Monday, 22 May 2017

We're here

I'll keep this short because, as expected, the internet connection here is spasmodic and slow. Today went according to plan and we got here before half ten. The moorings are already fully marked out and reserved and we've gone straight on to ours. We have a stranger boat outside us and four Braidbars in two pairs ahead of us, right at the end of Zone 1, the decent stuff.

There's no 3 or EE signal, some giff gaff but without much data speed and a fluctuating Vodafone signal, wandering from GPRS all the way up to 4G. I've bought some extra Voda data for this month and will use that as needed. I won't blog every day – when we're not boating it's hardly needed anyway – but I will try and get an odd post up from time to time.

Oh, and there is some connection with the marina wifi but it requires a passcode, not surprisingly, which we don't have.


Sunday, 21 May 2017

Up Watford

We had a very pleasant evening yesterday entertaining Tony and Margaret though it meant a bit of a late bedtime for us all. Since one of the penalties of getting old is that you can't sleep in like you used to, we're both a bit dopey today. Nonetheless, it's gone well. We hung about on the mooring until about a quarter to ten, then Sheila boated us round to Weltonfield and reversed Sanity Again onto their service wharf.

When they opened at ten, we had a pump out and filled the diesel tank as planned. You can make any declaration you like for the diesel, which is good, but the pump out was £20 which is less so. It was a decent pump out, but nothing special. The staff are friendly though which always helps.

Half an hour later we were off again. I made us a coffee each whilst Sheila took us to the foot of Watford where we found a couple of boats, including Mei Long, waiting at the bottom and another in the pound below the staircase. There was just one boat coming down, so it wasn't long before the convoy was moving upwards. Two volockies were on hand to keep us all in order, though one of them told me that they do have a problem with people who ignore all the signs and start up the flight without booking in. We saw a bit of this today, to the irritation of a hire boat waiting to come down and who kept being told "after the third boat, no, after the fourth... fifth... sixth boat".

The crew did have the sense to turn out and help work us all up, a good example of the way hirers are often more considerate boaters than privateers.

By the time we cleared the top it was gone twelve, but we soon found a mooring between Bridges 7 and 8, albeit after having to abandon our first attempt for lack of depth. The Armco near 8 is newer and thus more recently dredged than the stuff immediately through 7.

Tomorrow, we'll start the engine whilst breakfasting and get a wash load going before setting off. On arrival at Crick, we'll go on the water point and fill that tank to the top. We shall thus have full fuel and water tanks and an empty toilet tank, together with a complete collection of clean clothes. Hopefully, this means we won't have to worry about moving for the week leading up to and including the show.

The phone signals are always a bit dicey here and it varies from year to year. We presently have a bit of Vodafone, both voice and data, and a half decent EE data signal which I'm using for this. There's also a giff gaff signal but I don't have that SIM in a wifi capable phone. The situation will probably be different again when we get to Crick. I'll try and do at least a brief blog on arrival, but don't be alarmed if you don't hear from me until a week tomorrow!

Location:Watford Gap

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Pressing on to Norton Junction

It's been another day that went pretty well to plan. We got going in very good time and were on the Stop House water point before eight. Whilst the tank was filling we had time to eat breakfast and drink a cup of coffee/hot chocolate. Then it was on to the foot of the locks. Union Canal Carriers were busy shuffling boats all over the place (situation normal) but there was still room, just about, for us to tie on the lock landing, so called.

Actually, this meant tying the stern line to a ring and us taking it in turns to hold the centreline, there being no other bollard or ring available. After about 15 minutes, a shortish boat called Phoenix turned up and shared up the locks with us. It was my turn to boat and Sheila's to lock – she had a fairly easy time of it with most of the locks with us. We crossed with a couple of boats coming down into the bargain.

Similarly, we crossed with a couple of boats in the tunnel, neither in the dog leg, fortunately. The first was no problem, but the second had a stupid great tunnel light, pointing directly forward, so that by the time I reached him, I was too dazzled see Sanity Again's bow and we brushed past each other with a bit of a bump. Please, folks, it's not a motorway in there, you only need enough illumination to see the sides of the tunnel maybe twenty feet ahead of the boat.

We've come through the junction and tied on the moorings just a bit up the Leicester Section. This afternoon, we took a walk along to Weltonfield to check what time they open in the morning (10 o'clock) and to collect some more kindling.

Back at the boat, we decided to take our windlasses down the Buckby flight and see if we could see the Braidbar showboat, Mei Long, coming up. Instead, we found that they'd already arrived here and were tied a couple of boats behind us. We've had a very pleasant afternoon drinking coffee with Tony and Margaret and looking through their beautiful boat. It's always a relief to find that you really like the boat you're going to be showing people through!

Tomorrow, we'll go into Weltonfield to get a pump out and fill the diesel tank before carrying on up the Watford flight to tie between Bridges 7 and 8.

Location:Norton Junction

Friday, 19 May 2017

Another wet one

Another soggy day, but hopefully our last in Braunston for the time being. We had a good meal last night – the Old Plough seems to have changed hands or managers again. Last time we were in there, a few years back, a couple of lads had just taken over and it showed with a rather amateur feel to it. Either they've improved or been replaced as it felt much better last night.

In addition, they were offering this steak meal deal of two rump steaks with the usual accompaniments, plus a bottle of house wine, for £24.95. I asked for red and had a choice of Merlot, Shiraz or Malbec. We went for the Malbec which proved to be entirely acceptable – not the best it can be, but perfectly good plonk.

I ordered a nachos starter which Sheila shared with me – just as well, one each would have been too much. The steaks were cooked as we'd asked and the only down side as far as I was concerned were the chips, which I thought odd and soggy but which Sheila liked. All in all, a very pleasant casual meal out.

We had a lazy start this morning to the sound of the rain on the roof. It's never completely let up, but did ease off enough in the late morning to let us get up to the village one more time for a second session at the butcher. He now stocks a good range of local veg, so we bought a selection of those with some more meat.

We've stayed on board since then, looking out at some very damp sheep and boaters going by, some in the field opposite and some on the cut, fortunately the right way round. We've not been totally idle. I had an idea for another quiz round, stimulated by something I'd read in the Indy as so often, and put ten questions together.

Sheila has advanced my Guernsey right up to closing the shoulder seams in the arcane way used for that kind of jumper – she's always glad to get it done successfully.

Tomorrow, an early start to the water point, before the Saturday hordes descend on it. We'll have breakfast whilst filling up then move on to wait for a locking partner at the bottom of the flight.


Thursday, 18 May 2017

Taking advantage of better weather

It's been a very different sort of day today. We woke this morning to bright sun which persisted into the afternoon, though it's clouded over now, presumably because of the vast amount of moisture steaming back up from the sodden fields.

We've put this weather to good use, walking up to the village first thing to get another load of supplies, then starting the engine on our return. This enabled a wash load to be run. We'd already deployed the whirligig to finish drying the last load which had been hanging about indoors, rather. The new load was done just in time for lunch and was hung out this afternoon.

Meantime, we swept through the boat, getting rid of the accumulation of dried grass and general dirt that collects as a result of steady boating at this time of year. Whilst Sheila was hanging out the washing, I brushed the mats and cleaned the mud off our boots.

That felt like enough serious work for one day – since then, we've been sitting out in the well deck, knitting and reading, until the clouds got too much and we retreated indoors once more. After reviewing the various pub options, we've settled on the Old Plough for tonight. We did think about taking a walk up to the Admiral Nelson for lunch, but an examination of its website made it plain that it's now very much a gastro-pub, not our sort of thing at all when boating, not to mention the prices they charge.

The Plough, on the other hand, is offering a deal on two steak dinners. A steak would go down well after all this work...


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Sitting tight in the wet

"You can tell when it's summer in Swansea," the barman at a conference hotel in that city once said to me, "the rain gets warmer!" In the same way, you can tell when it's summer on board Sanity Again, my hair gets shorter. After blogging yesterday, Sheila gave me my first summer trim of the year, 3/4" all over and very comfortable it feels.

I've also trimmed my beard nice and short so I'm ready for anything. Talking of Swansea weather, it has rained non-stop today, as forecast, real monsoon standard, but it's not proper Swansea weather as it's expected to stop tomorrow.

We took advantage of what seemed like a lull after breakfast to get out for a quick walk, taking a bag of rubbish to the Stop House skips. Naturally, it waited until we were there before persisting down again – our trousers and water proofs have been hanging up to dry in the engine room ever since. I lit the Squirrel before coffee this morning to dry the boat out a bit as it was feeling very clammy.

For the rest, it's been a quiet day on board, reading, doing puzzles and the odd bit of housework. Tomorrow, we'll give the engine a run (the solar panel's not contributed much today) and run a wash load to keep on top of it. We're planning to treat ourselves to a meal out in the evening, probably at the Old Plough.


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Back to Braunston

We weren't completely idle yesterday, though we didn't actually leave the boat all day, so wet it was. Sheila did her online tax return and I took a look at some more rust, this time in the storage area between the starboard swim and the engine bay. A good wire brushing revealed that it wasn't too severe, there being no pitting, just surface rust running under the Danboline bilge paint, but also that it was impractical to try and do the complete job whilst cruising.

Parts of the space are inaccessible without removing the hexagrip decking from above it, so I got as much of the loose stuff off as I could reach and gave it all a good coat of Rust Konverter. That should hold it until we get up to Braidbar in August when the guys there can do the proper job with primer and undercoat.

Not surprisingly, having had little exercise, it wasn't a brilliant night and we were awake quite early. So we put this fact to good use, getting going promptly, moving onto the water point and breakfasting whilst letting the hose dribble into the tank (it's not very good pressure at Hillmorton). By twenty past eight the tank was three quarters full and we decided to get on.

It was my turn to lock and we had a good run with all the preferred, right hand, towpath side locks with us. I gritted my teeth working the middle lock, trying not to think about the officially sanctioned graffiti that besmirches both sides of the top gate balance beams. It's ironic – there is so much that is truly poetic about the cut, the lapping of the water on the hull, the antics of the water fowl, the rippling pattern of light and shade on the cabin ceiling when the sun is shining on the water outside.

But all the official poetaster could come up with is banal gibberish such as "THIS DOOR MAKES DEPTH". I ask you...

No matter, on we went in slowly deteriorating conditions. I got the washing machine on the go then alternated between bow lookout, baker of part baked petit pains for lunch and coffee supplier to the steerer.

We got to Braunston just a bit after eleven with the wind becoming more and more of a problem. We've found a good mooring after Bridge 89, our favourite length as you can walk up the fields to the village, an easier approach than slogging up the hill from Butchers Bridge to Nibbits Lane. Better, as last time and this, to walk back that way so as to have a snoop along the GU towpath and see who's about.

Not many at the moment. We went shopping after lunch as an alternative to dozing off and the butcher was commenting on how quiet it was just now. It will get busier next weekend and the following week, of course. We've started playing the game of spotting the show boats on their way to Crick, but haven't seen any definites yet.

We'll sit tight here for the next few days, unless we need to move to get more water. I'll try and do at least a quick blog every day as there'll then be a bit of a gap once we're actually at Crick and working.