Monday, 31 March 2014

Birthday weekend - Day 4

Firstly, thanks to everyone who has sent birthday messages -- via the blog, facebook, and by text.  They're very much appreciated.

We had a great evening with Neil last night.  We were moored button to button with Herbie, so he didn't have very far to go to get home.  He brought dessert with him -- his own version of Eton Mess with a boozy fruit compote, which we decided to call Herbie Mess.

This morning there were cards and presents over breakfast, and we set off at about 9.15, heading for the winding hole at New Bradwell.  It was more overcast the the past couple of days, but the sun was trying to get through, and there was no breeze at all.  Having turned, we wended our way back through Wolverton, over the aqueduct, and up Cosgrove lock back to base.  I made a bit of a meal of getting into our berth (possible confused by the lack of wind!), but we were all secure by 11.15.

At some point during the morning, the glass on the stove had cracked, so I jumped in the car and went to the chandlery at Whilton Marina to get a new one.  I got rope for the door while I was there.  The stove was still to hot to change the glass, so I'll do it next time.

It's been a great weekend, meeting up with lots of people, and with great warm weather.  we're back on board at the end of the week, for a longer trip.  The plan was to go down the Aylesbury Arm, but a stoppage notice came through this afternoon, saying it'll be closed on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday -- which scuppers that idea.  Of course there's still time for the stoppage to be cancelled, as they often are.

4 miles, 1 lock.  (27 miles, 16 locks)

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Birthday weekend - Day 3

We had an excellent meal at The Walnut Tree last night.  I had pork belly with lentils and chorizo, and cavalo nero; Adrian had venison with carrots and cabbage.

This morning we had arranged for my second cousin Catherine, her husband Nigel, and kids Grace and Matthew to come through the tunnel with us.  There was a last minute hitch when they realised that because of the clock change last night, they were an hour behind schedule!  We waited for them in Blisworth, and Nigel drove the car over the top.  In the tunnel we had whistling, a rendition of Happy Birthday, and a blast on the horn.

At the locks, two boats were just coming out as we arrived, so we could go straight in.

With Nigel and me working the locks, and most of them in our favour, we flew down the flight.

At the bottom we moored up and had birthday cake complete with candles on the towpath.  Catherine is something of a cake expert, and we especially liked the icing roses.

We said goodbye to the family at about 1pm, having really enjoyed their company again.  We headed off along the familiar route through Grafton Regis, Yardly Gobion, and past our marina to Cosgrove.  There was a boat coming up in the lock, so as the lock landing there puts you in the way, we went in before he came out.

Below the lock, there was a massive wide beam on the water point, which made things a bit tight.

We'd been surprised how quiet Blisworth and Stoke Bruerne had been; it's because all the boats were down here.  We saw Willow Two, which was a boat test a few months ago, and passed the new owners of Tacet.

We continued to Wolverton, where there were a couple of boats moored not really making the best use of the rings.  We were in the process of making an elaborate cat's cradle arrangement with the bow rope, when the owners of the boat behind returned and we asked them if they would shuffle back a ring.

We have a visitor for dinner this evening - Neil from Herbie, who's just arrived and moored in front.  Kath is away, but arrives at Wolverton station tomorrow.

12 miles, 8 locks.  (23 miles, 15 locks)

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Birthday weekend - Day 2

Grafton Regis is a nice quiet mooring.  Even the lambs didn't get up early, and certainly weren't of the vocal variety.

We set off at about 8.30, planning to stop at the water point at the bottom of the locks, as we were pretty sure we didn't have much water on board.  As we approached, though, a boat on the lock landing showed signs of going up the locks, so we went with them.  The couple on board proved to be excellent locking partners.  They live on board and are on their way to new moorings.  As we made our way up the flight, the sun broke through the slightly misty start, and the temperature went up dramatically.

We passed a pair of Gayton hire boats on the way down, so after that the locks were in our favour, and we were at the top at around 10.30.  I went to knock on Kathryn's door, and she came over for tea while we filled the water tank at the tap outside The Boat.  It took a good half hour to fill, which gave us plenty of time to chat.

We set off again and went through the tunnel, which was exceptionally wet and quite cold.  We continued to Gayton Junction, turned right down the arm, and stopped at the marina for a pump out.  When we got the 'empty' gas bottle out of the locker, it turned out to be far from empty, so it went back in again.  Maybe yesterday we just needed to give a bit more time for the gas to come through.

We went down to the winding hole above the locks on the Northampton Arm, where we turned.  It's the fourth time I've turned a boat there, and was by far the most successful.  We backtracked to the junction, turned left back towards Blisworth, and moored just beyond Bridge 49.  From here it's just a short walk up the road to The Walnut Tree, where we're booked for dinner tonight.

It was only 2pm, so we've been doing jobs.  I've given the pole a coat of varnish and broken out the Brasso.  Adrian has been cleaning inside the boat.  The sun is out, the side hatch is open, and it's a very pleasant afternoon.

8 miles, 7 locks.  (11 miles, 7 locks)

Friday, 28 March 2014

Birthday weekend - Day 1

After much too long, we're finally back on board.  The last time we were here was December 29 - I think it's the longest time we've gone without visiting.  We've now got a few days on board as it's my birthday on Monday.  We also want to make sure the boat is ready for 'the season'.

I went to pick up Adrian from work, and we combined this with meeting Our friend Nicola and her son Ewan in a cafe nearby.  The last time we saw them was when they joined us for the part of our Big Trip last September, on the Bridgewater Canal which goes past the end of their road.

The journey up to the boat was slower than we would have liked, and we arrived at 4pm.  We unpacked our stuff, parked the car, and within 15 minutes we were pulling away from our berth and turning out of the marina towards Stoke Bruerne.

Adrian went to make tea -- then returned saying we'd forgotten to turn the gas on.  I went and got carefully onto the bow, and turned it on.  (Adrian didn't do it himself because he broke a bone in his shoulder while we weree skiing last month, and is still having to be a bit careful).  At the second attempt at boiling the kettle, still no gas.  We wondered if we'd turned the gas bottles themselves off.  I clambered back out onto the bow, and lifted each bottle to see which one was in use.  It turned out that one was full and one empty.  With the gas situation sorted, tea could be made.

We boated for about an hour, in order to get a tank of hot water and warm everything up.  Adrian out things away and got the fire going while we went along.  We've moored at Grafton Regis, just past Bridge 57.  There's a field of lambs opposite, so we're hoping they don't wake up too early!

3 miles, 0 locks.

Sunday, 23 March 2014


A quick dash up to Thurmaston today for a boat test.  The sun shone, and we avoided the showers I'd driven through on the way up.  This is Thurmaston Lock on the River Soar.

On the way back, I went to check on Briar Rose, which has been unvisited for far too long.  Everything seemed fine -- although as I walked back to the car there was a very painful hailstorm!  The good news is that we're going for a weekend out on the boat next weekend.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Charlotte on test

The April issue of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test of Charlotte by Bourne Boat Builders.