Sunday, 23 April 2017

Brownhills Pictures by Others

"Flamingo's" attendance at Brownhills has featured in a number of albums of the event published by other people, so I have asked if they can be used here.

From the excellent Kev Maslin Photography.....


And this from an album by Brownhills Bob, but where the photographs are credited to David Evans....

Blog posting comments by others.

We have (finally!) been alerted to the fact that many people have been unable to post comments on this blog.

It seemed a bit odd, as people used to, but it has stopped occurring - we assumed perhaps people had lost interest in saying anything about it, but we have received contact via other route indicating people have tried and failed.

We have changed some settings, so hopefully now possible again, but I guess it will need some comments to be made to actually prove it.

Comments should still be moderated, and you will need to enter word verification, to try and stop the spam appearing.

Alan & Cath

Saturday, 22 April 2017

And finally.........

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Some serious tree surgery has happened here recently.
The final run back to the home mooring today.

We were away before 9.00 am, and into Bucby top lock when a hire boat was spotted approaching at Norton Junction, so, of course we waited and shared the first lock of the flight with them.  So I was not a little surprised when Cath caught up with me again at the second lock down to be told they were stopping to moor up to go to the pub!  Does the New Inn do breakfasts?  Is it even open at that time?  Anyway we went down the rest of the flight on our own, getting into a comfortable and relaxed rhythm.

Following some recent exuberant behaviour, (and Max's dip the other day), Cath has decided to try and instill a bit more discipline in the dogs, so, as yesterday, is now getting them to lie down and wait for much of the time taken at each lock.  They responded well, and I think we will do much more of this on future trips -  undoubtedly it makes things safer if they are not just running around freely all the time.

Where safe, the dogs are allowed to run between the locks.
We seemed to make good progress, and were soon on the final miles back to our mooring.  The results of re-modelling the prop are now far more obvious on stretches we had used it several times before this work was done.  It is now much more responsive on the rudder when negotiating the tighter bends, and many that seemed pigs before are now quite easy.  Also surprising is just how much progress can be made in deep water at tick-over, (or slightly over tick-over).  Even though the engine is making a quiet "bomp bomp", it is travelling quite briskly, although nobody has shouted at us yet.  The excellent design of Flamingo's hull generally produces far less wash than many modern boats that sit far less deeply in the water.

It is still a slow stopper, and I suspect will remain so, unless we were to start experimenting with props of a different design.  Our blade appears to be designed with an symmetric shape to make it less prone to fouling, but I suspect this means its reverse capabilities are somewhat compromised.  I'm getting pretty good at stopping in the locks, but the unexpected appearance of another boats bow in a bridge hole can still cause moments of doubt.  Still, it is far, far better than it was.

Getting towards the bottom of the flight.
On another positive note we have added about 100 running hours to the rebuilt engine over the 14 days we actually moved.  It has run faultlessly, with no perceived issues at all.  It smokes a little from cold, but certainty not excessively, but really settles down to a very clean exhaust once it has been given enough time to warm up.  We had several things to worry about on this trip, but at last we are at a stage where the state of the engine is not one of them.

Overall the trip has been hard work - I suspect taking Flamingo round the much less used  bits of the BCN always will be hard work.  But we have learntd a lot, and are both more confident of the boat, and our abilities to handle it.

Buckby Top Lock to High House Wharf, Weedon
Miles: 6.2, Locks: 7
Total Trip Miles: 166.6, Locks: 161

Friday, 21 April 2017

Familiar territory, but a good day.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Motorised River class "Wey", in use on towpath contract by Rothens.
We stopped rather short of where we had planned to be last night, as explained in my last post.

So the objective today was really to get as many miles and locks under our belt, to reduce the number we will need to do on our final day on Saturday p we need to be back home on Saturday, for an event on Sunday.

Max (left) and Odin wait patiently as we work through Hillmorton
The remainder of the trip from All Oaks Wood back to our home mooring is one we really are getting very familiar with. and, until recently, somewhat to the exclusion of other routes.  AS we have shuffled each of the boats to Brinklow Boat Services for work, it has been along this route, and in fact All Oaks Wood has often either been our first or last nights stop from the boat yard, depending on whether we are "delivering" or "collecting".

In the top pound at Hillmorton locks - our last narrow ones this trip out
There's nothing wrong with the Northern Oxford, but I'm not a great fan of endless miles with no locks, and whilst on the Oxford you only pass through the three pairs of locks at Hillmorton.  The rest is either fairly twisting, where it follows its original route, requiring a fair amount of concentration, or is dead straight and fairly featureless, where it is on the parts where the canal was reconstructed to shorten journey times.  As Cath is still struggling with a bad back, I largely did the twisty bits, whereas she was able to stand me down on the bits that need far less tiller work.  At least at this very quit time, (surprisingly quiet, we thought), we could go at our own pace, rather than be restricted to a long convoy, as all the boats turn out of the marinas for a day out in the sunshine.

Sharing with a rather lovely modern boat, (and someone very efficient.)
It remained quiet once on the Grand Union at Braunston, amd we worked up the locks with a very efficient single hander on a really rather immaculate modern boat which we were told had been built at Braunston by Roger Farringdon.  It was frankly as good an example of getting a pleasing boat that replicates traditional lines as I have seen, and although I am not normally a fan of fake rivets, these were done so subtlety that they didn't trouble me.  An immaculate presented Lister JP3 made up the picture, and when I suggested it was a lot of powr, I was told it is great on rivers, and also "I like to open it up in the tunnels".

Dane and Clara - There are not many wooden pairs about these days, unfortunately.

We alternated up the locks, sending ahead which ever boat it was easiest to release first, the other usually using the same gate, both when leaving and entering locks, hence Cath's work as lock wheeler was considerably reduced.  It is a very long while since I have been up Braunston so efficiently, although I did wonder if the fact that the pound one from the top was about 18" down might bring Flamingo to a temporary halt.  Fortunately I was able to gets its deep draught over the lock cills, and stick to the restricted channel through the sludge between the locks.

Pacific - the first of two lovely historic tugs passed near Norton junction.
At the top lock our sharer suggested we go off into the tunnel first, which given his previous comments I tactfully declined.  A good move, because although I opened Flamingo up to a very good speed, no way was I able to keep up, and e drew steadily away from us until he took the opposite route to us at Norton Junction, and headed toward Leicester.

And Typhoon in pursuit - lovely to see but less familiar to us.
We were able to find moorings above Buckby top lock - unusual with a full length boat, and I'm grateful to the person who volunteered to move back to create enough space, without even being asked.  We went to the New Inn, just assuming we could easily get a meal, and were staggered to find that what was a pub that was struggling some years back, (and closed for quite a period), is now so popular that it is full and booked out.  Luckily they squeezed us in, but those behind us were politely refused - something that seemed unthinkable a few years back.  Good to see not all our canal-side pubs are in decline.

All Oaks Wood (Oxford Canal) to Buckby Top Lock
Miles: 19.3, Locks: 9
Total Trip Miles: 160.4, Locks: 154

Thursday, 20 April 2017

A "life got in the way" day.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Fortunately by the start of today, we were running with a bit if time in hand before we need to be back at our mooring.  For this was a day when things did not go strictly as we had hoped.

Cath had been fighting an infection which wasn't going to go away without help, and needed a Doctor's prescription.  This was not as difficult as it would have been not that many years ago.  Our home surgery put Cath on a list for a call for a duty GP, and we in turn investigated where best to stop fot a chemist that a prescription could be sent to electronically.  The answer was Nuneaton - not somewhere that is usually a natural stop for us.  In practice all worked as planned, but by the time our surgery had rang Cath, and I had walked to the chemist we were several hours beyond even our most casual usual starting off time.

A bonus was that I discovered quite a good Sainsbury's local really very close to the canal. Previously when we did go in search of a supermarket in Nuneaton it was a very lengthy walk.  I celebrated, (as you do), by buying impromptu raspberries and cream.

Whilst we awaited the doctors call, I investigated a suspected leak in our domestic plumbing.  I didn;t have time to find the actual leak, but instead found the real evidence, and removed several buckets of water from below the floor.  Or at least I hope what I found is leaked domestic water - the other possibility would be a worse result - namely that the amount of things we have grounded on in Birmingham has put a hole in the hull.  Fortunately there is every evidence it is NOT canal water.

Once we could restart our travels, I pressed on as much as I could to try and regain some of the lost time.  We had hoped to end the day near Rugby, but the end result was a couple of hours travel short of that - not enough to be a problem - provided we didn't have a "life got in the way" day tomorrow, we should be able to get back on track.

Sorry - no pictures today - as I said, life got in the way.

Springwood Haven (Coventry Canal) to All Oaks Wood (Oxford Canal)
Miles: 15.6, Locks: 1
Total Trip Miles: 141.2, Locks: 145

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Taking it a bit easier

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Last night's mooring at Alvecote.
Before this big trip out with "Flamingo" Cath and I really have not had the opportunity to do any really serious boating for far longer than we would have liked.  Yes, we certainly managed various rallies and other gatherings last year, despite many major other things going on in our lives, as well as problems with the boats, but other than that most trips were fairly short ones delivering the boats to places they would be professionally worked on, or bringing them back to their moorings once works were completed.

In a rhythm ascending Atherstone locks
So to take on the current tour whilst not up to the full levels of fitness required to do it well has left us both fairly physically exhausted.  It is true that yesterday proved far easier than the several days spent on Birmingham's more run down canals, but I still wasn't going to argue with Cath when she suggested aiming for a shorter day today.

The bridges between the locks are a feature
In practice it has all gone really quite well, with both halves of our passage up Atherstone locks, (we moored up in the middle for a shopping trip followed by lunch), being particularly smooth.  These are very easy locks compared to many we have done in the last few days, and although we didn't need the help of the volunteer lock keeper that set a few in the middle up for us, we weren't going to decline it!  I love watching people's faces as each lock is finally full, and "Flamingo" slowly pushes the gate open and sets off without steerer - of course I hop on long before it is too late to, but clearly many other boaters are thinking, (or hoping?), I have forgotten.

Max jumped up on his own, but Odin seems less happy to be asked.
From Atherstone on through (particularly) Mancetter, this has been a useful test of the re-pitched propeller, because this is a stretch I have in the past really struggled to get around many of the worst bends before the propeller was altered.  Previously I had neither enough reserves of power to try and power out when things started going wrong, and certainly not enough to bail out in reverse if it became obvious that I wasn't going to get round.  Today I had no such problems.  I'm sure the propeller changes are a major factor, although I have also got more used to what works and what doesn't.  Overall I guess the improvement is partly in the boat, and at least to some small extent in what I am capable of.

Flamingo leaves a lock, waiting for me to hop back on.
Anyway, we felt the peaceful surroundings at Springwood Haven would be a great place to stop before the largely depressing environs of Nuneaton kick in, and make boating a less than perfect experience for quite a few miles.  A bonus was getting the boat right against the piling at the first attempt - it doesn't happen that  often, but means neither we nor the dogs need to leap across gaps in the dark.

Alvecote to Springwood Haven
Miles: 10.3, Locks: 11
Total Trip Miles: 125.6, Locks: 144

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

A much easier day

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Cath)

Like many places we have seen Minworth is going up market.
We woke up tired after the exertions of the previous day, but the prop was still fouled, so we tied the back of the boat on a slack rope, then Cath held the back out from the bank with a mop, while Alan fossicked underneath with the boat hook.  He managed to remove a bit more of the foul, but it was clear that there was still some down there - oh, for a weed hatch.  It was decided that the foul would be unlikely to cause any problems as most of it was now gone, an we needed to get on, so after breakfast, and checking everything we set off back towards Salford Junction, only a few hundred metres.

New housing is on the site of the Cincinnatti factory, and has cut its name half.
At the junction there is a very sharp right turn, which proved to be difficult for a boat as long as Flamingo, but we were eventually heading along the Birmingham and Fazeley towards Fazeley Junction.

Curdworth tunnel  - small in most dimensions.
Our discussion the previous night had been whether we had had enough time at the bottom of the Perry Bar flight to reach somewhere considered 'safe'.  One of the problems with large cities is that there are areas where it is not a great idea to moor, in case you attract the unwelcome interest of some locals.  We were not sure where the first 'safe' mooring was considered to be, nor whether we had time to get there.  We had two hours to sunset, and dark doesn't fall until a little later - we had perhaps two and a half hours.

The Curdworth flight is kept very tidily and well maintained.
The first locks are the spread out three locks at Minworth - and right next to the top lock, which used to be considered an unpleasant place with disused factories, there is now a development of 'executive' homes.  I can see this place being considered 'safe' in the future.  Two locks further down we found a perfectly acceptable mooring, two hours from Salford Junction - we would have had time to make it.

In the Curdworth flight, eleven locks in total.
The day was chilly at first and a little windy, but it was sunny and bright, and it felt a perfect antidote to the depressing day we had had the previous day.

Curdworth locks were very pleasant, we got a bit of a boost from a volunteer lock keeper who helped us through locks 4 to 6, while Cath went on and set some more locks.  The dogs were in their element, trotting along the towpath in the sunshine.  By the time that we got to the bottom of the locks the sun was shining warmly and we had shed all coats and scarves, and considering shedding jumpers.

Distinctive foot and seing bridges at Drayton
At Fazeley Junction we realised just how tired we were feeling, so moored up for a little while we spent some time on the outside of the boat which was looking very uncared for.  Alan polished brass, and Cath scrubbed the roof.  Then on to Glascote locks.

Glascote bottom lok.
Soon after that is Alvecote Marina, and the Samuel Barlow pub.  We arrived and tied up at much the same time as the previous day - about 7:30, but feeling very different about things.  The previous day had felt like a struggle from beginning to end, while this day was sunny and perfect for boating through the English countryside.

Sadly work seems to have stalled on "Sickle's" twin "Theophilus".
We went for a meal at the Samuel Barlow, and were joined for a drink by our friends Tracy and Rod, and were pleased to hear good news about Rod's recent health problems.  Then off to bed.

Star City, Birmingham to Alvecote Marina
Miles: 15.7, Locks: 16
Total Trip Miles: 115.3, Locks: 133