Monday 30 December 2013

Being visited and being visitors

Coming back into the marina yesterday was undoubtedly the right decision, because the weather today has been pretty foul: strong winds and heavy rain this morning, and the wind continuing even when the rain stopped.  There have been waves on the marina, and the moorhens have looked a bit perturbed at bobbing up and down so much.

This morning my second cousin Catherine and her family came to visit.  We'd offered to meet them somewhere, but Matthew (who's nearly five) wanted to come to the boat.  He and Grace (and, I suspect, mum) had made some delicious chocolate brownies to bring with them.  It was really nice to have some time to chat, because we really didn't get much chance yesterday at Stoke Bruerne.

Then this afternoon we became the visitors, going to find Jill and Graham who'd moved on to Blisworth.  It turned out that when we turned at Gayton Juction yesterday we were only about a hundred yards from them, but didn't realise.

Tomorrow I need to be up at a ridiculous time to be at work for an early shift.  Adrian is planning to pack up the boat and head home, and I'll go home after work too.  We've had only a couple of days out on the cut, but it's still felt like a nice break.

Sunday 29 December 2013

A very sociable day

We've had a thoroughly enjoyable day -- largely because of the people we've met along the way.

This morning was beautifully sunny.  Once out of the boat I realised how cold it had been, as the roof was very frosty.  I guess it shows how good our insulation is (sorry, Tom, it's not something unique to your boat!)

We boated up to Gayton Junction where we turned in the junction and headed back.  It took about half an hour to pass our mooring place.  The sun was low and bright, and in my eyes, so it was difficult to see much.  At times, there was the added complication of the reflection of the sun on the water.  In some ways, it was a relief to get into the darkness of the tunnel.  Because of the sun shining straight into the tunnel, the far portal looked much bigger and closer than normal; but it also felt as though it was taking longer to get through (it didn't -- the passage was the normal half an hour).  The sunshine made the exit from the tunnel quite spectacular.

We moored up after the tunnel and walked down to Kathryn's house and rang the doorbell.  We knew the Halfies from Jubilee were due to be there -- and we'd timed it just right as the kettle had just boiled.  We had a good hour chatting over teas and coffees in Kathryn's lovely vaulted kitchen.

Eventually we decided we'd better get Briar Rose and Jubilee down the locks.  On returning to the boat, I found I'd missed a text from my second counsin, Catherine, and her family, asking if they could come and see us.  I replied saying we were just heading down the locks.  As I walked back to the top lock, a man called hello from the other side -- and it took me a few seconds to realise that it was Catherine's husband, Nigel.  They'd come to Stoke Bruerne with the children to see if they could find us.

We headed down the locks, with John from Jubilee mostly helping a boat going down in front of us.  We had help at the top couple of locks from Grace and Matthew, who are keen on pushing and pulling lock gates.  The weather was fantastic -- not a cloud in the sky.

At the bottom of the locks we stopped for lunch, and John and Jan joined us.  We had a very pleasant time, and frankly could have stayed there all afternoon.  But we'd made the decision that because of the strong winds forecast for tomorrow, it would probably be wise to head back into the marina today.  We'd have loved to stay out another night -- and at one stage it looked as though the wind would die away after lunch.  But getting in to the marina and our berth can be tricky at the best of times, let alone when there's a strong wind blowing.  So when Jan pointed out that it was already half past two, we all thought we'd better get moving.

On the way back, it was pretty chilly.  The sheltered parts of the fields were still frosty, and the big puddles were frozen over.  We got back into the marina in fading light -- and with hardly a breath of wind -- at the end of a very enjoyable day.

10 miles, 7 locks.  (19 miles, 14 locks)

Saturday 28 December 2013

Up to Blisworth

It was sunny and dry this morning, and we set off at about 9.45am.  Making the turn north out of the marina proved to be a bit more challenging than usual, because of the wind direction.  But once we were on our way the canal looked beautiful.

There were a few indications of the high water levels just before Christmas -- when even out marina was a foot higher than normal.  Water was still going over one of the brick arched spill weirs along the pound, and it was also full of debris.

At the locks, we found a boat which used to be moored just down from us at Thrupp Wharf now has a mooring on the offside.  They said the water there (which is where the River Tove flows across the canal) was four feet higher than normal on Christmas Eve;  it had clearly been up over the lock landings.

The first couple of locks were against us, and then I spotted a boat up ahead -- they agreed to wait for us in the fourth lock.  It turned out to be another boat from Thrupp Wharf, a narrowbeam Dutch barge called Piggin Arkful, which is moving to Braunston.

At the penultimate lock, we crossed with a single hander coming down.  He told us he'd only just bought the boat, and this was his second ever lock.  We gave him some tips, but no doubt he'll be fully proficient by the time he gets to London.

At the top lock we rang Kathryn's doorbell, and she came out to say hello.  After a brief chat we pressed on through the tunnel, which not surprisingly was the wettest it's been for a while.  We moored up just before Bridge 49, on the northern end of Blisworth.

We had a late lunch of breads, cheese, biscuits, ham, and chutney, with champagne.  I said it was a bit like having Boxing Day before Christmas Day.  We're having our 'Christmas' dinner this evening: a duck is in the over roasting.

Tomorrow, we'll turn at Gayton Junction and head back down the locks.  Monday's forecast looks a bit unpleasant (in the morning at least), and I'm back at work on Tuesday.

9 miles, 7 locks.

Friday 27 December 2013

December 27

Adrian here... Adam has been working today, but is then off for the next three days.  We'll be having our Christmas dinner together tomorrow.

I drove up to the boat yesterday evening after spending a fabulous Boxing Day with my cousin and her family in Kent.  Adam had bought and decorated a small Christmas tree - a really lovely surprise!

The wind picked up again yesterday evening, and there was quite a lot of rain during the night.  The wind has been whipping along the marina today - certainly not a day to take the boat out.  We have also had some heavy rain showers this afternoon.  The weather forecast is for the winds to quieten down over night, with tomorrow and Sunday promising to be quieter days, with more wind and rain coming in on Sunday night through to Monday.  Would be nice to get out of the marina, even if it is just for a couple of days.

After a quick trip to Tesco at lunch time I've spent the rest of the day working, and cooking the gammon joint, which has smelt wonderful as it was cooking, and has come out very well (even if I say so myself).  I was planning to make a chilli for my dinner tonight, but that plan has been shelved in favour of some of the gammon instead.

Thursday 26 December 2013

Boxing Day

When I got back to the boat after work late last night, I could see that the water level had dropped; our ropes were now slack.  It was too late to adjust them, though.  I tightened them a bit this morning.

Before heading to work today I knocked up a quick batch of mince pies.  It seems we still have no pastry cutters on board, so I had to make do with a couple of different sized glasses.

This evening, Adrian has arrived at the boat -- and was delighted to find that I bought a little Christmas tree the other day.  I was going to post a photo on Monday, but decided to keep the tree as a surprise.  If I remember, I'll post one tomorrow.

Tomorrow looks like another bad day weather-wise -- but I'm at work again anyway.  But the weekend is looking fairly reasonable.  Maybe we will get out of the marina for a couple of days after all.

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Christmas Eve

It was pretty difficult to sleep last night, thanks to the heavy rain and the howling wind.  Things started to get bad late in the evening, and by the early hours the noise of the wind was tremedous.  The boat was being rocked about too.  Then, I'm not sure what time it was, I woke up and it was completely silent.

This morning, the boat was on a slight tilt as the water level has risen so much.  I had to slacken off the ropes a bit.  Normally, our back counter is on a level with the jetty, or even a bit below -- so you can see how much higher than normal the level is.

The road along the marina is also under water.  I've just been speaking to the owner, Roy, who'd just been to check the drain -- and says it's flowing at full capacity, but clearly can't quite cope with all the water coming off the fields.  He's also been along checking the ropes of all the unoccupied boats.

I've filled the water tank and emptied the ash bucket this morning, and before long I'll be off to work.  I'm hoping that if I bank the fire up enough, it'll still be in when I get back late tonight.

Monday 23 December 2013

Stormy weather

I came up to the boat this morning -- leaving home a bit earlier than planned in order to try to miss the worst of the weather.  It seemed to get less stormy as I travelled north, although it deteriorated during the afternoon.

I'm here because I'm working for the next four days, and the marina is closer to work than home is.  Adrian is visiting family over the next few days, and is due here on Friday.  Next weekend, we're hoping we might get a couple of days out of the marina.

I got here late morning, got the fire going, and unpacked.  Once the fire was established I went into Milton Keynes to do some shopping.  Back at the boat, I put our Christmas cards out on the shelves, and got the christmas lights out of storage.

At times, the rain was so hard on the roof I could hardly hear myself think.  The water level also seems pretty high.  I'm hoping it'll be a bit calmer tomorrow morning so I can top up the water tank before I head to work.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

A day in Cheshire

As I left the marina in the dark at 7.15 this morning, there was an incredibly big, bright moon -- and the reflection off the water was pretty special.

The drive up to Cheshire was lovely and sunny, and the satnav took me a way I wasn't expecting up through the Derbyshire Dales.  The boat test was carried out in nice winter sunshine and with hardly a breath of wind.  The photos should be good, as the Macclesfield Canal looked very pretty.

I'd expected to have to dash home to go to an event tonight, but I had an email to say it had been postponed.  So I rang my sister to see if the family was at home.  They were just about to go and watch Rachel in her nativity play (she was playing a sheep, hence the black nose), so I met them at their home after that.  We took the dogs for a walk in the fading light, and I had a good couple of hours playing with the girls and reading stories.

It's been a very enjoyable day -- and not at all what was planned.  A four hour drive and I'm now back home.

Monday 16 December 2013

Out to lunch

The stormy weather continued well into the night, and it was still pretty windy this morning.  First thing, I drove into Milton Keynes and bought a universal battery charger.  This needs the battery to be out of the camera, so I'll try to get an additional battery as a spare.

My lunch date was with Jill and Graham from Matilda Rose. I was able to help Graham with a car shuffle en route, and we then went to the boat at Weedon.

We had an excellent couple of hours talking about their plans, which are now well advanced, for taking the boat to France early next year.  Looking at the map, I was surprised at how extensive the canal and river network is in France, and how many other countries you can get to.  It was really great to see Jill and Graham and Daisy, Baxter, and Mutley -- over a lovely relaxed lunch on board.

The position of the boat also allowed me to have a look at the aqueduct at Weedon, which we must have been over numerous times, but which I've never seen from below.  The embankment here is really quite high.

On the way back I stopped at Baxter's and stocked up on a few bags of coal to see us through the Christmas period.  Tomorrow, a fairly early start is required to head north for the boat test.  The forecast is still for a nice sunny day.

Sunday 15 December 2013

Breezy evening

I came up to Thrupp Wharf after working an early shift.  It was dark by the time I arrived, and it's also pretty breezy.  In fact at the moment, it sounds as though it's blowing a hooly out there.  The temperature was 12 Celsius when I got here, but the boat was pretty chilly.  I've lit the fire and had the Eberspacher going to take the chill off.  The first thing I noticed was that the smoke detector was beeping.  It means the battery is going - and it's not replaceable, so we'll need to get a whole new unit.  I had to look up the instructions t find out how to stop it emitting a loud beep every 40 seconds.

I'm here because we were due to be doing a boat test tomorrow.  That's now been moved to Tuesday, which should be a better day.

One job for tomorrow will be to try to find a charging cable for the camera.  I couldn't find it at home so assumed I must have accidentally leftbit on board; but it's not here either.  Annoyingly, the TZ40 has a battery which is a very slightly different shape from the previous camera; it also has to be charged while it's still in the camera, which makes no sense to me, and the jack is not the same as most phone chargers.  So I guess a quick trip to Milton Keynes is on the cards for tomorrow to see if I can find the right cable somewhere.

Sunday 8 December 2013

Dubbel Dutch on test, and the Blisworth Tunnel ghost

The January issue of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test of the Fernwood boat, Dubbel Dutch. There's also a piece about the ghostly stories about Blisworth Tunnel, and the side shaft that I've become rather fascinated by.