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

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Erring On The Side Of Caution

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

(Post for Tuesday 20th August)

The start of yet another trip where things have not gone to plan, but probably the only recent one where it happened on day 1!

The plan was to take both boats to the historic boat gatehering at Alvecote Marina this coming weekend.  This is our favourite organised historic boating event of the year, and with Sickle in its shiny new paint we hoped it would balance out the fact that Flamingo is getting increaingly tired externally, and consequently increasingly hard hard to spruce up to any extent.

As far as Sickle got, before we decided to play it safe.
But it wasn't to be, unfortunately.  I had done an oil change on Sickle a day or two previously, and run up the engine on the mooring, including selecting gears, and all had seemed fine.  However after she had taken Sickle as far as the bottom of Buckby locks, Cath said she was unhappy with the difficulty she was encountering getting the gearbox in and out of gear.  David and I investigated, and agreed all did not seem as it should be.  We used our "phone a friend" lifeline for some additional advice, and concluded if there was genuinely a problem we were unlikely to fix it quickly.

Much to our dissapointment we concluded the safest thing to do was to take Sickle back to her mooring, and to only take Flamingo to Alvecote.  So David and I retraced our steps with Sickle, and spent some time putting everything securely away, and locking her up.

We thought we would have to arrange a taxi back to Whilton, but someone from a neighbouring boat heard us discussing it, and offered to run us up there in his Land Rover.  I must say we were most grateful, as it was now looking increasingly unlikely we would get Flamingo to Braunston that day as planned.
Approaching the top lock at Braunston
In practice we made good progress, and decided to press on at least through Braunston tunnel to the top of the locks.  On arrival there we reckoned we could get somewhere towards the bottom of the flight, and hopefully find a mooring in a pound near the bottom, without having to go all te way down, as there was no guarantee we would find anything on the main Braunston visitor moorings.

In fact there were no spaces in the flight, so we carried on in rapidly diminishing daylight.  Fortunately the disabled mooring spot was unoccupied.  It is legitimate to use these if no disabled boater wants it, and this late in the day it was exceedingly unlikely any would now turn up.

We hadn't planned a pub meal that evening, but by now we felt we needed one.  We are increasingly drawn to the Old Plough as being the best pub for food in Braunston, and it didn't dissapoint.  We were particularly impressed with the efficiency and friendliness of the young lady at the bar who was doing an excellent job as the only server both for drinks and food.  Generally it doesn't seem the norm to tip in pubs, but tonight I felt she had earned it.

Home Mooring to Braunston
Miles 10.4, Locks:13
Total Miles 10.4, Total Locks:13
(Sickle miles not included)

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Standard stuff

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

The final day of a trip that ended up about 5 weeks longer than planned, and through no fault of our own.

The trip from Braunston back to our home mooring is fairly standard fodder for us, and we largely know what to expect. One of the things we know is that it is impossible to know how long it will take to traverse either the Braunston or the Buckby flight of locks.  The total transit times are highly affected by use by other boats, or sometimes even actions by volunteer lock keepers that actually slow things down, rather than facilitate passage. Also limited opening hours because of limited water supplies are making the locks busier when they are open, (although it is hard to see these measures are contributing much to water savings overall).
Braunston Top Lock - I wasn't about to let him push ahead!
When we did the same trip a couple of weeks back with "Sickle" after the Braunston Historic Boats event we made a too late start, and got into long queues even before the first lock - today we did better, and were soon into the locks. We started to work up with one hire boat, and were surprised by the fact that after a couple of locks a different one untied, and jumped in instead. Poor etiquette we thought, but perhaps hire boaters don't know this, and the "gazumped" crew didn't seem bothered by it, so we said nothing.

Descending Buckby locks
By the top of the flight the "replacement" hire boat was trying to motor out of locks ahead of us - again something I avoid if I'm the second boat who has joined another - generally whoever is "lead boat" tends to stay that way, unless a discussion takes place and changes the order for any reason, (such as when one gate can't be fully opened, for some reason, for example).

When it looked like he thought he was going out of the top lock first as well, I made very certain he didn't - a very lucky move, as he proved to be very slow in the tunnel, and I doubt was half way through before I came out the other end. I hate trying to follow other boats in tunnels at very low speeds - neither of our boats will go slow enough, in needs you to keep taking them out of gear to avoid running down the one in front - a real pain!

And Buckby Bottom - I love these rejuvenated "Weed Boats"!
I don't know where he went, but must have moored up, because after a longish wait for our place in the Buckby flight, nobody had turned up to share with us, so we set off alone. However boats in front were very slow, and in many cases there were boats waiting for the next lock we arrived at. As a result we ourselves had a boat catch us up. It proved to be the one that we had first been with in the Braunston flight - how much easier it would have been had they been allowed to stay with us throughout.

Overall Buckby took a long while - far longer than ought to be necessary, if people got their act together, but, as I said earlier, this regularly goes with the territory.

Eventually we got back to the mooring that we have been paying for throughout this whole long saga, but which we have not actually used since early May. 

Braunston to Home Mooring
Miles 10.9, Locks:13
Total Miles 365.5, Total Locks: 362

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Almost back on the Grand Union

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Cath)

This is a fairly easy day, just a few locks, so we weren't too fussed about getting going too quickly. Alan started steering, and I decided that it was time that I had a proper clean around. There was a lot of dust in the carpets, and we'd managed to transfer a lot of dried grass inside at All Oaks Wood.

Hillmorton locks
However, on the way I contacted our friend Polly to ask if she wanted to have dinner with us that evening somewhere in Braunston. Yes, she said, she'd love to. Did I want to go to the gym with her that afternoon?

Ooo! Yes, I did. But we couldn't be too late going because the small gym is getting very busy late afternoon at the moment. Immediately there was a bit of a problem - could we get to Braunston in time?

A quick stop in Rugby was essential for a few things at the supermarket. We were lucky, all the moorings were full but the water point was empty, an ideal spot to fill up with water while I made a very quick visit to the Tesco. I got back to the boat just at the point that the tank was full.

Yes - the bow needs a repaint even more now it's been welded up!
On to Hillmorton, and while one of the pounds was very low we weren't delayed much with the three locks there. All that was needed then was the 7 or so miles to Braunston. These aren't quick miles. The canal is shallow, and winding and there are lots of boats moored along it - requiring us to slow down while passing. I did a stint steering, but realised that I hadn't had a bath for a day or so, and I was now covered in dust from my boatkeeping tasks that morning, so I persuaded Alan to steer again while I had a very quick shower/bath.

We got to Braunston in good time. People on another boat told us that Braunston was 'chocka', so we moored on the Northern Oxford before the main moorings, and I walked to meet up with Polly.

I thoroughly enjoyed going to the gym. I used the treadmill to check that I can run a mile comfortably in 10 minutes (OK, yes, I'm breaking no records there, but I haven't run for 15 years until recently), then another 15 minutes of intervals to try to build up my speed. Then weights. I felt great afterwards. I wish that I could go to the gym more often, but I am so often away that any gym membership becomes uneconomic.

The dogs, particularly Odin, behaved like idiots when they saw their special friend Polly. Then a pleasant meal in the Old Plough. 

One more day to home.

All Oaks to Braunston
Miles 15.0, Locks: 3
Total Miles 354.7, Total Locks: 349

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Nearly a mile further than yesterday!

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Another day at Brinklow Boat Services - another day of trying to scramble dogs across boards laid over the cloths of another working boat - ultimate no mishaps occurred!

Dave had agreed to look at a problem on Flamingo where rust formed between the deck plate and the top bends of the boat. The previous owner had tried fillers in the offending gap, and it hadn't worked, so rust streaks thwarted any attempt to paint it up to look tidy. The decision was to put a weld over the full length on both sides to form a proper seal - something that took longer than expected, because (as Dave explained it) despite all attempts to needle gun the area first, residual rust kept trying to break out, and disturb the weld.  In fact he had to do the worse side in small short sections.

No pictures yet, but they would simply show the repaired area covered in a suitable quick drying primer. The front end badly needed a repaint anyway, and now it most certainly does!

Dave also wanted to look over the Lister HA2 engine. He fully rebuilt it a couple of years back, but we have had some issues on this big trip, thought to be down to fuel delivery.

He agreed with the diagnosis of the engineer from Shire Cruisers at Sowerby Bridge that throughput on the fuel lift pump seemed less than might be expected. Between the two people taking a look I had bought a replacement fuel pump, (none was available when we were at Sowerby Bridge), so I agreed that Dave would fit it.

Dave also checked the rest of the engine, particularly ensuring all internal fuel joints were tight and not leaking, but also checking tappet clearances. In the end it was all declared in good health, other than the possibly suspect pump.

By late afternoon we were ready to leave  In the end we only went just up the canal to the usually popular moorings at All Oaks, which we found surprisingly empty.

We had travelled about a mile more than we managed yesterday, but it still wasn't much over a mile!

Brinklow Boat Services, Stretton Arm to All Oaks
Miles 1.3, Locks: 0
Total Miles 339.7, Total Locks: 346

Monday, 15 July 2019

A very short days boating!

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Almost no boating today, but we did go the very short distance from our overnight stop to Brinklow Boat Services.

We had the usual fun of threading our way between boats, with at least one needing to be repositioned temporarily to get our near 72 foot around a corner entering the yard, and getting past the "floating/sinking" dry dock.

We had to moor on the outside of the "Star", meaning old plywood boards had to be laid across the sheeted hold of that boat to give a route to get the dogs on and off.  Max got the hang of it almost immediately, but Odin seemed to want to cross on the bits where the boards weren't!   Doable, but all three family members needed to be on hand each time it was done.

Today Dave Ross replaced the rotting "back end beam" that crosses the front of the engine room with a steel replacement.  It is a common compromise these days, if not strictly prototypical.  Anything in wood needs constant maintenance, and quickly starts to deteriorate - the steel equivalent is the same shape, but far less maintenance is required.

I didn't take pictures, so these are "borrowed" from Dave.

Old beam removed

It was very rotten

Complete and primed.

That's better!

Stretton Stop to Brinklow Boat Services, Stretton Arm
Miles 0.4, Locks: 0
Total Miles 338.4, Total Locks: 346

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Another fairly gentle day on the Coventry then Northern Oxford canals.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Cath)

Around the turn at Hawkesbury, (180 degrees)
We didn't get going very early, but no problem, it was going to be a relatively short day.

I steered the first bit, then Alan took over and I got changed into my running kit. Alan dropped me off at a bridge in Nuneaton, and I set off on my run. I don't like running in warm weather, and it was starting to get warm so that I was grateful of any shade along the towpath. Alan picked me up again on the corner near Charity Dock. We decided to stop at Hawkesbury Junction for a quick lunch and I could have a bath/shower before we set off again.

Flamingo with Brighton (right hand side) [Dusty Miller]
Hawkesbury Junction is also known as Sutton Stop after a family of lock-keepers there in the 19th century. There is one shallow lock, a stop lock, which was to keep the waters of the Coventry Canal separate from the waters of the Northern Oxford Canal - each canal company was a separate entity, and as water was their business they were careful to make sure that another company didn't get their precious water. 

Dusty's painting based on the above [Copyright Dusty Miller]
Hawkesbury is also well known among boaters for a very difficult turn of 180 degrees underneath an elegant arching canal bridge, but also in front of a popular pub where drinkers can watch your mistakes. The ideal is to take a full length boat 'round in one', but there are photos of the boatmen of the past having a crew member holding a rope around a 'strapping post' to help them get around - so it's clearly not an easy thing to do. In practice we work on the principle of getting Flamingo round without completely cocking the whole thing up.

More than 50 years later Flamingo is where the pair were in the 1960s.
Once through the stop lock we tried to reproduce part of a photo by canal artist Dusty Miller that includes Flamingo in its Willow Wren carrying days, taken in the mid 60s.  Dusty went on to turn that photo into a painting, but artistic licence added another pair of boats, and changed the boating faiy seen with Flamingo.

I steered the first few miles, while Alan polished brass, then he took over. We managed to moor the boat somewhere near to the side just by Rose Narrowboat moorings - enough that the dogs could get on and off with both of the planks placed across to the bank. They don't seem to be able to cope with one plank - it's too narrow - but put both of them to the bank and they are OK with walking on and off. We took the dogs for a walk in the evening sunshine. Tomorrow just around the corner to Brinklow Boats for some steelwork on Flamingo.

Springwood Haven to Stretton Stop
Miles 14.7, Locks 1
Total Miles 354.7, Total Locks:346

Saturday, 13 July 2019

An easier day - but "oh dear!"

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

The big push to be at Alvecote last evening had put us in a good position for a somewhat more leisurely journey on to the Stretton arm of the Oxford canal, where we have arranged to have small amounts of steelwork done on Flamingo by Brinklow Boat Services. In fact this should have happened about 5 weeks ago, but getting locked in on the Rochdale canal had scuppered that plan - fortunately Brinklow could still accommodate us at this later date.

Now we had two relatively short days to get to Stretton, and an obvious half way stop is near Springwood Haven, where there are good deep moorings, and excellent walks for the dogs.

Today would be the day with most of the locks - the eleven lock flight at Atherstone, a good well maintained flight, though the locks are notoriously slow to fill.

Unfortunately as I tried to hand Cath the camera we normally use for the majority of the blog photos, my hand caught on the strap as I thought I had handed it over, and yanked it from her hand, after which it skidded across the lock-side, and disappeared into the cut just above the top gates of the second lock up at Atherstone. They don't half sink quickly!

Cath though it couldn't posibly retrieved, but David had a go with our big magnet. I wasn't sure there would be anything magnetic, but apparently it found something, (maybe the clip on the case), and came briefly to the surface, only to fall off and sink again before it could be grabbed.

There was steady traffic up and down the locks, so I had to move the boat on up the flight, but after a long wait David did eventually appear with the camera - once set a challenge he likes to succeed!

Approaching the top of Atherstone, (taken on the "other" camera!).
Now we knew you can resuscitate mobile phones by drying out in tubs of rice, so we have tried the same with the camera. Unfortunately unlike phones zoom cameras contain motors, gears, many moving parts, not to mention lenses, diaphragms and sensors.  So far the camera is refusing to play ball, and the lens remains fully extended and any attempt to use it results in a"lens error". There is visibly water inside the lens, and also between parts of the LCD screen on the camera back.  There may also be rice grains embedded in the mechanism that should work the lens! I have not completely given up hope, but I am certainly not optimistic of a good outcome. This sadly was not a cheap camera - we do have another with us, but it is less suitable for blog photos, and there will probably be a lot less photos posted for a while.

We did get easily to Springwood Haven, and the dogs got a good walk, but I think it will have been an expensive day, unfortunately.

Samuel Barlow, Alvecote to Springwood Haven

Miles 10.8, Locks:11
Total Miles 323.3, Total Locks: 345

Friday, 12 July 2019

The most miles in a day so far.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Wood End Lock, Trent & Mersey Canal
A couple of days ago, when I tried to look at a revised plan of where we might aim to spend each night, I realised that with a couple of long days we might get to  Alvecote Marina, and hence to the Samuel Barlow pub - always a favourite for us to treat ourselves to an evening meal.  However the fact that we started a bit too late yesterday, and had then hit significant hold ups, had left us not as far ahead overnight as this plan really needed.  We were still several miles short of Rugeley, but also food supplies were dwindling, and we needed to make a stop for a serious supermarket shop. (Provided you can find a mooring for a 70 foot boat, Rugeley has a very conveniently located supermarket).

Approaching Fradley
So today we made a much earlier start, and pushed on for the miles needed to get us to the shopping stop. Unusually there was masses of available mooring space, so we were soon tied up and went in the supermarket, although the latter took some time - it's not unusual as you try to find items you need in large stores with unfamiliar layouts.

Our final lock on the T&M before turning on to the Coventry
By the time we were started again the canal planner we use indicated that whilst we probably could get to Alvecote, it was unlikely to be in time for last orders for food - we decided to try anyway - at least we could have a beer.

There are just 5 locks for today's journey -  three before you turn off the Trent and Mersey at Fradley Junction, then nothing until near Alvecote, with two slow filling locks at Glascote.  Between those two sets of locks includes some 11 miles from Fradley junction to Fazeley Junction, the first half of which are somewhat confusingly a detached portion of the Coventry Canal, whereas the second half from Whittington is part of the Birmingham & Fazeley - our route becomes the main Coventry Canal again at Fazeley. You can tell which you are on, because Coventry Canal bridges have numbers, whereas Birmingham and Fazeley bridges have only names, (except for at least one where somebody has stolen both the name plates in recent years!).

Glascote locks on the Coventry canal
Against planner predictions we eventually arrived at Alvecote in plenty of time for a relaxed and excellent meal. With Flamingo on narrow canals we seldom beat the default timings from the planner - it is a big heavy boat that needs to be nursed around the many bends, through tricky bridge holes, often filled with silt, and past lines of moored boats.  Today, however we beat the predicted journey time by well over an hour - quite unusual, but most welcome. We must finally be doing something right!

Trent Aqueduct, near Rugeley to the "Samuel Barlow", Alvecote

Miles 23.2, Locks 5
Total Miles 313.1, Total Locks:334

Thursday, 11 July 2019

A slow start, but still good progress overall.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Waiting near Roger Fuller's yard 
- his boat Clematis is craned out for work.
We were rather later setting off south from Barlaston than we had intended, and it should have been obvious from the large number of boats that had been there last night, but had already left, that queues at the lock flights were likely.  The first of these is the rather attractive flight of 4 locks at Meaford.  As we were getting near I could see lots of boats ahead, so I dropped Cath at a bridge some considerable distance before the top lock to go up and check the situation, whilst I "hovered" in the bridge hole - this often easier than joining the melee near the lock, knowing there will not be any spare space deep enough to be able to get to the side. I think I "hovered" for more than half an hour - we really should have started earlier!

The Slough - same boat type as Flamingo, 
but much altered over the years.
Once able to finally move up to the lock for our turn, things thankfully went a lot quicker for a while.  The Meaford locks are not long out of the way before you arrive at another 4 passing through Stone.  Again there was some, (but far less), queuing for the top lock, but here at least I was opposite the boatyard run by Roger Fuller, so there were some interesting boats to look at, and a bit of conversation to be had. Cath had suggested we pull over for some shopping, but there are very few moorings in the town centre, and none were available.

Working boats would probably also had 
solar panels had they been available!
Instead she went ahead and bought some oatcakes, rejoining us when we got to Star Lock - these have proved very popular in the past, and were so again today, allowing us to have a hot and tasty lunch on the move with zero effort required to prepare it.

Our stretch target today was to  get into Rugeley.  From the point we made a late start that was always ambitious, and by the time we caught up a very slow moving boat (very, very slow!), it became even less likely we would get all the way into the town centre.  However we remembered some very good moorings approaching the Brindley aqueduct over the Trent some distance before the town, so we stopped there.  We could still be where we wanted to be the next evening, but tomorrow looked like being a long day.

Barlaston to Brindley Aqueduct, near Rugeley

Miles 17.0, Locks: 14
Total Miles 289.9, Total Locks: 329