very well and visitors are not roped off from many areas of the ship but are encouraged to go into rooms and have a close up look.  Audio guides are available and give a fascinating incite to life aboard.  If you ever visit Bristol the SS Great Britain should be high on one's must see list.

After the tour we had some time to wander along the river bank in the warm sunshine.  We visited the Shed museum and had a beer in one of the many cafĂ©'s that line the quay sides.

A bit of down time and light refreshment

 The return trip was made complete with a sumptuous 5 course meal and a bottle expensive wine to relax and chill out. A wonderful day all round and highly recommended. 

Shoulder and leg of Lamb on a sweet potato base

followed by raspberry cheesecake make just 2 of the courses 
Sunday again saw us up at the Sparrows but this time for a less luxurious drive down to Crick Boat Show. We spent the day catching up with friends and of course, the Fernwood Boats crew. 

We did not take any photos as the show always looks the same with many of the same stalls in the same spots. All the boat builders are now doing on line viewing appointments so it is nigh on impossible to get on the boats. We did manage to view the Fernwood offering, La Tortuga, with its extra head room followed by Top Notch and Braidbar boats. The Top Notch boat is particularly nice but lacking in useable storage but with some nice ideas all the same. I have to say qualitiy in the boats seems to have improved immeasurably this year with some really lovely boats on show. Many will appear in Canal Boat soon as we met up with Adam Porter who told me he had just reviewed 18 boats that morning. Nice to see you again Adam and look forward to reading your reviews.

In the afternoon we went debit card surfing, needless to say the flexible friend was severely flexed and the bank manager's smile has now dissolved some what.  
I mentioned before we really want to do the Anderton lift but via the Manchester Shipping Canal and River Weaver if we can so long mooring warps, Life jackets and other items needed for the trip were high on the list. Lets just say it was a good job I emptied the shed boot of the car before leaving. Using Adam Porter's link we are ticking off the list of requirements that Peel Ports LTD require we have before being allowed on the canal. Just the Safety inspection needed now and we're all set. As a slight indulgence on our part we also purchased a Satellite system that will be fitted on Monday so watch this Space....

When we visited Fernwoods at their last open day we met Carl and Samantha who were thinking of selling their Fish and Chip shop business to have nb WiFri built. Carl has since been in touch regularly asking us questions about this and that so it was particularly pleasing to hear they have chosen Fernwoods to build Wifri for them and that their baseplate would be laid in the next few weeks. We just know how excited and overloaded with info they feel right now and we really wish them the very best with their build. We agreed when WiFri is afloat to meet up on the cut one day. Great to see you again Carl and Sam, and do please send us some pictures of the build, we would love to see how it progresses. Perhaps a blog if you can get round to it mayhap? We're sure you will both have a super experience during WiFri's build and look back on it with good memories I assure you. Let us know when the launch is as we'd love to come along and celebrate it with you.

On Monday we we had a later start with breakfast at the hotel, arriving after the queues had subsided at the gates. We wondered around a bit more buying one of those washing line fittings to go on the swan neck and a washing line to fit it. I have also been getting fed up doing up and undo-ing boot laces each time I get on and off the boat in the marina so treated myself to a pair of Croks for those short excursions ashore.

Chris sought out our Day room art creator, Kate Webley, and purchased a lovely arched candle holder in striking blues with a silver marbling that will sit perfectly on the Cratch table. Kate's work can be seen here. As you probably guessed we quite like Kate's work, so much so Chris is thinking of commissioning Kate to make one of her large plates with AmyJo on it for us. Kate can use a photograph to work from so I look forward to the end result.

We seemed to drift back to the Fernwood stand in the afternoon and as they had been busy all day we offered to give Andy and Franka a bit of a break taking over the manning of the stand for a while. La Tortuga's review in the Canal Boat magazine has generated a lot of interest in the boat because of the extra headroom so we were kept busy welcoming those who had booked a viewing and answering questions from visitors to the stand. It was lovely to be able give help for a change as we had been so lucky to receive it during AmyJo's build.

Before we left we manage to say hello to Barbara and Andy (nb Outlaws Dream) who we used to moor next to at Crick.  They invited us aboard for a much welcomed cuppa before we left for home.

How Time Flies when you having fun

Wow is it really over a month since our last blog!! No wonder our reader has deserted us.

Where to begin, oh yes. Our cruise back from Barbridge was uneventful and in good weather. We got back to Tattenhall a little after 3pm. After topping up with diesel and pumping our the nasties we backed AmyJo onto her berth. Now its back to reality again.

Approaching very quiet Bunbury Locks

By Chas Harden's wharf  Saturn and her tow passed us by
 At one of the locks as we worked the lock an irate boater berated us for not waiting for them.  They had been following us until we passed through Calverley services.  They had not emerged from the bridge 'ole so we had assumed they had stopped at there and so after a wait we started to work the lock knowing no one was behind us.  

Just as AmyJo descended half way the boater appeared an grumbled about not waiting for them. We explained why we had not waited but promised to wait for them at the next lock, Beaston Stone lock. He was still not happy.  We waited in the glorious sunshine for them.  It took well over 20 minutes for them to arrive after AmyJo entered the lock.  The gents wife as very apologetic letting us know it really was not our fault as they had stopped for a newspaper at Calverley services.  He was stunned when they rounded the corner to see AmyJo still in the lock and us waiting.  His attitude changed for the better as a result.

Chris enjoying the sunshine while we wait for the other boat

This family had found a lovely spot for a picnic

Now we're back to our routine of work but with the less free time due to rushing about on the river Dee as the sailing season is now in full swing. Tuesday evenings we are racing in our Enterprise dinghy, whilst as an adult instructor, Thursday nights have seen me out on the water teaching the latest batch of people the basics of handling a sailing dinghy. They did well considering the windy conditions of the last few weeks but I have gained a few more grey hairs.

Two weeks ago there was an exodus of our mooring neighbours as Sheila on nb Abbey Rose, Jacky and Irene on nb Duck's Deluxe, along with Joe and Dave on nb Third and Final headed out of the marina on their annual cruise to Liverpool docks, this time to see the 3 queens sail into Liverpool. We are planning to join them for the day next weekend.

Dave and Joe on Third and Final lead the way

Followed by Irene and Jacky on Ducks Deluxe

With Paul and Sheila on Abbey Rose as rear guard
AmyJo looking slightly lonely

On board AmyJo I have continued my experiments with the fitting of secondary glazing for the Houdini Hatches using the same method as the port holes. This has turned out to be surprisingly effective. The perspex keeps condensation at bay but also allows the light from the hatches into the cabin. I do find it odd that the 4mm thick perspex appears to be even more effective than the 2 inch thick foam. This may also coincide of course with the warmer evenings and the fact we rarely light the Hobbit fire now. The Erberspacker heater on 3 hours in the evening being sufficient. Only time and the depths of winter will show if the perspex is really working I guess.

You cannot see the Perspex only the rubber surround in this photo
We are also getting round to thinking about solar panels now for when we are cruising longer when retired. I've been trawling the internet and have come up with a lockable top box design for the panels. The top box will be the standard design with a slightly pitched top with two hinged solid lids. On top of these lids will sit more hinged panels with the solar panel mounted on each one. It would be a simple case of lifting one panel up to angle it for the sun leaving both  Solar panels on the box angled as required. Not sure who we're getting the solar panels from just yet but Onboard Solar seems to have what we want and will fit them too. My plan is to have two boxes taking 2 100W panels each. This should give us about 400W when optimal and be sufficient for our needs. I'll post more on this later.

We'll not be cruising AmyJo for this weekend as, being the Bank Holiday, we have a full itinerary ahead of us. First, on Saturday we will be boarding the Belmond Orient Express train to Bristol and back as part of my works 35 year service award. The Belmond express boasts a champaign breakfast on the way out, a tour of the SS Great Britain then a 5 course dinner on the return trip. Best get my best bib and tucker on for that I guess :-)

On Sunday and Monday we're heading South like thousands of others and will of course be "doing Crick". We love wandering round the show and look forward to meeting friends old and new, so if you spot us run a mile do say hello we do so love meeting people. We have been for several years now and know the reputation with the weather that comes with the show. Lets hope the forecast is accurate as when I last looked it was looked like it will be fine. Sadly AmyJo will be home alone as we cannot convince our bosses a month off is a great idea to cruise her to Crick, that will have to wait for another year or so.

That all for now but we hope to see you if you're heading for crick. Look us up on the Fernwood stand, we'll be around abouts or you can ask them to contact us if you want to meet up. We'd be delighted to meet you.