Saturday 24 December 2016

Christmas Greetings

Merry Christmas every one from Chris, Smudge the dog and myself.

May 2017 bring reality to all your dreams and wishes.  Good health and good cheer to one and all.

Tuesday 8 November 2016

A Surprise passer by.

Now the cold weather has finally arrived we have been hunkered down in AmyJo with the little Hobbit stove working well to keep us warm and toasty.  Not much of interest is happening though we are watching the forecast as we want to have another local mini cruise before Christmas.  The next few days do not look good so we're waiting to see what happens tonight with snow forecast.

Young Smudge is coming along nicely and enjoys his puppy training classes, socialising with other dogs.  He has grown to the size of a Jack Russell and learns quickly. Alas he only does as he is told when not excited or distracted by people, birds, other dogs, rabbits, swaying grass, bits of wood, and scraps of paper, in fact, it does not take much to distract him and ignore our commands, but when he does comply, he does them well for a 4 month old puppy.  I have a feeling he will be a good dog when he calms down with age.

Although only 4 months Smudge knows his place in the family......on Chris's chair!

He and I have become best buddies and are getting into a regular routine of early morning walks and mid morning snoozes.  We particularly enjoy our mid day walk out of the marina and along the tow path.  Smudge enjoys his runs off lead and today was of particular interest as he met a very well known doggy and her equally well known owner cruising along the cut.

It was none other than blogger Maffi  (click) and his dog Molly.  Maffi is up this way to visit his daughter.  Smudge and Molly got to sniff noses briefly and then Molly retired inside Milly M.  

Maffi passing the marina entranced
 I sincerely apologise for the crap picture quality but I only had my Mobile phone to hand and a few minutes to get the photo before Maffi disappeared.  Must get into the habit of carrying my camera at all times!

We chatted briefly after I introduced myself then we went on our separate ways.  Maffi is in the area for a few days so we hope to have another catch up before he heads South again.  Good to finally meet you Maffi.

Tuesday 18 October 2016

Been remiss and a catch up due

Hi all,
I've been really lazy as far as the blog is concerned and not got round to posting recently so, again, my apologies.  Not being a continuous cruiser just yet makes it difficult to find sufficient interesting stuff to post about.

A few weeks back we took the opportunity to use our annual free haul out to re black AmyJo's hull.  This year we have tried a new product called KeelBlack (  Its a new water based bitumen that is so watery it can be applied with a paint pad and comes in 5 litre cans. It also has the added advantage that it can be applied on a hull that is not completely dry.  Being water based it absorbs any moisture on application.  When dry it is tough and hardens further when the boat is relaunched.

 I know many will be thinking that won't be thick enough and won't last but if the claims are to be believed it is as good as two pack and should not need redoing for 5 years.  Its far cheaper than normal bitumen and you use a lot less.  We put 4 coats on AmyJo so only time will tell how effecective it is.  I'll keep you updated on this.

Cleaned ready for the first coat

First coat on and looking OK so far.
We had rubbed down the gunwales to freshen them up but typical British weather meant we ran out of time, we only get a week out on the hard standing.  These will need doing when the weather is dry for a day.  Don't hold your breath!

Friends of ours gave us a load of cooking apples from their tree so I decided I'd try my hand at baking Apple pies.  I have to say I surprised myself when they were cooked as they turned out pretty good.  They may look abit rough but they tasted great.  The tray did clean up OK by the way and was not as burnt as it looks.  We have just been given more apples so....

They may look a bit burnt but they were pretty good after all.
As AmyJo is now 3 years old I've started to find little jobs need doing on her paintwork.  One such task was to repaint under the hand rails.  These did not have a full coat of paint and were starting to rust.

I managed to book AmyJo into Taylor's Dry dock in Chester basin.  There was no need to drain the water so we remained afloat but the roof and facilities made it better for painting when it rained.

First I needed to decide how much needed to be painted down the cabin sides. Then pencil line was added so only rubbing down to the line occured.  I had a willing helper who was more hindrance than help, but it was nice having him around even if I did have to chase Smudge down the cabin roof several times to retrieve my brush.  Once the rubbing down was done I applied a coat of Furtan rust converter before painting on the primer and undercoat.  Smudge got a much needed bath too :-)

Long haired brush becomes short haired

We knew getting a perfect colour match was going to be virtually impossible so for ease in future touch ups we decided to repaint the rails in the darker grey used for the cabin panels.  I have to admit I did not like the idea at first but now their done I quite like the look to be fair.

Under cover of Taylor's dry dock

Masked off and primer added

The end result

Apologies for the quality of the pictures as I only had my phone to hand during the process.

We only had the 6 days available so had to leave the dock before we had chance to do the gunwales so they are still not done yet!

We are not heading back to Tattenhall straight away but are going to take a few days to do so.  We're currently enjoying a few days in Chester by Cow Lane bridge and will move on to Christleton tomorrow.

Our new crew member, Smudge, is now able to be walked and not before time.  He has settled into boat life really well but being a puppy hates being left alone.  He is constantly by my side when I am at home.  He loves his walks and its doing me good too having lost half a stone already!

We refrained from crating him when we went out but this is what we came home too on several occassions.  The last straw was  the kindling drawer under the log burner pulled open,  The drawer front chewed and bits of chewed kindling everywhere.  The latter I could cope with but when he chews the boat wood work enough was enough.  He is now crated when we go out.  I don't like crating him and he is not happy being left in it but I'm worried he'll do more damage otherwise.  All part of owning a puppy I guess.

A ripped up magazine
With a cute face like that it's hard to be angry with him for long.
And he knows it!
Now he is being walked regularly he has calmed down somewhat so we have booked him, and us, into puppy training classes which start on Thursday.  Interestingly the first lesson is without Smudge present.  Guess we need training just as much as he does.

Wednesday 7 September 2016

Sailing and AmyJo has a new crew member.

Last weekend we took our daughter Amy, her dog Buddy and her dinghy down to Aldeburgh for the national Classic dinghy weekend.  Her dinghy, a Lazy E, is the only one left in sailing condition in the UK that we know of.  The Classic Dinghy association invited Amy to the event when they found out about it and it generated a lot of interest whilst it was being sailed at the event.

Amy on the Trapeze sailing the Lazy E
 We all camped on the sailing club grounds and had a super weekend sailing although at times the wind was too strong for us to get on the water.  The Lazy E is the bigger brother of the Enterprise dinghy.  Both designed by Jack Holt.  Sadly the Lazy E was not a popular class as it was launched at the time Glass Reinforced Resin  (GRP) was becoming a popular building material for dinghies making them cheaper and more maintenance free.  Jack Holt refused to believe in GRP and so not many Lazy Es were built and sold.  We know of only 220 built in the UK in total which is a shame as its a fantastic boat to sail, still keeping up with many of the modern wizzy boats of today's era.

Looking very much like an Enterprise but 3 feet longer
On Monday I drove down to Carmarthen to pick up AmyJo's new crew member.  Now I'm retired we felt another crew member would be of benefit to us.

He is an 8 week old PatterJack puppy (Patterdale Terrier/Jack Russel cross) who we have called Smudge.

Smudge says "hiya" to the camera

Playing with all his toys which he has loads to keep him occupied.
Smudge is settling in well and already runs around the boat as if he owns it.  He is an affectionate little fellow but has a boisterous streak in him just as any puppy would have.  We have to contend with bursts of playfulness and running around followed by quite sleepy periods.  Its going to be interesting having him aboard thats for sure!

Tuesday 30 August 2016

Home stretch and a much over due catch up.

Apologies for not posting for a few weeks.  Things have been happening quite fast so not had time to blog

So to bring you up to date.  We last left you at Goldstone Wharf.  From here we carried on through the wooded cuttings around these parts of the canal.  Chris helmed AmyJo through the Tryley Locks (pronounced Turley) to keep her hand in.

One of several Cuttings a along these parts of the canal
 Needing another shop we stopped off at Market Drayton, picking up a mooring alongside this pill box.  Workmen were busy clearing the bushes and path leading up to the road.

As Pill boxes go this one is quite impressive
 After a spot of lunch and getting the shopping we carried on passing nb Swamp Frogs as we headed out of town.  The moorings here are quite up market and look delightful.

nb Swap Frogs but no sign of her crew though they must be nearby.

When we started cruising in hire boats we used to see several little canalside huts offering fresh produce.  Sadly nowadays these are few and far between here in the North West so we were pleased to come across this one at the Adderley Locks.  We bought the Pork Pie and Apple pie and very scrummy they were indeed. 

A sample on offer with Sausages and Bacon in the black cool box

No one in sight and the honesty box was a lot fuller when we left.
After descending the Adderley locks we called it a day at the visitor moorings above the Audlem locks.  We were treated to this lovely sunset in the evening.

Lovely sunset above Audlem Locks
We have tried to moor at Audlem twice before.  The first time was the Historic narrowboat rally with 32C temperatures when bringing AmyJo to Tattenhall from Crick.  Last time was in February and the locks were closed for winter works so this time we resolved to moor by the Shroppie fly if we could.

We started the descent through the locks at Audlem in warm sunshine at 7:30am.  The forecast was for it to be hot so we wanted to get down the flight before the sun warmed the day too much.  

Sure enough by 9am the temperatures were in the upper 20s.  We made good progress down the flight and were lucky to find a lovely sunny mooring above lock 12 just before the Shroppie Fly.  At 11:30am the temps were in the 30s so we were glad of the mooring.  We got the chairs out and whiled the day away sunbathing and just chilling.  A rare treat for us.
Our neighbour on the moorings was a gent called Brian.  We had a good chat and he showed us round his superbly restored old working boat.  She's only 40 foot with a riveted hull.  Brian found her in a really poor state but he has had her beautifully restored and has created an impressive space inside the little cabin.  Once aboard you would think you were on a 55 footer.  

Brian's superbly restored little boat with big proportions inside.
 In the late afternoon we took a walk into the village.  The locks were busy with boats coming and going so we felt quite smug that we had an easy day sitting in the sunshine watching it all go by.

Looking back up the flight

The visitors moorings below the Shroppie Fly were fairly empty but soon filled up by evening

The Lord Combermere pub does excellent food.

The village church.
The following day turned out to be another scorcher.  We left at 8pm and after watering opposite the Shroppie Fly we followed a single hander down the last of the locks.  Chris helped him and then turned the locks as no one was coming up.  The chap she was helping gave us some valuable help closing the gates when descending as a single hander.  We put his advise to good use.

Entering Lock 12 by the Shroppie Fly

Approaching the next

Finally the bottom lock
 Whilst descending the single hander would motor out of the bottom of the lock and then using his boat pole would first shut the gate opposite the by-wash and then the gate nearest.  This helped push the boat back onto a straight line to proceed.  Using this new technique we worked the last locks with Chris working the lock ahead for the single hander then leaving him to close the bottom gates as he left.  During this time I would empty my lock, climb aboard, exit and close my lock gates with the pole and proceed while Chris turned the next lock for me.

At one of the locks we were passed by an Anglo Welsh hire boat.  It was clear they had not long picked the boat up for as he approached the lock he hit the bridge hard careering across from that he then wedged the boat in the lock opening.  Much revving and thrashing later he eventually got the boat into the lock.  No wonder many of the locks fail during the summer season with treatment like that.

This hire boater bounced off the bridge and crashed about getting into the lock
Clearly not used to by washes
Shortly after the Audlem Locks we came across Mountbatten and her butty but no sign of life aboard.  I wonder if they have new owners yet?

Mountbatten and butty laid up together.
 We were on a mission today to reach Bunbury so a late one was ahead.  With that in mind we stopped for lunch on the now busy Nantwich moorings.  Luck was with us and we managed to get a mooring just before the aqueduct.

Approaching Nantwich Aqueduct moorings that looked really busy.
 We had a fab lunch  in the Wickstead Arms at a very good rate.

Now replete we headed on over the aqueduct and ahead there was a queue of very slow moving boats.  Seams a day boat full of drunken young ladies were going at tick over chatting and laughing oblivious of the chaos they were creating behind them.

Leaving the aqueduct behind we slowed to an almost stop
 To make matters worse the boat ahead of us decided he wanted to stop for water despite a boat already on the point.  He decided to raft alongside said boat taking an age to clear the way and we finally weaved our way around him and the moored boats opposite to take up station behind the day boat.

Squeezing through the throng of moored boats was not easy.  The hire boat behind did well to get through too.
I wanted to pass the day boat but in the girls state I dare not disturb them as they were not standing or sitting too well, the boat heeling over on its side at an alarming angle!  After a mile or so they eventually spotted the queue behind them and let us all pass.

At the Henshall bridge moorings we came across this unusual conversion.  Clearly the owner wanted an open plan feel for his boat, so open plant the lounge was open to the sky.

Open air living perhaps?
 We passed through a very busy Barbridge Junction with the In  doing a brisk trade judging from the large number of customers in the garden.

On the way to Bunbury we found sitting up on deck more comfortable as the slight breeze created by our passage helped to cool us down in the heat of the day. 

Sitting on deck to cool down
We eventually made Bunbury at 5pm just before the volunteer lockies left for the day and quickly descended the locks doing the famous shuffle with a hire boat with us and one coming up.  We moored for the night on Anglo Welsh wharf with their permission and was amazed to find we were the only boat there.  Their entire fleet was out for hire!  The following morning we made our way back to Tattenhall.

With a brief overnight aboard we packed and headed for Essex for the week.  My mother is laid up in hospital in a bad way.  She's now been there 4 weeks and is improving only slowly.  We're in for a long haul for her recovery so we'll not be cruising far for the time being.  Dad is giving me constant updates and is optimistic mum will make a full recovery but she'll need rehabilitation before she can return home.  

Next post we'll have some news to share as AmyJo is going to have a new temporary crew member joining us tomorrow and a new permanent crew member next week.  Will reveal all later.

Friday 19 August 2016

Summer Cruise Day 35 - Weaton Aston to Goldstone Wharf

Another lock free run today and a later start at 9am.  It must have been a good session at the pub last night as we were the only boat to move at that time of the morning.

The run today was not very interesting for the helmsman and the grey cloudy day did not make for interesting scenery.  This stretch is mostly either high embankment with rolling farmland views or high banked tree lined woody sections.  If ever an autopilot could be fitted to a narrowboat then this part of the Shroppie could put it to use.  

Not that we do not like the Shroppie, it is still a lovely canal and we still enjoyed todays cruise none the less, we just wish the promised good weather would get a hurry on and arrive!

Straight as a die for a good few miles

These wild flowers do add a dash of colour to the predominantly green view.

Still straight as an arrow
 Despite the straightness of the canal bridges a add interest as many seem overly ornate for their location.  I quite like the Shroppie bridges along here

Compared to the Caldon the bridges on the Shroppie are quite high in places
 The rural scene of the canal is punctuated with the occasional wharf like this one at High Onn.  Lord Talbot's wharf which hints of some agricultural traffic as well as industrial traffic on the canal.

One of the small countryside wharfs along the route.
 One highlight occurs just before the village of Gnosall (pronounced no-zull).  Cowley tunnel may only be 81 yards long but to consider the Navvies had to cut this through solid sandstone with just pick axes and shovels is an achievement in itself.

Cowley tunnel
 Shortly after passing through the tunnel one arrives at the pretty village of gnosall itself.  The main village is a walk from the canal but Gnosall Heath is what boaters see from the canalside.

Lovely pub as you pass under the bridge 'ole.

This rather eccentric garden reminds me of another less organised garden though I cannot recall the name of the place.
Leaving Gnosall we came across a fishing competition.  Judging from the anglers equipment this was a pretty  serious competition.  Unfortunately the hunched fishers went on for over a mile so tick over was required.

The fishermen, one left his pole to the very last minute before lifting.  I thought we'd smash into it.
 The row of fishermen went all the way to Norbury Junction!  At the Junction things were pretty busy here too.  Boat were coming and going from the wharf.  One came through the bridge hole straight at us.  I sounded the horn as the crew were too busy waving at bystanders on the wharf and not watching where they were going.  Worse, it turned out it was a boat for steering courses.  Clearly the instructor who was too busy waving was not doing a very good job and after sounding my horn he looked back, only just managed to miss us as he passed.

A full Norbury junction wharf

Boats coming and leaving the wharf
 In addition the pub opposite was hosting a classic car rally.  Not sure if they were Enfields or Morgans but they looked great either way.

Classic cars and plenty of gongoozlers

As we pass by still plenty of coming and going at the wharf

Those of you that have eery cruised into Chester will be familiar with the long tuerm moorings at Golden Nook near Waverton, a mile long line of moorings.  Well Norbury makes these look like a layby.  Long term moorings now stretch from a mile before the junction to well after it.  The line of moored boats never seemed to end.

Moored boats a Norbury for as far as the eye could see.
 Eventually the moorings cleared at Grub street cutting, a length of canal in high banked tree lined woods.  Here the famous double arched bridge 57 with telegraph pole is located.

Double arched bridge in Grub Street cutting.
 We followed a hire boat on tick over through the cutting and passed this paddler waiting for us to pass him though at our speed he would have been better paddling ahead.  The hire boat was clearly having trouble steering at any speed above tick over so we politely asked if we could overtake and left them to cruise at their sedate pace with boats starting to queue up behind.

Paddler waits for us to pass him by.
 The quaint little Anchor Inn near High Offley looked quite busy.  This was good to see as last year C&RT wrongly published it had closed.  Social media to the rescue with a call going out to let people know this was not the case and it would appear the pub is now far from closed.

The tiny Anchor Inn.
 In the Long Shebdon Embankment is a Premier foods factory in front of which, on the canal, is a wharf formerly used to transport chocolate from the then Cadbury's factory which served as a centre for processing milk

The old Cadbury's Wharf at Shebdon

Looking back along Shebdon embankment and the wharf, now home to classic boats
 Further along the canal surface took on an opaqueness about it.  The reason was in a field nearby.  This large combine harvester was cutting the field.  The dust generated was settling on the surface of the canal.

At one point this combine was hidden behind a mist of dust. 
 As it was getting no on for 3:30pm we needed to decide, stop at Goldstone Wharf or chance a mooring at the top of the Tyrley Locks.  On arrival at Goldstone we found a nice mooring near the Wharf Inn and surprisingly no infamous Shroppie shelf to hinder us either!  Tonight we'll treat ourselves to a meal in the pub as it was highly recommended by the nice couple on a very shiny nb Bullrush moored behind us.

Total distance:15 miles Elapsed time:6h Locks:0 Bridges:39 
Average speed:2.52 mph (2.52 lock/mph)