Saturday, 5 May 2018

Shackerstone

Knowing fine weather was forecast for the next week or so, and it being a Bank Holiday Weekend, we expected it to get busy on the canal. With this in mind, we decided we wanted to be settled in our chosen spot well before the chaos ensued. We were also approaching the end of our 48 hour limit at Snarestone, although, we could have taken a mooring just beyond the small footbridge for a further seven days, being members of the Ashby Canal Association. So, on Thursday 3/5. we slipped our lines at about 9 am, and moved up to the water point. We had a nearly empty tank, so even with a fast filling tap, it would still take forty minutes or so to fill up. We said our goodbyes to the staff at the Wharf and winded, just as the first of two boats arrived. Back through the crooked tunnel, and then on towards Shackerstone, about three miles away. The sun was up and there was a gentle breeze so it felt warm even by mid morning. Not wanting to end our cruise too soon, we chugged along just above tickover, taking nearly two hours to cover the three miles. We passed beyond our usual spot, this time opting to moor opposite the festival field. This side of Shackerstone is much quieter with foot traffic on the towpath, it seems. On Friday 4/5. we walked four legs to Congerstone, to visit the Horse and Jockey PH for lunch. Today, Saturday 5/5. the glorious weather arrived. On waking there was not a cloud in the sky, and it has remained that way virtually all day. After our morning walk, we wandered up to the railway station to see the steam train which is running this weekend, and also to take lunch in the station tearoom.
  
Mooring at Shackerstone
This afternoon it was time to tackle some of the more onerous tasks, polishing the mushroom vents. The portholes have already been done, but the mushrooms hadn't been touched since last summer, and to say they were heavily tarnished would be an understatement. In circumstances like this, Google is your friend. I googled tarnished brass and got a multitude of results. One however caught my eye, as it had pictures to support its descriptions. To cut along story short, the web page had conducted many tests on tarnished brass, with various substances. The overall winner for ease of application, and the lack of elbow grease required, was tomato ketchup. I half imagined an individual somewhere in the world, laughing his head off, at the prospect of dozens of people smearing their brass with ketchup. Anyway, hating the task enough to try anything, here is the result of a small test area.
Patch test
I was amazed, a small dollop, left for ten minutes then wiped off. It really was that easy. Next was to tackle a whole mushroom.
Before tomato ketchup
After ketchup applied
  As can be seen above, a mere ten minutes of ketchup with no rubbing required, most of the tarnish has been removed and it is now ready for finishing with Brasso. Credit to https://www.littlehouseonthecorner.com/ultimate-guide-how-to-clean-brass/
The finished result
It was in fact so easy, that the whole process from the initial application of the ketchup, to the final buffing of the last of five vents, took no more than half an hour, including the ten minutes of doing nothing, with very little exertion. What is even better is, it does not have to be premium Heinz tomato ketchup either, this was done with Tesco own brand. One member of the crew thought even this amount of work unnecessary, and found himself a nice shady spot in the grass to watch the proceedings.
Oscar being lazy
Now all that is left to polish is the Houdini hatch and the fairleads. Just one final benefit of this glorious weather is the amount of power we now generate from our solar panel. Today we achieved 100 amp hours for the first time this year, which is approximately two thirds of our daily consumption, and its free.
  • Totals Thursday 3/5. 3 Miles 1 Tunnel 
  • Running total 82 Miles 19 Locks 5 Tunnels 

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Snarestone

Following our roast dinner at the Rising Sun PH on Sunday, we had another wet day to endure on Monday, although we did manage to give four legs a walk into Shackerstone before the rain arrived. Tuesday 1/5. the weather finally turned, and got to see the sun once again. We set off after breakfast for the end of the canal, a little over four miles away. As we passed through Shackerstone, we noted that there were not many boats visiting, and so it would be at Snarestone as well. We trundled along at just above tickover in the warm sun, the wind however, was still biting.
Cruising towards Snarestone Tunnel
  The tunnel at Snarestone is fairly short but very crooked, and as such only single way working is permitted. We approached slowly, as it is not until the final few yards prior to the entrance, before you can see through to the other side. It was all clear so in we went, remembering to duck as we proceeded, due to the roof lowering towards the northern end. 
   
Cruising the final section beyond the tunnel
Once beyond the final bridge, we found the mooring empty so had our choice of spot. Several boats did arrive after us, but did not stop long, so we have had the place to ourselves.
                        
   
Mooring at Snarestone
We are moored about 50 yards from the winding hole at the end of the canal. There is a Wharf here run by the Ashby Canal Association, and beyond the winding hole is a newly restored section of canal. We disposed of some rubbish, and popped into the association office for a catch up. Last year we took out membership, and we have since updated this to become life members of the association. The next major project in the restoration, is to build an aqueduct over Gilwiskaw Brook, which is hoped to be commenced this year. Once that is done there is only the small matter of two miles of canal to reinstate, some of which, is having to take a new route to that of the original cut. I was told that they hope to be in Measham in about five years. Today we wandered off to the Globe PH for lunch. I had the steak and ale pie, with proper shortcrust pastry. I can definitely recommend it. Our plan tomorrow is to fill the water tank, wind, and head back to Shackerstone settling for the Bank Holiday Weekend. We expect it may get busy as some fine weather is forecast.
  • Totals Tuesday 1/5. 4 Miles 1 Tunnel 
  • Running total          79 Miles 19 Locks 4 Tunnels
 

Monday, 30 April 2018

Congerstone

Having spent a couple of days at Hawkesbury Junction, we capped it off on Sunday 22/4. with a roast dinner at the Greyhound PH. The following day, Monday 23/4. we set off for the Ashby Canal. We manoeuvred the boat from the mooring and through the stop lock, then turned right onto the Coventry Canal. Stopping to refill the water tank took about 40 minutes, then we continued heading north towards Nuneaton. After a couple of miles, we reached Marston Junction and turned right onto the Ashby Canal. We soon relaxed into gentle cruising mode as we passed through rural tranquility. This was soon to be brought to an abrupt halt with a big bump. As we passed under bridge 4 we saw a hire boat approaching a sharp bend at speed. Not wanting to encounter this boat on the bend we slowed to a stop, holding a position just off the centre line towards the offside of the canal. As the hire boat rounded the bend, the steerer over steered the boat due to the speed, and we were now confronted with an impending ramming. I was able to put our boat into a hard reverse, which managed to take some of the sting from the impact. To make matters worse, despite having just rammed us under full power, the steerer of the hire boat made no attempt to slow down, but continued on bumping along the side of our boat. To describe the next 30 seconds of our encounter, would require an 18 certificate to be applied to this post, so I will leave it at that, but needless to say, we were not happy, mainly by his attitude, rather than the initial contact. We found our usual spot at Burton Hastings vacant, and secured the boat. We would stay here on Tuesday also due to inclement weather. Wednesday 25/4. After breakfast we set off for Stoke Golding, a little over six miles away. We passed through Hinckley, paying attention to Trinity Marina as we did so. We are booked in here for a couple of days next month so we can attend a family event. The remainder of our cruise was uneventful, and we arrived at Stoke Golding about two hours after we had set off. After securing the boat, the crew wandered off back towards bridge 23, where there is small farm shop for fresh meat and vegetables. They also do a nice line in pies. In the evening, we strolled up into the village to the Mango Tree Indian Restaurant for our evening meal. Fortunately after eating too much, the walk back to the boat is downhill all the way. Thursday 26/4. We departed Stoke Golding aiming initially for Market Bosworth. We needed the services at the Marina, and our arrival would around lunchtime. The Marina has a nice little cafe which would be perfect. You can imagine our disappointment when we found it closed, due to suffering a fire in January. 
Approaching Market Bosworth
The wind had been quite blustery all morning, but as we turned into the Marina it picked up even more, and I am sure we encountered small waves once through the narrow entrance. Once on the service pontoon, we emptied the waste tank and filled with water, then unable to use the cafe we set off again, heading for Congerstone. This final half of the Ashby Canal is the most picturesque, and the bit we enjoy the most. We found a spot just prior to bridge 50. It is a quiet rural spot, midway between the Horse and Jockey PH in Congerstone, and the Rising Sun PH in Shackerstone, so perfectly positioned. We planned to stay put for a few days, due to some heavy rain being forecast, and also to sample the roast dinner in the Rising Sun PH on Sunday. Today, Monday 30/4. We took the furry crew for a long walk, to make up for the short excursions he has had to put up with, over the last couple of days. This evening, the skies have cleared and the sun is making an appearance, so hopefully tomorrow will be a pleasant day for our trip to Snarestone, the terminus of the canal.
   
Congerstone, bridge 50
  
  • Totals Monday 23/4.      5 Miles 1 Lock
  • Totals Wednesday 25/4. 6 Miles
  • Totals Thursday 26/4.    8 Miles
  • Running total                75 Miles 19 Locks 3 Tunnels 
 

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Hawkesbury Junction

Well, we made a good choice weather wise departing the Marina this week, on our seven month cruise. Monday 16/4. we visited the service pontoon for a pump out, and to fill the diesel tank to the brim. We said our goodbyes in the office, and to a furry friend who visits the bird feeder at the end of our pontoon.
A healthy looking rat
We turned left from the Marina and headed towards Crick. Our transit of Crick tunnel was unopposed, but we got a thorough soaking from the leaky roof all the way. Once beyond Crick tunnel, the countryside comprises of open fields, which are slowly filling with new lambs. On arrival at the top of the Watford flight of locks, we were pleasantly surprised to find no queues, and were able to commence our descent immediately. The first mate, (the furry one) stayed on board with me, whilst the second mate performed their lock duties. Once at the bottom of the flight, we cruised the final couple of miles to Norton Junction, and found a mooring in our usual spot. The next day, Tuesday 17/4. a gale was blowing. We decided not to move as it would have been decidedly unpleasant, and we did not fancy buffeting around in the six wide locks we would have to navigate. Four legs was taken for a walk, beyond the New Inn and on down the Buckby flight. This took us past the canalware shop, which has often relieved me of so many of my hard earned pounds. It did it again today. Wednesday 18/4. we set off after breakfast turning right at Norton Junction, and joining the main Grand Union canal. Today was the beginning of the reported heatwave. After cruising a couple of miles, we reached the entrance to Braunston tunnel just as a boat was emerging. We were informed there was nothing following which is always nice to hear, especially until after we have navigated the kink in the tunnel. Our transit remained unopposed, and significantly dryer than Crick. No sooner do you exit the western portal you arrive at the top of Braunston locks. Unfortunately there was nobody waiting to share the locks with. Descending always seems easier than ascending, especially when the locks are in your favour, as was the case for us. Beyond the bottom lock we had a short stretch to navigate before arriving in Braunston, and we found the landing outside the Boathouse Pub empty. It was clearly fate, so we pulled in and stopped for lunch. Following refreshments we resumed our cruise, and at Braunston Turn, we took the right hand fork joining the Oxford Canal heading north. We passed our usual spot about a mile out of Braunston, and found someone occupying it. Luckily we didn't want it. We passed the newish Marina at Onley which is rapidly filling with boats, and then navigated the Barby straight passing beneath the M45. We found the spot we were aiming for vacant, and secured the boat. It was by now very hot.
Cruising beyond Braunston
  Thursday 19/4. was going to be another warm day. Setting off for Hillmorton locks about a mile ahead, we chuckled to ourselves about how it had taken four days to get here by boat, but only takes 10 minutes in the car from Yelvertoft Marina. Hillmorton locks was busy, but as the locks are in pairs, we were not held up. At the bottom of the flight we stopped for water. The tap here is well known as slow filling, but this suited our purposes today. About 40 minutes later, we were once again underway. Passing through Rugby, and navigating Newbold tunnel, we carried on towards our planned stopping point at All Oak Wood. Friday 20/4. started misty but soon the sun was up. Today we had a short hop to Hawkesbury Junction, with no locks, and only the small swing bridge by Rose Narrowboats to navigate. On arrival we found the mooring relatively empty, and so picked our spot. Once the boat was secured we took lunch at the Greyhound Pub, overlooking the junction.
Mooring at Hawkesbury Junction
Today Saturday 21/4. we took four legs for a walk along the Coventry Canal heading towards Nuneaton. This is the way we will be heading on Monday, as we aim for the Ashby Canal.
  • Totals Monday 16/4.      7 Miles 7 Locks 1 Tunnel
  • Totals Wednesday 18/4. 9 Miles 6 Locks 1 Tunnel 
  • Totals Thursday 19/4.    8 Miles 3 Locks 1 Tunnel 
  • Totals Friday 20/4.        8 Miles
  • Running totals              56 Miles 18 Locks 3 Tunnels 

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Yelvertoft Marina

Following our overnight stop at Hemplow Hills, on Monday 26/3, we returned to the Marina, parking the boat for a few days over the Easter break, whilst we visited family. Back at the Marina following the holiday weekend, we are in the process of having a box made to store our anchor, and this is expected to be completed around the 15th April. Our intention is to stay put till then, before finally departing on our 7 month summer cruise. This morning however, we woke to clear blue sky and warm sunshine. It was far too nice not to be cruising. Sadly, the carpenter had phoned making arrangements to attend the boat for a final fitting of our anchor box. It was just after midday when things were concluded, we got underway turning right from the Marina. Once we cleared the outskirts of Yelvertoft village, we stopped for lunch. This was in the vicinity of bridge 22. Having secured the boat, Oscar the furry crew member, decided that a photo was required. He took up his position posing in the well deck, but was most put out, when he was photo bombed by a very noisy Chinook flying overhead.
Photo bombed by a Chinook
After a brief lunch we set off for the winding hole at bridge 28. On arrival we encountered a fisherman, who soon realised his swim was about to be ruined for the day. He took it in good grace though. Once winded, it was back to the Marina arriving a little under four hours after we had initially left. 
  • Totals Monday 26/3. 5 Miles
  •          Thursday 5/4. 6 Miles
  • Running total 24 Miles 2 Locks

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Hemplow Hills

This morning we felt cheated. Waking at 9 am when really it was 8 am, meant we had missed out on an hour of sleep. The weather however made up for this, as the sun was bright and the sky clear blue. After the furry crew had been on his morning walk, we wandered off back towards the Wharf Inn for Sunday lunch. Today it was roast pheasant, followed by treacle tart and ice cream. Returning to the boat we got ourselves ready to get underway, it was 1.45 pm. Today we were aiming for a spot somewhere between bridges 36 and 32, roughly four miles away. We navigated through the lock and along the Welford arm, turning left at the Junction. The canal was surprisingly quiet, especially as today was the warmest day this year so far. We found our spot midway between bridge 34 and 33. The towpath is wide, flat and grassy, we have a 4g phone signal and satellite reception, perfect. This will be added to our list of favoured locations, and from the picture below you can probably see why.
Mooring Hemplow Hills
Having secured the boat, the weather was so fine the starboard side got a wash. Unfortunately, our stay here this time will be brief, as we have Easter activities to look forward to.
  • Totals 4 Miles 1 Lock
  • Running total 13 Miles 2 Locks

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Welford

Well our internment at Yelvertoft for the winter is now over, and we are once again in cruising mode. The winter months have allowed us to conduct some essential maintenance tasks, and the boat has also successfully passed its first BSS (Boat Safety Scheme) check. We did manage a few days trips, along the Leicester section summit of the Grand Union, and we have survived unscathed, from the harshest winter we have experienced since owning the boat. The engine has been serviced, and we have restocked our supply of filters, oils and other consumables, ready for the year ahead. We have also purchased an anchor, which will allow us to use some of the river navigations from now on. Our departure day was set as Wednesday 21st March, but upon waking, we found the Marina had frozen overnight. Fortunately the sun was up, and after a few hours, the crust of ice had turned to mush and we were off. We were aiming for a regular mooring spot near bridge 28, and after cruising for an hour and a half, we reached it to find it empty of other boats. The following morning, we got underway after breakfast, heading for Welford Junction. There was no sun shining, and the wind had picked up a bit. It felt much colder. Not long after setting off, we noted two boats astern who seemed to be traveling a bit quicker than we wanted to. We pulled over to allow them past, then continued our slow dawdle. On arrival at the straight moorings prior to the Junction, we once again found it completely empty of other boats.
All alone at Welford Junction
After lunch we took four legs for a short walk, heading towards North Kilworth. This took us past the new Marina, which has been under construction for a few years. It has recently been filled with water so it must be getting close to completion, although there still seems a lot of work needed to finish it off.                           
North Kilworth Marina
We continued on to the Wharf opposite, and purchased some firelighters. We didn't really need any, but we always try and support the smaller canalside businesses. Back at the boat we settled down for a peaceful afternoon. Friday 23rd March, after a solitary night we set off for Welford. Turning right at the Junction we soon encountered a work boat blocking the canal. The workers were busy clearing substantial overgrown vegetation. They moved their boat allowing us to continue our passage along the Welford arm, towards the single lock ahead. Once through the lock, we trundled along to the end of the arm and found it completely full. This is where all the boats are. We winded, and took a mooring just prior to the lock landing. With hindsight this is a better spot, and may well become our regular spot for future visits here.
Mooring at Welford Lock
After securing the boat we had lunch at Totty's Tea Rooms, before returning to the boat for a relaxing afternoon. We will stay here for a couple of days, but keeping an eye of the changing forecast for the weather next week.
  • Totals Wed.    21/3. 3 Miles
  •           Thurs. 22/3.  5 Miles
  •           Fri.      23/3. 1 Mile 1 Lock