Thursday, 31 May 2012

31st May

Phoenix has Arrived

Phoenix our 15th Guide Dog pup arrived this morning.
She is a lovely 7 week old Retiever cross Labrador and is very confident.
No sooner had she entered the house than she was off exploring and then went out into the garden to explore some more. She is also very vocal letting you know when she wants some food and when she wants to go out.
I can see that we have another challenge on our hands.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

30th May

Today we were woken at 4.15am by June’s moms alarm system telling us that she was suffering with her heart again and the ambulance had been called. I drove June around to her mom so that she could go with her to hospital.

Whilst June looked after her mother I decided to go to Sandhills Boat Builder at Astwood Bank, they were our boat builders.
As I set up the Sandhills Owners Group website I like to keep in touch with them and keep abreast of what is happening. Today I was taking pictures of the current boat in build for Tony and Pat. I have been nominated by Tony as their official Photographer for Nb Tilda (not that I am any good as a photographer, I really need some lessons on how to compose a picture).

I had only been their a few minutes when Tony and Pat turned up on one of their regular progress visits so it was great to be shown around by Tony who was bubling with excitement and enthusiasm about how Tilda is taking shape. I remember the feeling well.

Tilda is a traditional narrowboat with a lovingly restored Gardener Engine and a back cabin with a modern twist. They were originally planning to have the traditional scumbling in the engine room and back cabin but have now gone for a red/white and grey/white theme which looks great and gives a very spacious feel to the areas.

* Back Cabin Looking Aft

* Back Cabin Looking Forward.
* Engine Room looking Forward with generator on side
* Engine Room from Side Hatch
* Engine Room Looking Aft

The boat is based on a Norton Canes hull which Mark and Gary from Sandhills says is exceptionally well built and each side of the centre line is an exact mirror image of one another, a  sign of quality.

* Saloon

* Front Step with drop down door to house Glass Front Door.

* Shower with Window to Porthole

* Wash Basin

* Galley

On returning home I checked on June who was still waiting to hear if her mother was to be discharged or kept in hospital so I uploaded some of the photos to the Owners website so that Tony and Pat’s friends can see the progress being made on the boat.

The owners who have booked the next build slots also watch the site so that they can see the progress and build into their designs any good ideas they see for their own boats.

At 5.00pm we heard that June’s mom is to be released from hospital so we go and collect her amidst a major rain storm which flooded the roads around the hospital in matter of minutes. Fortunately it did not last too long and we were able to get her home in the dry before the heavens opened up again.

We returned home shattered.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

29th May

As I forgotten to take my USB lead with me I could not upload any photographs from my camera so I though that I would include a few for continuity.
I could not resist taking this picture of Magic who had been on his first canal holiday and seemed to have enjoyed it.
 * That's Magic
Our walk back along the canal took us past the entrance to the marina and I was able to take a picture of it as I am usually too busy negotiating the turn to get my hands on the camera.

* The Entrance to the Marina is via one of the lovely Horsley Iron Works Cast Iron Bridges

* Looking back to the entrance from the road bridge

We had a lie in this morning but I still managed to wash the other side of the boat before 7.00am. The weather was perfect and lovely and warm, you would have thought it was March again!!
Meanwhile June oiled the final part of the floor so that it would all be fine and dandy for our next visit.

* Nicely washed boat on the pontoon

It was a glorious morning and unusually for Brinklow there was not a ripple on the water. We really did not want to leave but commitments did not allow us to stay any longer. Can’t wait to get back.

* Is this really windy Brinklow.

Monday, 28 May 2012

28th May

Lovely morning so up early and washed the one side of the boat which had become covered in dust. Will do the other side tomorrow when we have reversed the boat onto the pontoon.
Left the mooring and made for Lime Farm Marina to fill up with diesel (thanks for the tip Doug and James).
Carried on to Rugby and found the moorings almost empty so moored next to the little park.
Chatted to the couple off Nb Along Shortly which we had seen and photographed in Stone and then did the usual Tesco shopping.
After lunch we took the No 4 bus into Rugby town centre and browsed the shops, but it was far too hot so we beat a hasty retreat to the boat.Fortunately the bus runs every 10 mins from just outside the park.
The sky began to look a bit heavy so we motored on to the winding hole at Clifton Cruises and headed back to the marina.
We moored up and enjoyed the lovely evening sun, oh for these warm summer evenings, they are a delight.
Pity we have to leave for home tomorrow but we have a lot to do before Phoenix arrives.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

 20th May to 26th May

Off sailing! leaving June to sort out the garden and do the washing.
Peter, the skipper, and his wife picked me up on the Sunday and we travelled down to Plymouth to pick up the boat.
* Celtic Flame 11

She is a Dufour 34 with 6 berths and belongs to the GSA which used to be the Gas Sailing Association, owned by British Gas for use by their employees. Since the company was split up the boats were passed on to what is now the Go Sailing Association which anybody can join and indeed there is a wide range of members. The GSA has 4 boats, two moored in Southampton, one in Largs, Scotland, and Celtic Flame. They vary in size from 28ft to 40ft and provide a great opportunity for people to sail at a reasonable price.

* The Saloon and Fwd Cabin

* The Galley

* The Navigation area

* The Heads

Peter’s wife dropped us off at the boat and carried on to stay with friends in Cornwall.
We had promised the bosun that we would carry out a minor repair to one of the locker doors which had broken but which the last crew did not have time to fix. This we duly completed whilst we awaited the arrival of the rest of our crew. Peter’s son and Sue a friend. They were delayed in London as Thomas was rehearsing for the opening ceremony for the Olympic Games and did not arrive until 10.00pm so it was a late supper and off to bed ready for an early start the next morning.
* The Crew

After a misty start we left Plymouth in blue skies and a little breeze heading for Fowey. We passed the famous Plymouth Hoe and out past the breakwater into the Channel.
* Plymouth Hoe

* Blue Sky Sailing

We made good progress with the wind against us to Fowey Estuary and moored up at the short stay pontoon so that we could go shopping and have a shower at the Yacht Club.
* Entering the Estuary

* Fowey Town Mooring

* The Flags are out for our arrival in the Narrow Streets of Fowey

 We topped up with water and then moved off to moor at a pontoon in the Estuary, later taking the Water Taxi back to Fowey so that we could have a look around and eat in one of the excellent restaurants in the town.

As we left the mooring the next morning we spotted three old sailing ships and voted this one as the next boat for the GSA.

* New GSA Boat

Leaving the Estuary we only had light winds until late morning when it picked up and gave us a good sail to Falmouth where we called in at the marina to top up with diesel and then motored across to St Mawes where we dropped anchor outside the harbour.
As there is no water taxi here we inflated the dinghy and rowed ashore to meet Peter’s wife and friend for dinner at a local hostelry. Whilst having dinner we watched the young female and male crews practicing rowing their Gigs.

 * Cornish Pilot Gig

The Cornish pilot gig is a six-oared rowing boat, built of Cornish narrow leaf elm, 32 feet (9.8 m) long with a beam of four feet ten inches.It is recognised as one of the first shore-based lifeboats that went to vessels in distress, with recorded rescues going back as far as the late 17th century.The original purpose of the Cornish pilot gig was as a general work boat, and the craft is used for taking pilots out to incoming vessels off the Atlantic. In those days the race would be the first gig to get their pilot on board a vessel (often those about to run aground on rocks) got the job, and hence the payment.
The Forecast for the next day was very light winds from the NE (against us) with banks of fog so we were concerned about getting back to Plymouth. We decide therfore to make an early start as we would need to use the engine for a lot of the way back. We raised the anchor at 5.45am and set off in blue skies and sunshine although there was no wind. We motored on for a couple of hours and listened to the early morning forecast which indicated that the wind make back to the SW and strengthen. It did indeed increase but from the NE so we raised the sails and turned off the motor and had a nice quiet sail for a couple of hours when the wind died again.
We motored on for another couple of hours when the wind suddenly picked up and came from the SW. So it was up with the sails and off we went. The wind increased to force 5/6 so we got out the cruising chute (similar to a spinnaker) and our speed increased to 6-7 knots. We soon reached the entrance to Plymouth Harbour but were enjoying ourselves so much we decided not to go in but to sail on and enjoy a great day for sailing. Finally we decided we had better turn around and head for the marina as we would have to sail back into the wind. This was an exhilarating sail and the wind had increased so we took a reef in to take some strain off the boat and make it a more comfortable sail back.
* Cruising Chute Out
* The Mate helming a down wind leg

We moored up at about 5.30pm a tired but overjoyed with a good days sail and jumped into the showers at the marina..
We had a lie in the next day and as there was little wind decided to motor around to the Naval Dock Yards and review the fleet. There were 5 subs a couple of Frigates and several auxiliary craft moored up along the river.

* Old Dock with Ships Figurehead

* Naval Escort down the river.

Sadly it was then time to return to the marina, clean the boat and leave for home.

Sunday 27th May
We had planned to come to the boat on Saturday for a few days but June’s mom was rushed into hospital at 4.45am with heart problems and so June was busy seeing to her mom and it was 8.30pm when we were finally able to take her home.
This will be probably be our last visit for a little while as we have a new Guide Dog Pup, Phoenix, arriving on Thursday and we will not be able to let her go on the grass until she has had her second vaccination.

After checking on June’s mom we made an early start for the boat in gorgeous sunny weather and arrived by 8.30am.
I set to doing a few of the mods we had identified on our last cruise like putting some more dividers in a couple of the drawers and fiddle rails in the cupboards where we store the tins (just to be on the safe side).
I also put some fixings in the stern locker for the mooring pins, chains and Armco hooks so that they would be neat and tidy and easily found when needed.

Kev and Lyn on the share boat next to us were just packing up ready to go home and we ended up playing ball with their dog, Amber. The last thing they took out to the car was a Parrot called Magic who had been a real attraction on their trip as he was kept in a cage in the window and everybody saw him as they went through the locks and of course had to stop and have a closer inspection. He said hello to me and apparently has quite a good repertoire.

Before dinner we went a walk across the fields to the canal and followed the towpath back to the marina entrance. We were passed by a Rose Narrow Boat with a large group of lads on it and they were slightly the worse for wear as they seemed to make a few strange manoeuvres and went from ead slow to full speed and back again. Still they were not giving any other boaters any problem and I would guess were just finishing off a stag weekend.  

Hopefully tomorrow we will head off towards Rugby and see where we end up.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

18th May

Unloaded the remainder of our bits and pieces and cleaned up the boat ready for our return.
There was virtually no wind when we got up this morning but after doing our jobs we decided to have a pump out and of course the wind had now become quite strong. Leaving the pontoon was easy but the wind was from the north east and just blew the bow around in the wrong direction despite the best efforts of the bow thruster. So it was a case of reversing the boat down to the pump out station which actually saved having to turn the boat around as the outlet is on the port side.
Returning to the pontoon I decided it was easier to go in bow first and indeed that proved the right decision as we moored easily despite the wind.
A final clear up and close down of the various systems and we were heading for home.
On the way we stopped off at the entrance to All Oaks Wood to leave a copy of the Sandhills Owners list with Debbie and James on Nb Lois Jane and wish them well. They were just about to set off for Atherstone where they had found a guy who could have a look at their generator which was playing up.
Reached home for lunch and then had a phone call to say that June's mom could come out of hospital so we up'd and went off to fetch her home.

19th May

Back home again, why does everybody seem to be rushing about and there is never a parking space. Wish we were back on the boat. Well no problem for me as I am off to Plymouth tomorrow for a week to go sailing with some friends leaving June to do the washing and sort out the garden which is not too over grown despite the rain they seem to have had here.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

17th May

Very late start for us today, it was after 9.00am and it was overcast with a slight shower which soon cleared. We pottered along on our way back to the Marina and as we stopped at Rose Narrowboats to open the swing bridge we espied Autumn Years from Newark on Trent standing next to us just have had its bottom blacked. What a surprise, as we had just spent the last 7 weeks with Autumn Years. It is of course the Richardons first boat which has the same name as their current boat and it still looked pretty good.
* Autumn Years 1

* Autumn Years 2

Carrying on through All Oaks Wood we were warned of a large log floating across the canal which we duly found about half way through the wood. It was a willow branch that had come off a tree which had fallen from the offside and had been cut up and stacked on the towpath near bridge 37, however the barnch was now stuck on the offside bank so gave us no trouble.
* All Oaks Wood

At the end of the wood nearest our marina we found Lois Jane, a Sandhills boat moored but when we hailed her there was nobody on board so we carried on to the marina and for once moored up on the pontoon without any wind, quite a strange experience!
* Back at Brinklow Marina

After lunch we decided to pack away a few of our things to make it easier for us tomorrow when we go home. When I came to start the car to bring it to the boat I realised I had not disconnected the battery and over the last 8 weeks it had run down to the extent that it would not turn the engine over.
A knight in shining armour came to my rescue however in the form of Keith and the people on Opal Mist who lent me their jump leads so that we could use Keith’s car to start it. It started first time and I then took it a run to Ansty and back to charge up the battery. This was a journey which had taken a couple of hours by boat but which took ten minutes by car.
Later I decide to walk back to All Oaks wood to see if Debbie and James were back on Lois Jane and found them onboard so introduced myself as we had only met by email on the Sandhills Owners group. Lois Jane is the First true Sandhills boat and is in excellent condition and we spent nearly an hour chatting about our boats. They are a great couple and showed me around their pride and joy. I was most impressed with the boat which is gas free using an engine mounted generator to provide the electricity for cooking etc. They have only recently bought the boat and it is un-mistakenly a Sandhills boat even down to the inlays in the woodwork.
* Debbie and James on Lois Jane

As I walked back to our boat the marina was buzzed by two military helicoptersquite a sight!
* Helicopters buzz the Marina

During our 8 week trip we have covered 368 miles with 207 locks and 30 swing bridges so you can see why June says - it is not a holiday!
We have visited Birmingham, Wolverhampton,Liverpool, Manchester and many other towns and villages on route covering the following Canals:
North Oxford
Birmingham and Fazeley
BCN Main Line
Shropshire Union
Middlewich Branch
Leigh branch of the Bridgewater
Leigh branch of the Leeds and Liverpool
Leeds and Liverpool
Manchester Ship Canal and the River Mersey by passenger ferry.

Tomorrow we go home to reality!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

16th May
A later start this morning even though we a had bright sunny morning and after passing through some lovely scenery with fantastic views over the countryside to the east we came to Hartshill BW Yard where 6 boats were either about to move off or were in the process of preparing to move, fortunately in the opposite direction to us.

* Long views over the open countryside to the east

Continued on towards Nuneaton on a lovely winding part of the Coventry canal which at times you would think was a river. In the distance were the mountains of Nuneaton, in this case the spoil heaps from granite quarrying.

* River or Canal

* Mountains of Nuneaton.
A we approached Valley Cruisers Marina we spotted two swans with a signet riding on the back of the pen. Why is it that the camera is never there when you meet such a great shot. Later as we came to Charity Dock at Bedworth we came across the signets still on the nest with mom in attendance.

* Signets on the Nest
The one memory I have about travelling through Nuneaton is the mile or more of Allotments along the offside, most well attended with some interesting crops.

* Allotments

* More Allotments

* In amongst the allotments was this lovely bank of Forget-me-nots.

Soon we reached Marston Junction where the Coventry and Ashby Canals join and provides the dilemma of which way to go. Graham and Carolann will know what I mean.

* Marston Junction

Did not see a boat through Nuneaton but no sooner had we left than boats seemed to be coming towards us every few minutes. I think everybody had decided that now was the time to go out. However, when we reached Hawksbury Junction we found it almost empty with plenty of mooring on both sides of the stop lock, most unusual.
Moored up just through the stop lock just in time for lunch.

* Hawksbury Junction

In the afternoon I went for a walk and found a newspaper and general store just a few minutes stroll into Hawksbury Village and bought June a copy Magnum which tatsed just as good as the real thing.
Hawksbury Junction or as it was know Sutton Stop, after the lock keeper, was a major  point for the canal people to congregate in days gone by as they would come here to get their load orders and stay in the winter when the canal iced over as they had the facilities to hand.

* The Greyhound Pub and Canal Cottages at the Junction.