Thursday 29 August 2019

A straightforward day.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

(Post for Thursday 29 August)

Atmospheric morning.
We were away from Newbold before 9:00 am, I think - about as good as we generally manage, as David has the back cabin, so we can't really get going until he is up.  In fairness though, he has done a reasonable job most days recently of getting up before we have to nag him too much to do so!  I got going immediately before a boat behind us just doing the same thing.  When I do this I tend to think "will he be up my tail", as Flamingo can often be slower than a modern boat, but as is so often the case he was a fair bit slower than us - I'm glad I got away when I did!

The boys.
In fact we weren't going that far initially, as the Newbold Co-Op had failed to supply us many "veggie" items yesterday, so we needed the Tesco at Brownsover (Rugby).  This is often a busy place to moor a 72 foot boat, but I needed to do "services", (water, toilet cassettes & rubbish), and fortunately the service moorings were empty - it usually works out that the time taken is much the same as a quick shop, so it can work well, (as it did today).  The Brownsover visitor moorings were however quite chaotic, as many boats passed through the insufficient space, because the Canal and River Trust consistently fail to keep offside vegetation under adequate control here.

Scraping the bttom at Hillmorton.
Quickly underway again we set off for Hillmorton, but by Clifton, were following a very slow boat that had passed through Rugby.  There really was no need for us to have to follow him for several very slow miles, as there are long straight stretches beyond Clifton where he could so easily have waved us past, but he chose not to.  This is very poor etiquette in my view, but clearly some of those that like never to exceed snail's pace themselves think it is reasonable to enforce it on others.  Mercifully though, he pulled over before Hillmorton.

Back on to broad locks - Braunston.
We were warned of queues at Hillmorton, but in practice there really weren't any.  However I will make my usual complaint.  There were no less than three CRT volunteer lock keepers milling around at the bottom lock, and not doing a great deal, but the pound between the middle and top lock was again so far down that we bounced along much of it.  It's not just deep draughted "historics" - a steerer of an expensive build modern boat coming the other way complained of the same.  There are back pumps at Hillmorton, so letting down water to keep pounds topped up should not be an issue.  Why can CRT not train the "vollies" to perform this very useful task?

Braunston again
A reasonable run until nearly Braunston, but we caught up an exceedingly slow hire boat about 2 miles from the junction.  I actually stopped mid channel at one point, and went inside for several minutes to let them get ahead - it didn't work, as I soon caught them up again!

By Braunston locks, everybody ahead had pulled over, and we went up alone.  Despite it being August we got almost to the top before meeting the only pair of downhill boats encountered.  There was nobody in the tunnel either, so that was despatched quickly as well.

Tar boat Spey - usually Northern based, but has done a tour of the South.
The less said about the owner of the boat we had to wait come up Buckby top lock the better, though.  He told Cath she must not help, (fair enough), but expected to be able to bring a lock that is leaking liked a sieve at the bottom end to the point where he could open the top gates using just one set of gate paddles.  Sorry mate, but we would all still been there now had we not told you what was required!

Tomorrow back to the mooring should be a short day, but I suspect it will very much depend on what other boats we encounter in trying to get there!

Newbold to Long Buckby
Miles 15.9, Locks: 10
Total Miles 96.7, Total Locks:50

Wednesday 28 August 2019

Good progress, but rain stopped play.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

(Post for Wednesday 28 August)

Our standard not too taxing day from Springwood Haven would probably take us to the All Oaks Wood moorings on the Oxford canal.  However despite a not particularly early start, we were making very good progress, with no hold ups.

The only photo taken today, it seems - we must try harder!
Or nearly no hold ups, at least.  Approaching Hawkesbury, Cath caught up with the community boat "The Hargreave" - I knew we would likely encounter it somewhere, when we passed its base in Nuneaton, and it wasn't on it.  Often this is not one of the better handled community boats, and in fact on occasions we have wondered how a steerer can possibly be approved to operate it.  Today it was mostly just tediously slow, but it turned out it was mooring outside the Greyhound to disgorge it's passengers - presumably for lunch.  We were grateful it was going no further, but moored in the winding hole it further guaranteed I had no chance of coming around the 180 degree turn at Hawkesbury in one.

We were far to early in the day at All Oaks to consider stopping there, and in fact there really wasn't any space anyway, so I pressed on, still making good speed.  I seem to be mastering many of the trickier narrow tight bends that are badly silted on the inside, and getting into  far less difficulties than I have in the past - famous last words - something dramatic will now happen tomorrow.

I would have pressed on as far as Hillmorton, but Cath needed a quick shop, and finding mooring space to visit the big Tesco at Brownsover in Rugby is often tricky.  As there is a more minor supermarket as Newbold, as there were plenty of moorings, and as it now looked set in to rain, we have stopped there.  Once again we have beaten CanalPlanAC's default timings by some margin, whereas in the past we have often taken a lot longer than their estimates.  OK, to some extent it is to do with what you get stuck behind, if at all.  However I'm still just about prepared to believe that the more we get used to the boat, the better we are at making reasonable progress without too many dramas.

Springwood Haven to Newbold
Miles 19.1, Locks: 1
Total Miles 80.8, Total Locks:40

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Time to head home.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

(Post for Tuesday 27th August)

We had a cracking time at Alvecote, but now life means we have to leave, and get ourselves back home.  Whilst we have no need to be in a mad rush, I have hospital appointments on Saturday, so we need to be back on the home mooring on Friday night latest.

Passing Arundel (a modern working boat) towing Brighton (a 1930s boat).
I've just been reminded by Facebook about the trip away from Alvecote last year, when we arrived at Atherstone locks to find a queue of half a dozen boats waiting to go up.  It is inevitable that it will be busy as many boats travel away from this large event - at least this year there were only three or four boats queued ahead of us, although quite a few soon joined the queue behind.



It may have been very busy at the locks, but this picture looks otherwise.
There was no point in rushing, of course, and anyway we planned to stop after 6 locks for some very much needed shopping, particularly as we had somehow managed to turn our fridge off on Monday, and food we thought we had available to us was no longer necessarily safe to eat.  By the time we had shopped, had lunch, and set off again, very few people were using the locks, and the onset of some rain made it unlikely that many more now would.


Another tranquil picture that seems unrelated to the actual number of boats.
We more or less have a standard pattern of how Alvecote to the home mooring in Northamptonshire can be comfortably handled in four not particularly intensive days.  Our regular choice for the first night's sop is Springwood Haven, (which I assume to be a modern name, though I am happy to be proved wrong).  It has good moorings, peace and quiet, and quality dog walks.  If you push on much further you are soon into the several miles of canal that pass through Nuneaton - a far less enticing prospect altogether!

Alvecote Marina to Springwood Haven
Miles 10.3, Locks:11
Total Miles 61.7, Total Locks: 39

Monday 26 August 2019

Alvecote Historic Boat gathering - "One Big Weekend"

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

(Bank Holiday Weekend 24th to 26th August)

The "Northwich" boats section - Flamingo shares space with Seaford and Cyprus.
We have had an absolutely cracking weekend at Alvecote.

Most of it was in blazing sunshine, so clearly we couldn't spend to long over-heating in our own boat, and needed to go and enjoy the pleasures of the "Samuel Barlow", to chill out with friends, or to just  blag a ride around the parade on somebody else's boat.  I'm sure that our bar and food bills will have outstripped any time we have been previously!

We do have a fair number of pictures of other people's boats, but not exactly a lot of our own, and when I have more time, and better connectivity, I'll try andf work out how best to put up an album of pictures.

It was a stonking weekend - the best yet, and definitely the premier historic boating weekend of the calendar, in our view.

Boat movements - none in Flamingo.

Friday 23 August 2019

Standard stuff, but it is going to be a very busy weekend.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

(Overdue post for Friday 23 August - trying to catch up!)

Yesterday we had deliberately pushed a bit harder, to make today a shorter boating day, and to allow plenty of time to deal with any chaos that we might find when we arrived at Alvecote for the event.  

Actually the Alvecote team are very efficient, but we were starting to hear there were likely to be a record number of historic boats this year, and people who had recently gone past were saying "it's looking pretty full already".

Waiting for second lock of the day - I seem to be polishing brass.
Atherstone locks are nice easy ones, though slow fillers, but you really can only progress at the rate everybody else is going.  Today it was not too bad, but we needed to stop at the services at Bradley, to ensure arrival at Alvecote with full water tanks, empty toilet tanks, and without loads of domestic waste on board.  Bradley is a popular services, with just about space for two boats if people are sensible, but only one tap.  We had a bit of waiting to do, (though it could have been worse).

Steady progress down Atherstone
It was getting progressively hotter as we pressed on the final miles to Alvecote, and as we got close people on boats coming the other way were all commenting on just how busy it is.  This was supported by the fact that whilst some visiting non historic boats generally end up moored South of the final bridge before the marina there are normally not that many.  This year there must have been approaching half a mile of them.  It is a stretch with badly overhanging trees on the offside, so all the moored boats made life very interesting whenever boats moving in opposite directions needed to pass.  The final approach to the last bridge is on a tight bend, also with badly overhanging trees, and needless to say we met somebody on that bit, taking a bit of shunting to sort ourselves out.

One of the very short pounds between 2 locks towards the bottom of the flight.
Fortunately on arrival, despite nearly all the pontoons for "historics" now being occupied, there was one reserved for Flamingo, and it was empty.  Better still somebody knew exactly which one it was.

I am never a fan of the long reverse back down into the marina - the only way to get full length boats onto the pontoons with their back ends at the end you want them to be. There are always dozens of highly experienced steerers watching, so it is a classic opportunity for getting things wrong,particularly as cross winds often strike and pin you exactly where you don't want to be.  Today it was largely calm, (as unusully was I!), and we got to our allotted space reasonably professionally.

It was certainly time for a well earned beer, and to meet up with old friends.

Atherstone to Alvecote Marina
Miles 6.2, Locks: 6
Total Miles 51.4, Total Locks:28

Thursday 22 August 2019

A bit more of a push, but still can't make that damned turn.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

(Post for Thursday 22 August)

Faking it! (second attempt at the turn at Hawkesbury)
Yesterday had put us back on the schedule we had broadly planned when expecting to go to Alvecote with both boats - so with only one, we should have course easily been able to stick to that schedule.


Hawkesbury again, after the turn and now on the Coventry canal
However it was starting to become apparent that this would easily be the biggest Alvecote gathering to date, and it seemed increasingly tempting to make the final day of travel shorter at the expense of going further today.  We seemed to actually be bettering timings taken from CanalPlanAC - fairly unusual when travelling with Flamingo - so we decided going to half way down Atherstone locks today should still not present us with a particularly long day.  This would allow a shopping stop as part of overnighting, and avoid the need to do one during the day.

How can they possibly see where they are going?
There is very little to report really, other than it is a very long while since we have passed quite so many hire boats on the move - it certainly looks like programs like Tim and Pru's offerings or "Minor celebrities go mad on a barge", (or whatever it is called), have resulted in a boost for the hire boat industry.  At one point we encountered 7 of them queued up all waiting to tackle the same bridge hole, but fortunately they were travelling in the other direction to us. Almost immediately after I was surprised by going around a bend, and finding one on our side of the canal, but "parked" in the bushes.

The Atherstone flight is easy to work through unless very busy.
Once again I failed to "get around in one" at the 180 degree turn at Hawkesbury Junction - as usual it all looked to be going fairly well, but, (also as usual!), I ran out of canal.  Disappointingly this time  I ran out of canal sooner than usual, so not only am I not managing it, I'm actually getting worse it seems.  I'm not totally convinced it is totally my own ineptitude, (although it may be!), as Flamingo is by no means the same as either bringing an empty or a fully loaded boat around.

Max waits patiently at the same lock.
Things quietened down from this point, with far less hire boats.


Cath was "setting ahead", whilst David worked the locks I was in.
We reached Atherstone with ease, and there were moorings half way down at the best place for access to the shops.  The record shows we did it a fair bit faster than the planner shows, despite sheer weight of traffic. I was also pleased that my performance around the snaky bends at Mancetter was by far my best to date, sailing easily around reverse curves that have caught me out in the past - it seems that that we do definitely improve in some areas, (even if that doesn't yet include "round in one" at Hawksbury!).

All Oaks (near Brinklow) to Atherstone
Miles 19.7, Locks: 6
Total Miles 45.2, Total Locks:22

Wednesday 21 August 2019

Dental "Emergency"

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

(Post for Wednesday 21st August)

Strictly this post starts off in yesterday, but yesterday was complicated enough without this, so I've carried it over into today...

Having had all the fun and games of deciding to take Sickle back to the mooring, and carrying on delayed with Flamingo, I became increasingly aware that bits of my dentistry that ought to be fixed firmly in place were starting to feel as if they no longer were.  I have fairly appalling dentistry, with rather more plastic and metal than my own teeth, I would say, stemming from an atrocious school dentist who did her worst, and from which they were never likely to recover.

As feared as we were nearly into Braunston last night, a bridge decided to detach itself - why do these things only seem to happen when you don't have access to your regular dentist? (I mean a dental bridge, here of course, not a canal one, just to be clear!).

A bit of use of Google seemed to suggest three dental practices in Daventry, but the first two I phoned quickly told me I had little chance of any appointment for days or weeks.  The third initially said the same, but eventually told me if I paid a fairly large charge to be seen privately they could fit me in, but it wouldn't be until the early afternoon.  This meant much of today's boating time would be lost, but now with only one boat, it should still be possible to catch it back up.

A friend was going from Braunston into Daventry, and kindly not only delivered me there, but also dropped and collected Cath from the Tesco, allowing a top up of supplies.

I had a couple of hours to kill, and I have to say Daventry is not the most exciting town to pass away time in with nothing to do  The Costa, at least, was much like any other.

Hillmorton Locks
Eventually I was seen, but the surgeon I saw was not too impressed with what he was trying to fix back together - a great disappointment, as I spent a fortune having it done not many years back.  However, put it back together he did, at which point a further large charge became due, despite only about 10 minutes in the chair.

Thereafter I got a taxi back to Braunston, and not yet being allowed to eat, set off almost immediately.

Hillmorton, again.
We reckoned we could get to probably Newbold despite not leaving until after 2:00 p.m.  In practice though, when we got to Newbold, there were no available moorings at all, so we pressed on to All Oaks, by which time it was getting quite late.  However for the second day, despite the problems, we were back on track for the timings on our original plan.  It is just as well we had initially built in slack to allow for moving two boats - with just the one we were really getting along a whole lot faster.

Braunston to All Oaks (near Brinklow)
Miles 15.1, Locks: 3
Total Miles 25.5, Total Locks:16