Friday, September 27, 2013

Cruise to Warwick with Christine and Mike - return journey

Friday, 20th September - day 6 We had seen a demonstration of the use of crossbows and longbows (and other assorted medieval weapons) at the castle on Thursday, and the man responsible - a man of no mean skill with the bows, and a good knowledge of history) spoke of nearby St Mary's Church as being "the finest in Europe". While I took this to be hyperbole founded in his ignorance of all of the churches across so many lands, we all thought that it sounded worth a visit, so we set out back to the town to do some sightseeing.

Much to our disappointment, we found St Mary's closed for three days for the filming of a couple of episodes of "Songs of Praise". The best we got was a look down the nave through a glass wall just inside the west door. Grace and I will have to visit by car some time.

Returning to Kantara, we had lunch, then made our way the few miles to Bugbrooke Junction with the Salford Arm, where we winded and started our return journey to Yelvertoft.

We ended our day in the lovely rural setting of Bull Lane Bridge, no. 34.

On Saturday, we got off to a late start, stopping soon at Fosse Wharf for services. There we met an Anglo-Welsh hire boat which had broken down - overheated, with much water in the bilges. How very annoying for them. They can't have been out for more than two days.

We had an early lunch above Fosee Top Lock. The weather was warm and sunny as we climbed Bascote Locks, and we were hot and sticky when we moored past Bascote Bridge, no. 27.

An hotel boat
Sunday was hot and sunny from the start. We moved on to Little Itchington where the other three went to the local Co-Op for supplies, and I rested a back which was threatening to be a pain. The canal was really busy, and everyone was enjoying the improved weather. We had lunch at that spot, then ascended Calcutt Locks on far better weather than that in which we had gone down some days earlier. We went singly again. The weight of traffic was headed the other way from us.

Turning left at Napton Junction into that beautiful, wide stretch of the GU, we went to bridge 103, where we moored for the night.

Monday, 23rd - my 62nd birthday! The sky was full of white cloud, but the air was still, and it wasn't at all cold. Mike spent the day at the tiller under the watchful eye of Grace. He took us on to Braunston, then left onto the Oxford Canal. We had time to spare, so decided to do a bit of a detour here, before getting back to Yelvertoft. It was lovely to be on the Oxford again. It really is a beautiful canal at this point. 

We stopped for lunch at bridge 81, west of Barby, then moved on to the winding at Torry's Bridge, where we turned and returned to bridge 81 for overnight mooring.

We felt very sorry for a young man who stopped running to ask us if we knew exactly where we were. He was part of the crew of a hire boat waiting for him down in Braunston. They had left a windlass at the top of Napton Locks, and he was going back, hopefully to retrieve it. Unfortunately, we had to tell him that he had just run three miles up the wrong canal!

On Tuesday morning, we headed back to Braunston, the weather mild but overcast. We stopped to take on water, then moved on to moor outside Braunston Marina before having lunch at The Gongoozlers' Rest - the best bacon, cheese and mushroom toasties imaginable!

On to the Braunston Flight now, singly again, with Christine and me locking in increasingly hot and weather. Waiting for the bottom lock to fill - very slowly - I nipped in to the Boat Shop, jokingly to suggest to the proprietor that he had done something to the lock to slow it down, thus allowing boaters more time to buy more goods from his shop. Not recognising the humour, he assured me that he'd done no such thing, and that the lock had got slower over the years without any help!

We moored just a few hundred yards short of Norton Junction. It was a sunny, warm evening.

Wednesday started mistily, giving the canal an air of mystery.

With time on our hands now, Grace navigated slowly to the Junction and turned left onto the Leicester Line. The locks were ready for us to ascend. We stopped at the top for services, then made our way very slowly to Crick Tunnel. We moored past bridge 11. Later that evening, Christine and Mike took us for an excellent meal at The Moorings.

On Thursday, we left Crick fairly late, travelling the last few miles to Yelvertoft in twice the time it would normally take. We arrived at the marina in something of a strong breeze, but Grace took her time and backed Kantara into her berth with no problem. 60 miles and 76 locks. Christine and Mike left to return to Torquay within the hour. We'd had a really good time together. Our thanks to both of them for sharing it with us. See you next year, guys!

Cruise to Warwick with Christine and Mike - outward journey

Grace's sister and brother-in-law spent a week with us last year, and wanted to spend longer when they visited us this time. They hadn't visited Warwick before, so we planned a leisurely trip there, with a focus on the castle. They arrived around 7:00pm on Saturday 14th, in time to take part in the marina barbecue and quiz.

Prior to that, there had been a treasure hunt, in which teams of four looked for the subjects of 20 photographs taken in and around Yelvertoft. We were paired with Gordon and Jackie from NB Media Noche. The hunt had been very well organised, and it was a lot of fun. Our team was the last to get back, but lost convincingly, despite the extra time we took! No matter - we had met Gordon and Jackie, and spent an enjoyable couple of hours with them.

With Christine and Mike we fared better in the quiz, and came joint second. It was a really good evening. It was good to meet Martin from NB Margin (Martin & Ginny), who is a reader of this blog.

I left a while before the end of the quiz, to return to the boat and light the stove. It was a chilly evening. When the others returned, we spend ages catching up with each others' news, and went to bed late.

There were strong rumours on Saturday of strong winds and heavy rain the next day, and it certainly didn't look very good at around 10:00 Sunday morning, turning quite unpleasant after a bright and sunny start. Nonetheless, we left the marina at about 11:00, with Grace navigating the exit smoothly despite strong gusts of wind. There were rain showers on and off throughout the day.

At Watford Locks, there were only two boats ahead of us, so our descent was quick. We were surprised, however, to find twelve boats waiting at the bottom of the flight. On our way down, we met Gordon, Chris, Gary and Barry from Yelvertoft, bringing a boat back up from Rugby to Yelvertoft because the owner had been taken ill.

We stopped off at around bridge 5 for lunch, then moved on to Norton Junction, turning right and mooring almost immediately at bridge 9. We enjoyed an evening of dinner, wine (Christine and Mike had brought an excellent mixed case of 12 bottles) and chat, and went to bed relatively early.

Monday morning was sunny, with a blue sky, although the wind continued to blow strongly, and there were several showers on and off after a few hours, some of them really quite heavy, and it was cold because of the wind. Undaunted, however, we made off to Braunston Tunnel.

Surprisingly, there were more boats on the canal than we had expected, and we had four boats approach and pass in the tunnel, two of them striking us as they tried to pass with too much space to starboard. Coming to Braunston Locks, we paired with NB Ivy, and, finding each successive lock set in our favour, we descended in good time.

We moored by Braunston Marina for lunch and a quick trip to the shop for food supplies.

From there, on to Braunston Turn where we turned left and made our way to bridge 100 - a favourite mooring spot of mine - where we moored for the night. The weather now was very good, and the sunlight on the fields quite golden.

It was good to meet the owner of NB Salamader, who, with his wife, had been out cruising since April, and covered many miles since.

Tuesday, too, started in good weather. The wind had dropped considerably, so it was warmer, but the clouds started to build as we moved on. This stretch of the Grand Union is really lovely, the canal winding its way through beautiful farming countryside. It was pleasing to see so many other craft afloat - far more than we had seen back in the first week of June.

When we arrived at the top of Calcutt Locks, it was raining hard. We pulled over at Calcutt Boats yard to buy a bottle of gas. Our bottle had run out earlier, and I discovered then that the second bottle seemed also to be empty. Now, removing them both, I found that the second was actually full, but not releasing gas. I bought a replacement for the empty one, and tried in vain to exchange the apparently faulty one.

courtesy of
We stayed where we were for lunch, and started down the three locks when the rain had slowed. The rain persisted, however, and we arrived at Stockton Locks in a drizzle which turned heavy and started to soak us.

Mike and I locked, and we made good progress, catching up with NB Amicus at lock 9 and sharing the rest of the flight with them. We moored at Bickley's Bridge, no. 26, lit the stove, turned it up high, and opened the windows, to dry the boat, us and our clothes! We went to bed warm and dry.

It was interesting to note that CanalPlan's suggested itinerary was working out perfectly so far.

Wednesday was colder again, but without rain, and showing some sun, especially towards the end of the day.

The canal was wide and very pleasant. Bascote Locks were only our second encounter with a staircase in which the water flowed directly from one chamber to the next without the side pounds such as can be found at Watford and Foxton.

It occurred to me too late that I could have let an ascending boat into the bottom chamber as Kantara entered the top, with the two boats passing each other when they reached the same level. The crew of the other boat didn't think of it either, so they waited until we left the bottom gate of the pair.

Next came the Radford Locks, six locks over three miles. On the way down, we we dropped off rubbish at Bascombe Bridge, no. 27, and availed ourselves of other services at Fosse Wharf. We had lunch on the other side of the canal from there before completing the locks.

We stopped at Leamington Spa (Royal!), for Grace and Christine to go food shopping, and Mike to look for a solar charger for his mobile phone. Mike and Christine wanted to take us out for a meal, and had found "The Grand Union" in The Gourmet Society list, but it didn't look at all inviting - nor did the town itself - so we moved on to Warwick as soon as we could. 

We stopped for the night around bridge 49, where Grace and I spent ages trying to moor the boat where mooring rings were inconveniently placed, and the bank curved equally awkwardly.

The day ended under a beautiful sunset.

We spent Thursday in Warwick. The weather wasn't best for visiting the castle. We walked there in drizzle, and it turned to heavy rain while we were queuing for the tickets (free, courtesy of Tesco vouchers), but we were able to keep fairly dry by exploring the inside of the castle when it rained, and doing out-door viewing in the dry gaps. And the rain eased off in the afternoon. It was a good day, and we were able to see everything which wasn't specifically child-orientated.


The return stroll through the town was fascinating, with Tudor buildings nestling among Edwardian and Victorian. A guitar shop had a beautiful resonator bouzouki for sale - most unusual.

We stayed a further night in Warwick.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Doh! Grace has discovered that the Boat-Painting Course is full, so that's off our agenda now.

The mouse traps continued to be "unused". Yet the droppings still appeared. Do the local mice not like peanut butter? Then, as I was picking another bowlful of tomatoes yesterday, two fat caterpillars fell out of the plants - instantly becoming fish-food! It dawned on me, and I went to Google and searched for "caterpillar droppings". You'd never imagine just how many pictures of caterpillar poo there are on the web! And yes, the droppings are from these little beasties and their mates. How they manage to produce poo the size of mouse droppings beats me, but that's what it is on our roof. I'll have to make daily searches for more of the little pests now.

OK, so this is NOT a tomato plant; this is just for sake of illustration.
I really could't bring myself to take photos of caterpillar poo.
Does anyone need a pair of unused mouse traps - of the fatal type?

Having slept for only two and a half hours on Monday night, I woke up and knew I'd not be able to get back to sleep again. The pain in my ribs was mild by the standard set on Sunday night, but it was far too much to allow slumber, so I got up, went into the saloon, wrapped myself in a spare duvet and read for hours - with bouts of getting up and wandering around, because sitting wasn't too comfortable either. I think I might have dozed off at around 6:30am - just half an hour before I normally wake. At 8:00, I was on the phone to Crick Medical Practice. I had to register as a patient (for three months) over the phone, then they offered me an appointment at 10:20.

I was seen promptly by a very pleasant lady doctor who was duly thorough in her questioning and examination. Having ruled out the possible nasties - aneurism, pleurisy, heart attack or angina - she agreed with me that the pain was being caused by inflammation of cartilage and/or muscle in my ribcage - costochondritis. A course of Ibuprofen should put it right. We had none of that on the boat (otherwise I would have been taking it), so we stopped off at the shop on our way back, to get some. I took four single-tablet doses during the day, went to bed with absolutely no pain, and had a very sound night's sleep. The painlessness continues today. I even did a 10km cycle this morning. Phew! I'll be able to do next week's cruise.