Sunday, April 22, 2012

A first!

In all of our years of canal boat holidays, we have never before moored on the cut for more than one night in the same place. Tonight we go to bed at the same spot as last night... but facing the other way.
We did go for a bit of a cruise for a couple of hours in order to turn the boat, ready to return to Braunston early tomorrow. It's a lovely stretch of canal, unusually bendy, and passing through pleasant farmland. We've not seen much wildlife yet, apart from a Tawny Owl very close yesterday evening, only the fields of sheep and cows, all with their young. The weather was sunny but cold, with a chilly wind, the winding hole was large and easy, and the whole short trip was good. We returned to bridge 100 where we had been moored before, and spent the day on the boat.

We have been regular readers of the Canal Boat Magazine for years now. A regular theme on the letters from readers pages has been the bad manners of some boaters who pass moored craft at too high a speed. This can rock boats quite a bit, causing things to slide around tables and worktops, even to fall over. Furthermore, it can cause mooring pins to be pulled out of the ground, loosing the back or front of the boat, and allowing it to drift.
It is amusing to read letters from boat owners, accusing holiday boaters of such inconsiderate behaviour, whilst holiday boaters accuse owners of the same, saying how they should "know better". Well, take it from me, they can both be as bad as each other. This morning, we suffered a stream of boats passing far too fast, and it was a fair mix of owners and hirers. After one particular speeder passed, our stern mooring was uprooted from the ground, and the pin pulled into the canal. We actually knew nothing about it until we heard a neighbouring boater climbing onto the front of the boat to grab a rope and start to pull us to safety. The stern, under the influence of the currents caused by a passing boat, had drifted off into the centre of the canal while the bow remained moored. No harm was done, but it was annoying to lose the mooring pin. And we had only recently put three brightly-coloured plastic balls on it, too, to make it more visible to walkers on the towpath.

We rise early tomorrow, to cruise down to Roy's workshop, then say goodbye to Kantara for about two weeks. I hope it pours with rain the whole time - it looks as though it might!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Arrived at Braunston

Despite the weather forecast, which said we were in for another day of rain, we hardly got wet today. Braunston Tunnel was "interesting", with lots of small bends, unusual in our experience. We passed a boat coming in the opposite direction whose headlamp had failed halfway through. His wife was sitting in the bow, holding a bright LED lamp! Braunston Flight was a doddle.

It is a flight of six locks, double width now that we are onto the main line of the Grand Union. Despite the tales from the crew of the boat we met at the top lock - coming up as we were about to descend - who had just taken nearly three hours to do the flight, we went down at a good speed. We went in tandem with an elderly couple celebrating their Golden Wedding Anniversary. She was at the helm, and not very experienced at the job, so it was quite a lot of fun!

Arriving in Braunston, we passed Roy's workshop where Kantara will have to be on Monday morning, and carried on into the countryside, where we moored and had a very late lunch. This is where we will spend tomorrow.

It has rained several times, heavy showers, since we arrived. And the sunset was amazing.

On our way to Braunston

With the weather forecast telling us we were facing days of torrential rain, this is what the skies looked like at Yelvertoft the evening before last.

And I did NOT enhance the colours, either!

So, we set out yesterday morning. It wasn't raining, but it was quite blowy. Then, not half an our down the canal, it hailed on us! Not too hard, but bad enough. We donned our new waterproof coats and kept going like old pros. Then came Watford Locks. A single lock dealt with by me, a staircase of four managed by BW staff, and another two singles left to me. Easy-peasy. Apart from the hail which descended with a vengeance as Kantara lay in the top of the staircase. It was painful! The lock-keeper and I tried in vain to find shelter, and we just had to stand it out. Grace, at the tiller of the boat, was able to sit under cover. But when the hail turned to simple rain, we had to continue.

Those last photos were taken just below the flight of locks, after we'd moored, changed into dry clothing, and had some well-overdue lunch. The rain had been quite something. The thing about good, waterproof coats is, of course, that they require equally good and waterproof trousers and boots. Below the knees, I was inadequately prepared for that rain. The bottom of my jeans was soaked to capacity, my shoes were drenched through, and my socks were totally waterlogged.

But, you know what? It was fun! We wore smiles on our faces the whole time - there is something very amusing about situations like that. It brought to mind a picture I saw on the web just the other day.

(I found THIS one a year later!)

We "just got wet". And now we're dry. And we will probably get wet today, too... and tomorrow. The canals are filling - that's the best thing about it.

We moored late yesterday afternoon just before Braunston Tunnel, 2042 yards long - that's about a 25 minute trip in the dark. After that, Braunston Flight - six locks close together. At the moment, we don't know if we'll simply do the tunnel today and leave the rest of the journey until Sunday. We're in no hurry. The last entry into the locks is 2:30pm, and it's 11:00am now, and we're very happy where we are.

It's wonderful, waking up to this sort of scenery.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A short cruise!

Well, life's a bit quiet at the moment. We're currently painting the fore deck, and laying new, non-slip, waterproof flooring, to replace the old carpet tiles. We've also been looking into the TV/DVD possibilities for the boat, and putting detail to the plans for the shower room refit.

Kantara is due at Roy's workshop next Monday. We had planned on setting out in the middle of this week, to give our selves time to sail down to Braunston, pass Roy's place and carry on for a day or two, before turning around and mooring for the two weeks Roy needs to do the refit. For which time we go home to St Albans... for some serious gardening, I think!

However, the five day weather forecast says that the rest of this week will involve heavy rain, and that's not conducive to cruising – unless we don't mind getting sodden, which we do feel is best avoided on a daily basis. So it looks as if we'll simply set out on Saturday, take it easy, and get to Braunston early Monday. Until then, we await several days of canal-filling rain!

Oh, and we've just bought tickets... well, wristbands actually... for the annual Canal Boat Show at Crick in May. This is going to be something of a strange experience for us this year, because, having attended many times over the past years as would-be boat owners looking at boats for style, design and engineering ideas, we will be going as owners this year. And as such, we won't be looking nearly so much - if at all - at the boats, but rather at the things people put in boats - like a really neat toasting grill which sits over a gas hob burner, which we first saw years ago. This year, we hope to buy one. And there's the matter of TV, too, and FreeSat and... oh, all sorts of stuff. Furthermore, we'll be walking there this year!

Saturday, April 07, 2012

That waiting game again!

It seems our cruising time is to be further delayed. We are told that our mains generator is fixed, and back in England, but Sam Matts of Foxton Boat Services, the guy who's dealing with it, doesn't know when he'll be able to refit it for us. The frustrating thing is that we could happily cruise without it, but we have to stay in the marina so that he can fit it at the drop of a hat. He took it out of the boat back in October! And of course, we have to take Kantara to get her shower room rebuilt in a couple of weeks' time, too. We're hoping Sam will be able to arrange to fit the generator at the same time as that is done.

Further, our 3G router is clearly faulty, even though Westlake Communications, from whom we bought the device, say they've tested it and found nothing wrong! I've been in contact recently with the manufacturers, who admit there is a fault - although there has only been one other case - in Sweden - of this fault showing. But now, the thing either loses its signal frequently, and for several minutes at a time, or it simply switches itself off! It's very frustrating!

The day and a bit of rain earlier this week has really made a difference to the canal level, although I'm sure it won't have done much for the reservoirs. More rain is forecast for next week, though, unfortunately, it is expected here tomorrow now, too, and that's the day our kids are coming to see us (IS there a word for adult offspring??). Still, we're really looking forward to that.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Rain at last!

Well, you may think us mad, and we're really sorry if you hate the rain and it's spoiling your day, but Grace and I are delighted that it's tipping it down here, and has been since yesterday evening. It's very windy, too, rocking the boat a lot, and repeatedly blowing our 3G antenna right off the signal, and we could happily do without that. But the rain...! It sounds so good on the roof, and it has to be making some difference to the canal level.

OK, I'm not about to say I relish the thought of going out in it. In fact, we postponed a trip to the cinema this afternoon because we really didn't want to leave the cosiness of Kantara, but I'm beginning to appreciate the sentiments of a lady whose blog I looked at recently, speaking of her new experience of living in a tent in a barn! has been fascinating to me to notice not only how unharmed I remain from the ostensibly hostile elements, but in fact how much better I feel. For example, rain is usually thought to be an excellent reason to stay indoors, even if this means staying cooped up in a dim, gloomy house. But meanwhile I'm out there enjoying the song of the rain on the roof, leaves, grass, driveway, and myriad other musical surfaces! I'm amused now at the discrepancy between how pleasant it is to experience rain and the gloominess that I felt when I voluntarily limited myself to the house so as to avoid the hardships of being exposed to the rain! The beauty of the sky-water's earthbound journey, the splashes and drips and gathering into pools and rivulets... Rainy days are not inherently dark, depressing occasions, quite the contrary. It is our allegiance to the dark, disconnected house environment that make them seem so.
Likewise for temperature: I have noticed that while a warm spring day feels nice at 50ºF (10ºC), even 60ºC (15ºC) feels cold in a house.  ("The Adventures of Christopher and Rosemary")
In cold weather, Kantara starts the day colder than a house. The windows are double glazed, but there are gaps around exterior doors, and around the side hatch, and drafty ventilation grills - a health and safety requirement. We have central heating, but it takes longer to take effect than in a house. So we have got used to living in a colder environment - and it doesn't feel so bad any more, it feels normal. I surprise myself by walking across the marina after dark  without a jacket or sweater on.

But today is an exception! We'll just stay in, and stay snug, while the rain beats on the roof and walls, the boat rocks, and night draws in. My one excursion onto the starboard gunnel to tighten a loose anchoring bolt for the antenna was quite enough!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

A lazy day!

After a cold night and an oversleep, we awoke this morning to another beautiful day, warm and cloudless... but the water level continues to fall! It occurred to me as I lay in bed that, this being the Easter holiday for schools, I am now two thirds of the way through my first year of retirement. This is the life!

We enjoyed something of a lazy morning, postponing a few jobs until tomorrow, and set out at 1:00pm for a leisurely stroll to The Moorings at Crick Wharf (formerly known as Edwards) for a drink out under the sun by the canal before an excellent Sunday lunch, and the return walk.

The BBC weather forecast tells me we will have rain this week - fingers crossed.