Monday, 29 June 2015

Soar weekend: Day 3

Last evening, we sat at the bow of the boat watching the wildlife, including swallows swooping down over the water, and a family of nine ducklings.

I also pretty much wrote the test on the boat. I Don't think I've ever been in the position before to write about a boat while actually on board it.

This morning we set off at 8am; it was bright and warm. All three locks were against us, but we were still back at Thurmaston at around 10. We were soon on the road, headed for Thrupp Wharf. We returned all the things we'd borrowed from Briar Rose, did a wash load of towels, and had lunch on board -- then Adrian headed off to London ready for work tomorrow. I re-did the sealant in the shower, and will be heading home soon.

5 miles, 3 locks. (22 miles, 10 locks)


Sunday, 28 June 2015

Soar weekend: Day 2

Last night we wandered along to The Navigation at Barrow, as it was only a few hundred yards from where we were moored. They didn't do food on a Saturday evening, so we walk on to The Hunting Lodge instead. We sat in the garden, and the food was fine.

It rained in the night, as forecast. We slept well, though, and it was fairly late when we finally got up and had breakfast. Showers came and went, so we waited until after 10am before setting off. If yesterday was summer, today was more like autumn, with overcast skies and a chilly breeze.

Barrow Deep Lock was just around the corner. There's a traffic light to tell you what the state of the river below is; today it was fine.

We continued on to Loughborough. By the old railway bridge, no 37, we could hear whistles of steam engines on the Great Central Railway. We turned into Loughborough basin where we winded and began retracing our steps.

We headed back through the town suburbs and back up Barrow Deep Lock. As we passed Barrow Boating again, another Hindu ashes scattering trip was just setting off.

When we got to Mountsorrel Lock, I went to see what the situation was on the rather limited moorings above the lock. As it happened, a boat was just pulling off to come down the lock, so we came up and moored. As we did so, a boat arrived in reverse from the opposite direction; he'd wanted the space too. We moved up a bit, so our bow is well off the moorings, and he just about fitted in behind. We went to the Waterside Inn for a late Sunday lunch, which was pretty good. By the time we'd finished, at almost 4pm, the weather had cheered up considerably, with the sun coming out and the temperature going up.

10 miles, 3 locks. (17 miles, 7 locks)



Saturday, 27 June 2015

Soar weekend: Day 1

Adrian arrived at our marina at about 11.30 and we loaded his car with quite a lot of stuff. We then headed north on the M1 to Thurmaston to pick up our boat for the weekend. We're borrowing a boat for a boat test feature with a difference: what's it like for a whole weekend? It's a boat which was at Crick.

So we loaded our stuff on board and set off on a very warm and sunny afternoon. We passed Chance, almost immediately -- which, thanks to James's operation, clearly hasn't had a daily wash for a while!

I got off at the first bridge hole to take some photos, as I'm doing my own photography on this one. At Junction Lock we were joined by a day boat from Barrow Boating. It had a wooden cabin and a flat roof covered in felt. At Cossington Lock a boat was just going in, so we joined them. And at Sileby Lock two boats were just going down so we had to wait a little while and turn the lock. The mill below the lock must be quite a nice place to live.

When we got to Mountsorrel, the pub alongside the lock was absolutely packed. Our locking partners decided to stop above the lock (even though the two mooring spaces there were taken) so we went down alone, and carried on to Barrow. Barrow boating has been doing a roaring trade, as not only was their day boat out, they also had a trip boat which may well have been hosting a Hindu scattering of ashes, and there were rented pedallos, rowing boats, and a kind of bike on floats.

The visitor moorings just before Barrow Boats was free (and we can't find any mooring pins on board, which means we need somewhere with rings, bollards, or trees!) so we pulled in. I've taken some photos of the interior of the boat, and we've sat at the bow in the sunshine drinking wine and eating crisps. Later, we'll wander into Barrow to find somewhere for dinner. Tomorrow's forecast is pretty bad, so we may not go far. At least this boat can be turned around almost anywhere.

7 miles, 4 locks.


First loo emptying

First thing this morning, I thought it would an ideal time to have a look in the composting loo, given that it hasn't been used for a couple of weeks. I'd been a bit concerned that the contents were a bit wet, so the plan was to take out some of the wet material and replace it with dry.

Dismantling the loo was easy, and I began scooping out the contents. Thanks to the global shortage of cocoa shells, we'd started the loo off with garden bark in the bottom. Later, we'd added coco coir, which is the shredded shells of coconuts. When I got down to the bark, it really was very wet indeed, so I decided I'd empty it completely and start again. Although you'd never describe the emptying process as pleasant, it wasn't unpleasant either. The smell was of strong fertiliser, which is what I suppose the liquid in the bottom actually was.

Having emptied the loo, I walked up to the Cosgrove sanitary station with the bag of contents to put in the skip. I took with me the base unit of the loo, so I could give it a good wash out at the elsan. Back at the boat, I put the loo base back on its brackets and began thinking about the base contents. I crumbled a brick of coco coir into the base. This comes as dehydrated and compressed bricks, and needs some added water. It expands like crazy with the water, and a brick usually takes 3 to 4 litres to turn it into compost. I added just one litre, and gave it a good mix, which meant it was just damp and became quite light and fluffy. Importantly, it also expanded enough to come up to the level of the loo's agitator. Then I put the loo back together, and we'll see how we get on now things aren't so wet.

That done it was time to set off. I went along and winded just before The Galleon pub, and then headed back to the lock. It took about 45 minutes to pass my overnight mooring spot. A bit before that, Phil from Vital Spark, which is moored on the offside, had set off in his little tender.

A hire boat had just come down the lock, and Phil opened the gate for me as he walked past. Then the day boat arrived at the top so they also helped work me through. Once through Cosgrove, the cattle were lining up to drink from the canal. No wonder the level is low!

Back at the marina, I did my best ever spin and reverse into the berth. It was as if the boat knew exactly what to do; all the way in without even touching the jetty. I was flabbergasted! I'm now waiting for Adrian to arrive, so we can head off for the next bit of the weekend.

3 miles, 1 lock. (4 miles, 2 locks)


Friday, 26 June 2015

Evening escape

I came up to the boat after work. What with the Friday afternoon traffic on the M1 and stopping for some shopping on the way, it was gone 5.30 by the time I arrived at the marina. Also, as I'd returned to the car at Tesco's in Wolverton it had started to rain -- and it was a rather heavy and prolonged shower. Still, by the time I'd got stuff out of the car and done all the turning on of things in the boat, the sun was out again.

So naturally I decided to escape from the marina. We have new neighbours on both sides. Across the pontoon is a tug called Herbert, which looks very nice. It's also long, sticking out well beyond the end of the jetty. It might make coming back in a little more tricky, as it's much easier to do the turn to reverse in if you can get the stern close as early as possible.

Anyway, I decided to head towards Cosgrove. There were a couple of spaces in the village, but I really wanted to give the engine a bit more working time, to put some proper juice in the batteries and heat the water. So I continued to the lock, which needed just a bit of topping up before I could go in, and went down. Below the lock, the moorings along towards the aqueduct looked pretty busy, so I went in the first space. As I aimed for the gap, I wondered whether it was long enough; but I've come to the conclusion that spaces which look just a bit short are usually ok -- they're just difficult to judge.

I do like it down here. It's quiet, apart from a few vocal birds, including a duck on a boat on the permanent moorings opposite.

Adrian is at a concert in Bournemouth this evening, and is coming up tomorrow. Then we're off boating on a boat that isn't ours!

1 mile, 1 lock.


Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Successful day

The mooring by Bridge 62 is very quiet; I went to bed early and slept for a long time. This morning was much brighter than the forecast had suggested. I had breakfast and set off for the marina at a bit after 8.30. On the way, a tern dived into the water and caught a small fish -- then when it was back in the air again dropped it, swooped, and caught it in mid air.

On my return to the marina, there were four ducks asleep on the end of our pontoon. The 'evidence' suggests it's one of their favourite spots. They were most put out when I backed into our space, getting to their feet, becoming very vocal, and walking along the pontoon in front of me, until they got to the far end.

I packed up the boat, and was in the car just before 10. The drive to Ventnor Marina is about 45 minutes, and the sunshine stayed with us all day. The boat test went well and the drive back home was easy.

1.5 miles, 0 locks. (4 miles, 0 locks)

Monday, 15 June 2015

Sunny afternoon

I came up to the boat today as I have a boat test planned for tomorrow. I finished my set of night shifts this morning, and set out after having a shower and getting changed. I stopped on the way to buy some food, and arrived at the marina at around 1.15. The first thing I noticed was that the bank on the far side of the marina was a riot of wild flowers.

I unpacked, had a bit of lunch, and got the boat ready for a little cruise -- just because I prefer to be out of the marina rather than in it. It was about 2.15 when I pulled out of our berth and turned left out of the marina. The Navigation Inn next door is open again after its extensive refurbishment, and looks very smart. The back of the building has been transformed with a new extension and deck, and the garden and car park also look much better.

It was a really lovely sunny afternoon, and warm enough that I wished I'd worn shorts. I went down to Kingfisher marina and turned in the entrance, then returned to just before Bridge 62 -- a nice quiet spot I've used several times before (although not for a couple of years, it seems). Only a couple of boats have been past, but the birds are singing and dragonflies keep buzzing past the side hatch.

I've made a few calls to try to set up more boat tests, and have also spent some time reviewing the Crick Boat Show extravaganza that's going in the next issue of the magazine.

I won't be up late because I've been up for almost 24 hours already. Tomorrow it's about half an hour back to the marina, then I'll jump in the car to the boat test. I hope it's as sunny then as it is now.

2.5 miles, 0 locks.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Heron map photo

Just before going to Crick, I had a message from Heron Maps asking if they could use another of my photos. It was for the new issue of their Shropshire Union map. The last issue also had one of my photos in it, so it was quite nice to continue the tradition. This time, it was a photo of Briar Rose in Beeston Iron Lock.

Payment is always in the form of maps, so at the Crick Show I went and picked up a couple of maps.


Thursday, 4 June 2015

Brigand on test

The July issue of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test on Brigand, one of the last Hudson boats to be completed.  We did the test back in November, just a few weeks before Steve Hudson died.  The editor has been talking to his family about publishing it, and there's an editor's note at the start, explaining the situation.  The test is published just as it was written, except for one or two changes of tense.