Friday, June 29, 2012

Leicester Ring - Day 1 - really!

(Somehow, this post didn't get published when it should have - my apologies!)

So at last we set out this morning, the sky grey, but with no wind and no rain. And it got even better later, with the cloud breaking and the sun coming out. The canal was quiet. I'm amazed that we saw so few other boats cruising. The descent of Watford Locks was quick, and the five hours we did were very enjoyable.

Five hours is less that we used to do on holiday cruises, but on those we were committed to travelling a prescribed distance in the week, usually around a ring, so it was important to put on the hours then. Now, however, we have no tight schedule, so it's good to enjoy longer lunch breaks, and to moor up earlier for the overnight stay. Some of you will laugh when I tell you that, in those five hours, we covered just fifteen “lock miles”, locks and miles being measured together in that way because, on average, it will take the same amount of time to pass through a lock as it will take for the average mile. Three lock miles an hour, including our lunch break, is a good cruising speed.
Napton Junction

We had one little anxious moment when our dashboard suddenly told us that our alternator was not charging the batteries. The monitor in the electrics cupboard told us otherwise, however, and when a jiggling of the ignition keys made the warning stop, we decided there is a connection problem behind the dashboard which we will need to keep an eye on.

Meriting a mention is an Irish gentleman we passed, solo in a narrowboat, who was trying to get to grips with mooring his boat. He seemed to be in difficulties, so we asked if he could help. He cheerfully declined, laughing at his own “first-time boater” state, and pointed to an L plate he had fixed to the back of the boat. I've never seen one of those on the canals before – probably because most people aren't prepared to admit that they are beginners, for fear of looking foolish. He didn't mind – I love the attitude!

Another noteworthy is the mobile cheese shop we encountered!
Specialist in Welsh cheeses
We're moored now just short of Braunston Tunnel, and may well spend the day here tomorrow before going on to Braunston. It's a lovely spot, quiet and remote-feeling, and we ate supper on the foredeck under a warm, clear sky.

This is more like it!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Leicester Ring - Days 2 & 3

We spent the whole of yesterday moored up at that same spot just a few hundred yards from the Braunston Tunnel. The weather was good, and the mooring very peaceful. We took a walk along the towpath, and up on top of the tunnel. It's good to spend the occasional day doing very little.

And today, we made the 11 lock mile journey down to Braunston Turn, where we are moored now, and will be until Friday morning, after Roy and Colin have done their bits of work on the boat - one on each end of it!

Our mooring at Braunston Turn

Braunston Turn
In Braunston Tunnel, we encountered the most boats we have ever met in one tunnel, several of them old working boats on their way home after the Historic Boats event over the weekend. The descent of Braunston Flight was easy going, the locks all being in our favour, each one left full by a previous boat going up the flight. But the locks are all double width, and we had not met up with another boat going our way, so we went down solo, which meant that I had to manage the double gates alone - not arduous, merely more time-consuming.

Arriving at our mooring, I strolled up into Braunston for some shopping, and enjoyed the sights of this charming old village.

Ancient windmill, now flats.
So, work on Kantara starts early tomorrow, giving us the chance to take a look at a saxon church a short walk away, which, we are told, is both fascinating and beautiful.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Yesterday was a day of frequent heavy rain and unremitting strong winds. Today's shaping up to be the same. Call us soft if you wish, but there's really no point in leaving the marina while it's like this. While we might get some cruising done, we'd spend most of our time moored at the towpath, and if we're going to be stationary for that sort of time, we might as well be moored here. Cruising, whilst being very enjoyable, is not the be-all-and-end-all of why we're here. We bought the boat to live on - but we have to admit to feeling a lot of frustration at the moment because so much has stopped us from getting out and exploring the canals in our first year. Perhaps the best time to do it will be in the autumn and winter!

That said, we really have to be at Roy's mooring in Braunston by Wednesday evening, or very early Thursday morning. Tuesday is the latest we can leave here to achieve that comfortably, and it the weather's still foul then, we'll have to smile our way through it. Whether we carry on around the Leicester Ring after that, we'll decide on Friday morning.

Until then, it's reading and writing, Scrabble, TV and DVDs, music, exercise bike and Bullworker, cinema, good food and drink - and a walk or two maybe, between downpours! 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Leicester Ring - Day 2

...except it's not, of course.

We went to sleep last night listening to the rain hammering down on the steel roof above us, and awoke to a wet and windy day - probably the strongest persistent wind we've experienced since we started life on Kantara. The rain was squally, dashed against us by the wind. The water was extremely choppy, and the new satellite TV dish threatened to collapse under the force of the wind. Quite a day!

After a slow start to the day, and a lazy morning, we went to see Prometheus as planned. Gripping, action-packed, with good 3D which didn't intrude as often happens - but with a story we found rather confusing. Still, it was worth watching. Today, the screen was much more crowded, with around fifteen of us watching! (Guilty confession - today I ate my second bag of Revels in two days.)

On our way way into Rugby we passed a canal mooring, and were amazed to see another NB Kantara! Since there are only two with that name registered on the inland waterways, the chances of seeing the other one are very slim indeed!

As I type this, the weather is somewhat improved. The wind continues, but the cloud has broken, and we're getting a decent sunset. Perhaps the BBC weather forecast for the next few days will be accurate, eh?

It's looking much better for the start of the cruise!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Leicester Ring - Day 1

We're still in the marina.

It turned out that I was right - the weather forecast was pretty much wrong. It started raining last night around 11:00, and poured on and off through the night. It hardly rained a drop during the day though. So it would have been great for cruising. Except we didn't even start.

And we didn't because we got word that there is to be an Historic Boats Rally in Braunston over the weekend, and we would have got caught in very bad traffic if we had left today, as dozens and dozens of historic craft snailed their way through Watford Locks and the Braunston Flight towards Braunston Turn, which is already a busy and crowded junction. It just wouldn't have been much fun, and is best avoided. We'll start on Monday now, and just do less of a detour beyond Braunston than we would have done, before winding and returning there by the end of Wednesday.

We went to the pictures instead, to watch "Snow White and the Huntsman" - very entertaining! Tomorrow we see "Prometheus". Some months ago, we exchanged loads of Tesco vouchers for six pairs of Cineworld tickets, and still had three pairs left this morning. They expire at the end of July, so we need to fit in some viewings. It's fun, going to the cinema in the middle of the afternoon. Today was typical - we shared the screen with three other couples!

Oh! It's just started hammering down with rain!

Fingers crossed

We've all come to accept that the weather forecasts in the UK are no longer as unreliable as they used to be - they are worse! So I don't give too much credence to the BBC's assertion that the next four days are going to be rainy (though my fingers are tightly crossed).

In the light of that, we're setting out tomorrow for our first real cruise - around the Leicester Ring, clockwise.
  • We'll head off south down the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union Canal to Norton Junction, west along to Braunston Turn, and off towards Napton Junction. Somewhere around there we'll have to about-turn to get back to Braunston for next Thursday, where we'll be stopping off for a day for Roy to fit new bow deck seating/locker covers, and Colin to fit a new battery charger, and repair a stern deck hatch cover.
  • On the Friday, we'll turn north up the Oxford Canal, through Rugby
  • turning north at the junction with the Coventry Canal, and on through Nuneaton, Atherstone and Tamworth
  • joining the Birmingham and Fazely Canal and continuing north
  • to rejoin the Coventry Canal to Fradley Junction.
  • Here, we go east onto the Trent and Mersey Canal, bearing north and on through Burton Upon Trent.
  • After a short trip along the River Trent, we head south on the River Soar
  • rejoining the Grand Union through Loughborough and Leicester, and beyond.
  • Days later at Foxton Locks, we turn right and head back to the marina.
We have no idea how long this will take us - that's part of the fun!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Back on Kantara

Thursday morning was dental checkups and hygienist treatments and gardening. Friday was service and MoT for the car, and gardening. Saturday was shopping and gardening. Sunday afternoon was the annual Redbourn Folk and Blues Festival.

The location was perfect, the weather was perfect (it often threatened to rain on this outdoor gathering, but didn't once), the attendance was excellent, the music was mostly good, spirits were high, food and drink available in abundance, and, best of all, Said the Maiden were phenomenal! Steve recorded them, and Naomi photographed and videod them. What a good way to spend Father's Day!

Said the Maiden is a folk trio of our daughter Jess and two friends, Hannah and Kathy, who hadn't even formed this time last year. They now have a good following, an excellent and ever-growing repertoire of folk songs, a good deal of club experience in and around London and the Three Counties (Beds, Herts & Bucks), and a demo CD in preparation. Visit their website, and follow them on Twitter - they have a great deal of potential, and should go far.

We're back on the boat now. The weather is calm and warm, and we're planning our first proper cruise, to start in the next few days. Fingers crossed for lots of good weather. Feeling lazy this evening, we're off to The George for a meal.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I know it won't last, but... the end of a largely dry, although chilly, day, I took these photos between 9:30 and 9:50 this evening - and it was mild!

The mist was rolling out across the water, birds were still singing, and the smell of the evening air was wonderful!

Monday, June 11, 2012

And then... rained! All day!

It's only a few months ago that we were told that we needed several months of persistent, heavy rain for the reservoirs to be replenished. Today, we drove past the Drayton Reservoir in Daventry, and I can't imagine that it can get much fuller. 

It's been very wet recently, but nothing like the amount of rain the doom-and-gloomers were talking about, yet this large lake is full. And some parts of the UK are experiencing serious flooding. I really think it's about time it stopped and gave us some summer!
Welsh campsite, photo BBC News

Welsh road, photo BBC News
So, once again, we spent much of the day in Kantara, feeling very cosy and dry. We ventured out to Daventry to pick up some light switches we had ordered - the brass plating on a couple in the boat has become severely worn. A TV for the boat arrives tomorrow, and the satellite receiver kit will be waiting for us when we get back to St Albans on Wednesday (car service and MoT, and dental check-ups), so we'll soon be able to watch TV like normal people!
When we return from St Albans, we intend to do some cruising - don't laugh!

...and then it was still

We awoke this morning to stillness. The boat wasn't being blown about. There was no rain hammering on the roof. All was still.

The boat which had been pinned to this service platform had finally been able to leave...

and moored boats had ceased to jostle with each other. 

The owner of the canoe had bailed several inches of rainwater out of it...

and I was able to photograph this flag iris without fighting against the wind.

It was a good day, and we got several jobs done.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Weather - still!

We've been battered by very strong winds and torrential rain for days now - thank God we're in the marina, and not out on the cut! I really feel for holidaymakers who have to be back at their hire company's base by a certain time and day, meaning that they do not have the luxury of stopping and waiting for the weather to abate. The photo shows the waves across the marina pound. The boat moored to the service platform has been there since first thing this morning. Moving away from there in winds like this would be next to impossible.

Of course, the good thing is that the canals and the reservoirs are being replenished. The current question is when will the weather be good enough for cruising to be safe?

Wednesday was a day of some drama. Firstly, I did the thing I've been fearing ever since we got the boat - I dropped keys into the canal! The car keys. It would have been no problem had it been any of the boat keys, because they're sensibly attached to cork floats - but not the car ones. I tried dangling a magnet on the end of a cord into the murky waters, but discovered  that my magnet - not purchased for the job - was simply not powerful enough to pick up that weight. Fortunately a fellow-boater lent me his, very much more powerful magnet, and a few minutes of dragging that over the canal bottom where I believed the bunch to be, resulted in their safe retrieval. The "zapper" on the keyring was dismantled and subjected to scrupulous drying by Grace, and worked fine the next time I needed it.

The second drama was the explosive demise of the microwave oven. It had been emitting a very loud crack of lightening inside it every now and then for some weeks. Wednesday's display was its last, and it's now waiting in the car to be disposed of appropriately. We braved the weather, and did some shopping this afternoon, so a quick visit to Argos resulted in a replacement microwave oven.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

OK, OK, I know I was wishing for rain some weeks ago, but this seems just a little silly for June!

Full details are here.

Still, the canal level is very high, although I believe the reservoirs still need a lot of replenishing, so our wishes there have come true. There is one neighbouring moorer who doesn't like the rain, and blames me for it!

It's cold, too! And windy! I really feel for folk at the final day of the Boat Show - it was dreadful on Sunday, too. Still, it's snug and dry in Kantara. We've got the stove on today, but only because we have washing to get dry. It is cold out there, for the time of year, but we're having to have doors and windows open to stop overheating!

So it's Scrabble and DVDs and odd jobs. We're in no hurry - I gave that up when I retired!

Yesterday evening, there was a barbecue here for moorers, and it was another excellent opportunity to get to know each other, and to chat. Two hours of chat and food and drink, followed by two hours of quiz. Lots of fun, lots of laughs. A marquee full of boaters... and it was clear and sunny outside! Ironic, or what?