Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Cosgrove to Stoke Bruerne (cruise retrospective)

It was warmer today. It must have been. I only wore five layers of clothing. But the sun was out, the sky was blue, and all was well in our world. Up the shallow Cosgrove Lock, and a stop above for services while Grace nipped into a nearby shop for bread and milk.
Today's journey was very rural. The canal is wide and river-like. There were few boats on the move. Tiny ducklings and coot chicks peeped around their paddling parents. Little lambs and their dams white-dotted the fields, and the fresh, sweet smell of rape filled the air. It was perfect. Even when I had to add that sixth layer!

Thrupp Wharf, Yardley Gobion, Grafton Regis - getting the Regis bit from Henry VIII who owned a manor house there. Six miles of peaceful countryside canal. That's about two hours, remember!

Not knowing what delays we might encounter as we climbed the five locks into Stoke Bruerne, we had lunch at the visitor moorings below the bottom lock. One of the delays might well have been NB Primrose, whom we knew to be ahead of us. We'd passed Foxglove not long before, but they had turned, and were now on their way back to the Wyverne base. But there they were, the Americans, busying themselves with filling their water tank and discarding rubbish at the service point close to the lock. They weren't going to slow our ascent, then. Up we went!

A vollie we met three locks up told Grace that the Primrose crew had seen the flight of locks, asked a lot of questions about it, then decided it was too much work for them. So they'd winded and were ready to follow Foxglove back to Leighton Buzzard. It was a shame, we thought. If we'd been there at the time, they could have come up with us. It would have been much easier for them that way.

Dense, dark blue clouds started to threaten us as we did the locks, and it started to rain as we moored below the second lock down. Excellent timing. And a lovely place to moor for the night. We were only a short walk from The Navigation Inn, and the rain had stopped in time for us to go and enjoy a good meal there later. 

Three photos from our windows

"There's no such thing as bad weather..." (cruise retrospective)

"...only unsuitable clothing.” (Alfred Wainwright) Which is why I wore six layers of clothing today, from T-shirt, through shirt, pullover, fleece, and another fleece to a cagoule. With a body-warmer standing by just in case. And I was warm. But the weather was very cold indeed, and we had several spells of snow and hail, and the wind gusted icily. But there were times when the sun broke through, pulling blue sky along behind it. Weather, eh?

We started today's trip behind a couple of Wyverne hire boats. The first, NB Foxglove, pulled away from the second as they left the bottom of Stoke Hammond Lock. The second, NB Foxglove, was clearly being driven by a novice. No surprise there. Every boater has to have their first trip, and for most, that'll be on a hire boat. It was for us. But what do you do if you're rather more expert, and the newbie is driving very slowly indeed, and finding bridges very difficult? It's very frustrating having to dawdle, even when you're not in a hurry. They wouldn't move over to let us past. The skipper kept looking nervously over his shoulder. We hung back. We didn't want to apply any pressure, to stress him. He's on holiday. He's meant to be enjoying himself. We sighed, smiled, and dawdled.
The two Wyverne boats shared Fenny Stratford Lock, aided by the owner of an old, battered boat moored nearby, and myself. I do believe that the American crew of slow Primrose thought we were paid hands. The two of us had a chuckle over that. They left the setting of the lock to us, and sailed off, and Grace brought Kantara down. The two hire-boats were out of sight by now, but we passed the Americans mooring not long afterwards. It came as something of a relief not to be following them any more.

Milton Keynes was next. I like Milton Keynes. The canal passes almost entirely through attractive parkland and woods. The water's clean, the miles of footpath are clean, too, and there's no graffiti. While there are stretches where mooring would be difficult or even impossible because there is neither armco nor grass verge, there are plenty of very good places to stop for the night, or several days if you wanted to.

But for a change, we carried on out of the city, passed bridge 75 where we've moored several times before, and on to Cosgrove. Here we stopped, just a few hundred yards from the lock.

NB Foxglove passed us not long afterwards. The Americans crawled past two hours later.
Views from our windows

Just a brief post - London cruise photos

Grace has just finished this gallery of her photos of our journey through London. Enjoy!

Grove Lock to Stoke Hammond (cruise retrospective)

We slept late. Yesterday had been unusually enervating for some reason. But no matter. We're in no hurry. Except for the slight pressure to leave before Jules leaves.

Late yesterday afternoon, two Jules Fuels boats came down Grove Lock and moored outside the pub (see photo above). They travel together, tied together for the main part, and we didn't want them to get ahead of us and slow our progress. So we were glad to set off towards Linslade and Leighton Buzzard.

The weather was cold, bitterly so at times, with a persistent gusty winds and some nasty, albeit briefish downpours of icy rain. I ended up wearing the same layers of clothing as I'd worn when travelling from Debdale to Yelvertoft in the snow of March 2013. Crazy weather!

Shortly after leaving Grove Lock, we moored at Leighton Buzzard Tesco to do a bit of shopping. Later, as we prepared to cast off, the Jules boats arrived, and moored behind us. What a good job we hadn't dillied at Grove Lock. Or dallied, for that matter!
It was raining, windy and chilly, and we were only one hour away from what we'd normally call lunchtime. There's a two-hour limit to the Tesco moorings, so we moved on just a quarter of a mile or so, past the Wyverne Boats yard, and moored again. We decided that it'd be best for us to eat early and spend the rest of the afternoon in uninterrupted travel. Fingers crossed that Jules would be shopping for long enough for us to have lunch!

We arrived at Leighton Lock less than an hour later, to see NB Suchar Daval pulling away from the bottom gates. She hadn't passed us recently, so she must have only just moved from their overnight mooring, probably having already driven their car on the next leapfrog, and cycled back. We waved as we passed them tying up again, below the lock, perhaps for watering.
photo - chalicecruises.blogspot.co.uk
We passed NB Naughty Lass round about here, too, but Robbie was not to be seen. 

Soulbury Three Locks next, where we found no less than four vollies, who saw us down the flight. I stood at the middle lock, and watched with interest as the bottom paddles were raised, and water flooded into the middle pound.

I came down this flight two years ago, with Jess, and we watched frozen with horror as the water rose in the pound until it overflowed the walls and and ran across towards the doors of The Three Locks pub. It was only the combination of Jess dropping the paddles while I fled down to open the top paddles of the bottom lock that averted disaster.

Today, I watched the start of the same flood. But today, there were vollies waiting at the bottom lock, and when the water started to overflow the gates, they calmly opened the paddles, and there was not even the threat of a flood. I suggested to the nearest vollie that it might be a good idea for CRT to put notices up to warn boaters of the danger, and instruct them in how to avoid it. How on earth would a canal newbie, a hirer from nearby Wyverne, perhaps, know?
photo - geograph.org.uk
We pressed on to Stoke Hammond Lock, where we'd now decided we would moor and escape the cold wind and rain. We met NB Achenar moored just above the lock. They've been out cruising for some weeks now, but like to travel slowly, often staying at one mooring for several days. We hooted as we drifted past them, and Phil came out to chat while we waited for a pair of boats to come up the locks. Determined to do just one more lock, we descended, and moored for the night a few hundred yards further down.

It was cold. Silly-wooly-hat cold.
photo - www.sierratradingpost.com

Monday, May 30, 2016

A lovely way to spend a Bank Holiday (real time)

Spring Bank Holiday. One of the nation's eight annual major opportunities for torrential rain. But this year, we didn't get it. OK, it wasn't fabulously warm and sunny, either, but we've had worse! And Saturday morning was positively pleasant as we drove off to the Crick Boat Show.

It was packed! We were there as the gates opened at 10:00, and very glad that we'd bought our admission wristbands in advance. We joined a fast-moving queue of those who had pre-paid and simply had to show their bands to an official as we walked past. Those wishing to pay at the gate had to wait a long time.

It's a few years since we were last at the show. We went this time with a shopping list, and had seen and done all we needed to within four hours. I bought a sun hat, hoping upon hope that I'd actually have need of it in the coming months. Grace bought some more, beautiful glass earrings from The Glass Barge, who had made some to order for her a couple of years ago. I got a windlass, recovered from a canal and refurbished - nice idea! And we bought a pair of 10 metre ropes to replace our manky centre ropes. And we bought a pair of bath towels. A bit mundane, you might think, but these are made of a lightweight fabric which absorbs water very well, but dries very quickly. And dry, the towels roll up into a very small roll.

There were some major investigations to do, too, and we spent time looking into the possibility of replacing our ancient and probably not very efficient (to be tested!) solar panels. We found some exactly the same, and these would be able to be fitted on the existing roof brackets. Useful. We also chatted with Mike from Debdale Marina about his molten zinc spray process, which we're considering having done to Kantara.

And then there was the not inconsiderable matter of the replacement inverter. We knew exactly which model we wanted, so it was simply a matter of sourcing it at the lowest price possible. It's pricey.

But our very first quote was way less than we had expected, and we left the stand with a business card bearing the scribbled details; make, model and price. No-one could match it, so we returned to the dealer just before leaving, to make the purchase.

"I made a bit of a mistake", said the man, sheepishly.

Despite our frequent references to the name and numbers involved in the description of the inverter (and he did frequently have to be corrected when he talked about the 24v model instead of the 12v one) and despite the fact that he had written the correct details on the card he gave us, he had given us a price below the price he paid for it, and no less than £400 below his retail price. But he's a man of his word, and he honoured the agreement! What a gent, and what a bargain we got!

Our friend Michelle arrived at the marina an hour or so after we got back to the boat, and we set off almost straight away to make the most of the time she had with us. We were only shortly out of the marina when a lady on a moored boat waved as we passed, calling out to us that she'd read "Life with our feet under water", and follows this blog. Unfortunately, we'd passed, and it was too late for me to see the boat name.

"Keep up the good work!" she shouted. How nice of her!

We only got as far as bridge 27, but it's a lovely place to stop, and we spent the night there. It was an evening of good food and drink, chat and card games. A nearby cuckoo declared very loudly and repeatedly that it was spring. We enjoyed a night of peaceful sleep. This is a very quiet spot.

On Sunday morning, we made our way to the Welford Arm, where we moored outside the marina. I'd booked a table at The Wharf Inn, and we enjoyed an excellent Sunday lunch there. Towards the end of the afternoon, we left the Arm, and moored for the night just south of the junction.

And this morning, we returned to Yelvertoft. We met a couple of famous boats on the way. Derwent 6, Del and Al, have been boating and blogging since 2006. Veterans, one might say.
SUNDAY, MARCH 26, 2006Boat BuilderWhere do we start! At the moment we are researching boat builders (shells & fit out) and planning to make a decision at the end of this week. We need to start the ball rolling if we are to realise our dream!POSTED BY DEL AND AL AT 7:37 PM 0 COMMENTS
They waved cheerfully as we passed each other.
photo - nbalbert.blogspot.com
photo - nbalbert.blogspot.com
Grace had seen that NB Phyllis May 2 was up for sale recently. She was the second NB Phyllis May owned by author and lunatic adventurer Terry Darlington, whose books we've read.
photo - narrowdog.com
We met this boat, still very clean and shiny, despite her adventures. at a bridge. As you do. As we passed each other, Grace called out to the skipper,
"Terry Darlington's boat?"

"Yes!", cried the skipper. "Just bought her!" Then he recognized us. "Kantara! I've read your book!"

We passed another boat, moored, called "Enterprise". Grace commented that if we'd bought her, she'd have painted stars on the sides. I'd have had to call myself Captain Zlog.
The weather was chilly and dull, but the countryside was beautiful. We felt sorry for those at the Crick Show today.

Michelle left us after lunch, with fingers crossed for an easy journey home, back down the M1 and M25. It had not been so good on Saturday. She'd needed the break, and it'd been really good to share it with her. It was a great weekend.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Tring Reservoir to Grove Lock (cruise retrospective)

I forgot to tell you yesterday about the strange sign we saw on the towing-path. From CRT, addressed to anglers. I missed taking a photo, but it looked very much like this.
Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that there's another couple of arrows, one either side of this, some tens of metres away. But there were none, I swear, and Grace will vouch for it. So I can imagine that anglers really aren't too bothered about the restriction being imposed by this!

Cruising today was purely functional. If we weren't quite so keen to get back to the marina and get our inverter replaced, then we would have stayed where we were this morning. The day has been really cold, with quite a strong wind, and if there were not the urgency, the reservoir would have been an excellent place to be.

Before we left this morning, we got chatting with the couple on board NB Suchar Daval, moored nearby.

It's not unusual for boaters to have their car with them as they cruise. And bikes, too. And what they do, and what this couple were doing, is to leapfrog the boat and the car. Today, the two of them drove their car from the reservoir car park to Leighton Buzzard, and parked it there. Then they got their bikes out of the boot and cycled back up the towing-path to their boat. Tomorrow, they'll take the boat to Leighton Buzzard, and drive the car on another step. They passed us on their way back when we were at Seabrook Lock. They'd driven to Leighton Buzzard and cycled back that far - about six miles - in the time it took us to navigate five locks and two miles.

It was a dull day, and the countryside through which we passed just didn't have the zing that a late April ought to give it, so we were glad when we exited Grove Lock and moored up for the night. There's a good pub back at the lock, and I've booked a table.
(3 hours later) The Grove Lock Inn is excellent! A very good Sunday Lunch is available until 7:00pm. It's highly recommended.

NB Suchar Daval went down the lock while we were eating, on their way to Leighton Buzzard. We were glad to be where we were.