Sunday, 31 July 2011

July weekend - Day 3

We were up and about reasonably early this morning, on another lovely sunny day, and slipped away from our moorings just after 8.  Less than an hour later we were turning through the iron bridge into the marina.

Adrian put us expertly onto our pontoon, we packed, and left in the car bound for the IWA festival at Burton on Trent.

The show ground seemed quite quiet, although we were there not long after the gates opened.  We had a look at the commercial boats, walked round the stands, bought a few things, talked to lots of people, had an ice cream, and walked along the towpath to see the visiting boats.

Then is was back to the car for a really good run home.  We'll be making the most of having our own boat, by having another few days on board next weekend.

2 miles, 0 locks.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

July Weekend - Day 2

Yesterday afternoon, we walked back to the marina and moved the car to the little car park at All Oaks Corner, so that it was ready for this morning.  After breakfast, we picked up the car and drove up to Cheshire to spend the day with my sister, her husband, and their two girls, Rachel and Emily.  We were meeting Emily for the first time.

We had a lovely day with them, taking the dogs for a walk, having lunch, and going for a look round Stonyford Cottage Gardens, where there's a nice place for tea and cake.

Rachel, who's two and a bit, is talking amazingly well;  Emily is the spitting image of her, and while we were having tea this afternoon rolled herself over for the first time.

We drove back, and while Adrian came to open up the boat and run the engine for a bit to charge the batteries, I took the car back to the marina and walked back along the tow path.  Just after I arrived back, there's was a meeting of day boats next to where we're moored, which provided a few minutes entertainment.

0 miles, 0 locks.

Friday, 29 July 2011

July Weekend - Day 1

Adrian drove up to Brinklow Marina last night after work;  I worked a night shift, then got the train to Rugby this morning.  There's lots of canal spotting to be done on the way, particularly towards the end of the journey when the railway line passes close to various marinas, including Whilton, over the Buckby locks, and over the bridge at Hillmorton.  Amazingly, along one stretch of canal I spotted the boat of a Canal World Forum member, who moors at Napton Junction.  The chances of that must be pretty slim.

Adrian suggested that rather than going direct to the boat, we go and have a look at the new Barby Moorings -- as we've booked to move there after our long trip in September.  The basin is in water, and the first paying boats are moving in this weekend.  There's still some work to do, not least installing the pontoons.  The owner was telling us that they've been pre-fabricated and will be floated into place, which is apparently much cheaper.  We went to find our berth, which is off the central island.  The most fascinating thing was the bridge which is being built to connect the island to the mainland; it's being done in a very traditional fashion.  It was good to see the place in more detail, and we're quite exciting about moving there in the autumn.

Back at the boat, after a reviving shower and a cup of tea, we set off at 11.30 and turned left out of the marina.  It was immediately very busy and we met boats at every bridge hole.  At one narrow section, the crew of a little plastic boat jumped off -- and the harder the woman pulled on the bow rope, the further out across the canal the back end went.

We were pleased to see a few spaces at the moorings just past All Oaks Wood, where we stopped on the final night of our June trip, but we carried on towards Easenhall Bridge, where there's a double width work boat moored, which splits in half to get through narrow locks.  There was a long line of boats coming through the subsequent cutting, where there have been a number of landslips which reduce the width of the cut.  Among them, was the Muddy Waters hire boat from Oxfordshire Narrowboats.  The helmsman asked if we were going to a Braidbar convention, as we were the sixth Braidbar Boat he'd seen.

Just before Rose Narrowboats was the coal and diesel boat Callisto, moored alongside its butty.  Naturally, a boat was coming the other way.  At Rose Narrowbaots, we turned in the arm and headed back to the moorings we'd spotted earlier.  Of course, some of the many boats we'd passed had stopped for lunch, but we still managed to fit into a gap, although it was on a bit of a bend.  An hour later, when one of the boats left, we moved back a couple of spaces onto a straighter length.

During the afternoon, we went for a walk, and I polished the mushroom vents and portholes.  One passing boater said it was looking good; I said I'd be happy as long as he could tell which mushrooms I'd already done.

It's been very busy all afternoon, with boats coming past the whole time.  We're getting a taste of the canals on a summer weekend in the school holidays.

 4 miles, 0 locks.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Midland Pacific

Thanks to exceptionally fast service from Piplers of Poole the handheld VHF radio I ordered yesterday arrived this morning.  There are quite a lot of functions but very few buttons, so most things need a sequence of presses to set up.  I know it works, though, as from home I can hear conversations out in Chichester Harbour!

Monday, 25 July 2011

Classroom Day

Today, for the first time in a considerable period, I've spent the day in a classroom.  Where I had to take an exam.  Fortunately, it was a classroom at a marina on the south coast, and the exam was only thirty minutes at the end of the day.

I was taking the RYA's VHF-DSC radio course, in order to get an operator's licence.  This, along with a licence from OfCom, is needed for the tidal Thames through central London, which we plan to do as part of out September cruise.

The course, run by the Emsworth School of Navigation, was quite fun, with plenty of hands on operation of a marine VHF radio.  A lot of it I will never use, as we plan to get a handheld radio rather than a fitted one with DSC. 

But it all has to be done if you want to pass the exam, which I did -- with full marks!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Mercia Marina

An hour's drive this morning up the M1 to the vast Mercia Marina for a boat test.  Well, almost two boat tests.  Our "on the water" route took us to the winding hole at Willington -- and some of the boaters moored up seemed a little confused when we did the same route again an hour later, in a boat very similar but with one big difference (and I do mean big).

Among the boats on brokerage at Mercia is Whitefield (on the right in the photo) which I tested after its appearance at Crick in 2008.  It cost in the region of a quarter of a million pounds then; now it can be yours for £115,000.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Step installed

I came up to Brinklow this afternoon as I'm doing a boat test in the morning near Derby, and spending the night on board Briar Rose means I don't have to do all the driving in one day.  It was a fairly easy journey, although the A34 during the day is a real test of patience, thanks to the 55mph lorries overtaking the 54mph ones.

Once at the marina, the first job was to put a coat of varnish on the 12ft pole we bought at Braunston at the start of our trip last month.  There was just enough varnish left over from building the step to cover the pole.  It could do with another couple of coats, but that's a job for another time.

I'd brought the newly-built step from home, so it was time to try it in position at the stern, and fix the cabin hooks to hold it in place.

It fits better than I could have hoped!  I know that shouldn't be a surprise as I'd taken the measurements, but the style of construction (ie amateur) doesn't really lend itself to great precision.  But it's exactly the right height, the cabin hooks hold it very securely, it feels very solid to stand on, and the anti-slip tape is great.

While I had the screwdrivers out, I added a couple of plaques to the collection.  One was the Leicester Ring, which the previous owner had bought but hadn't got round to putting up (we have done the Leicester Ring, although obviously not in this boat); the other was the River Avon, which we bought from the lock keeper at Tewkesbury.

While all this was going on, I filled the water tank (as we're up in a couple of weekend's time, and won't want to spend time doing it then).  I've also pointed the dish at the satellite, made the bed, made dinner, and found a Magnum Mini in the freezer for dessert.  In other good news, there's sunshine forecast for tomorrow morning.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Step by step

One of the things we noticed on our first outings on Briar Rose was that it was difficult to find a comfortable place to stand when steering.

We are firm believers that the correct place to stand is forward of the tiller, not on the counter (a view apparently not shared by an increasing number of boaters; I'm particularly amazed by the number of semi-trad owners who stand on the very back of the boat, next to the tiller, even though they've got a whole deck to stand on).  There are a couple of reasons why we believe you should stand in front of the tiller: one is that it's much easier to swing the tiller from one side to the other if necessary if you're not standing in the way of it; the other is that if something hits the rudder the tiller could move sharply, and if you're standing beside it you could be knocked off.

Lecture over, back to the story.  The trouble with Briar Rose is that immediately inside the rear doors is a 9 inch drop to the engine boards, and if you stand down there you can't see anything.

For our first couple of weekend trips we balanced on the door sill.  Then when we bought a tool box for the boat I managed to find one that was about the right height and size.  But although it's designed to be stood on occasionally (it has a metal body and foot treads on the lid), it wasn't a long term solution.

So this weekend, I built a step.

I confess that there's very little skill or craftsmanship involved.  I got the local DIY store to cut the wood to size, and the pieces are simply glued and screwed together, with some very chunky batons down the corners.  However, it is very solid and sturdy, it's had plenty of coats of varnish, and I've put some strips of anti-slip tape on the top.  I've also bought some cabin hooks, so it can be secured in place yet easily removed when we need to take the engine boards up.  All in all, I'm pretty pleased with it (as long as I measured correctly...)

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Barolo on Test, and Crick special

The August issue of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test of the Crick winner, Barolo.

There's also a Crick special feature, with mini reviews of twenty boats from the show.