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Marina life and saving lives!

Well we've been back almost two weeks and I have neglected the blog! Sorry if anyone has been bored enough to want to read it and I will keep this entry as short as I can.
Richard rebuilt the engine on our return as the bits arrived in 2 days! Good service and really helpful (Marine Services). The leak has been sorted and the engine is shining like a new pin. I don't know how many times the brasso has been out but I even helped him this time. (That was because there was oil everywhere, Richard is not the tidyest/cleanest of mechanics!
We fetched our eldest (Martin - pictured hiding behind the plants) from University last week (Bournemouth) as the train fair had gone up by about £20 and we fancied a day out. Bless him, he didn't have any milk in, so a coffee was not on the list, lots of washing for me though!
We have been showing him around and giving him a chance on the tiller. He has lapped it up, having a blast up the river to Hazelford lock last night and on our way back now.

Major event!! 3 days ago, Richard was sitting in the cratch at the front of the boat, surfing/smoking mainly! Suddenly a splash could be heard and Richard dived out of the boat to the aid of what he thought was a generator falling off the back of the guy opposite's boat. As he looked over the edge of the pontoon, he could see the bright yellow genny falling below, but then sore the sole of this guy's foot!! It took ages for us to haul him out of the water, not easy when it's someone as big as you fully dressed wet through and having a fit!
We managed to get him on the pontoon walkway, and his fitting seemed to subside so that he relaxed into the recovery position. I told bystanders to call for an ambulance and get a blanket, and to my surprise suddenly people sprang into action. Within 10 minutes the paramedic arrived. After they changed him into dry shorts, he had another fit. He didn't look very well at all. The ambulance took over an hour to arrive, but at least the medic was there early on. Hypothermia was the biggest worry and he wasn't responding that well.
If Richard hadn't been there at that time, no one would have known he had gone in and without doubt would have died!! He just says he would have done it for anyone, which I suppose is true. Thought for today, would you help or walk by?
I will keep you posted on his recovery....

Quick let's get home before it rains again!

Tuesday morning, the third day on the 'cut', the clouds broke and the sun came out, for a second day. Would it have been enough dry weather to bring the water level down? Low and behold it had, to just above the beginning of the yellow, which is not right, but safer and would make for a speedy down river journey (not white water rafting!). We would still probably wear our lifejackets.
Through the lock we went with some trepidation, but the marker had revealed more of itself overnight which was reassuring. The photo doesn't illustrate it well, but you can tell the level is lower. We needed to get back to the Trent lock to go on the Cranfleet cut section of the Trent, which would return us to Newark.
The river sped us along, except, on checking things were Ok with the engine, Richard discvered that on the hard revs, a cloud of steam would arise from the engine! We had a leak. Obviously putting pressure on the old girl was not necessary, but we ordered some parts from a company we had dealt with before including gaskets, the lot, as Richard had intended during the winter to strip the engine anyway. Give him an old engine and he is as happy as anything!
Amongst the many private moorings along the banks on the approach to Nottingham, we spotted this cause for concern! The water levels must have been really high to lift boats out like this!
Beeston lock was the last lock before Nottingham, where the wind took us again like a yacht and if Richard didn't have such a tight hold on the reverse lever, we would have gone merrily over the weir next to the lock. We crashed unashamably into the pontoon but at least I could get off and get a rope to secure it. Another couple we had followed down opened the lock gates as I ran up the bank to help, so Richard could steer the boat in alongside .
From a canal perspective I enjoy going through Nottingham. The views from a half marathon view (I did manage 3 when I was fit) weren't bad either! Here is a candid picture of the Castle. I nearly missed it! The main company transporting goods on the Trent at it's peak was Fellows, Morton and Clayton - this was their depot, now a museum. Through Castle lock we went, and then the extreme bend at the Premier Inn. This requires precision to get a 61foot boat round in one go, it took us 2!
This family of Canadian geese were
quite happy to let us go by noisily!

We were soon out on the river Trent proper again with Trent bridge behind us and the open vastness of the river stretched out in front. It seemed so wide and fast that both of us checked our lifejackets just to be sure.
At Holme lock, the deepest on this part of the river at 12feet deep, Holme Pierrepont White Water rafting course diverts water off the river onto it's new facility. On the way out to Nottingham, we had watched the canooists battle with the challenging course and rolling over many times. There was a rowing competition involving schools across the region.
In the picture, the scale of the lock is apparent as Richard holds the centre rope to keep us to the side of the lock.
Before we arrived at the next lock, I took a picture of a fantasic feat of engineering in the form of an aquaduct carrying the Nottingham - Grantham railway, at Radcliffe on Trent, itself concealed in woods on a bend in the river.
A welcome sight to anyone on this stretch of river is Gunthorpe bridge, being the only road bridge between Nottingham and Newark. It is a sign the journey is almost at an end. Gunthorpe lock is a popular mooring spot where refreshments can be bought etc. But we still had a few miles to go and needed to get the poor old engine back home for a rest.
So Hazelford lock did not get the pleasure of Scooby chasing it's rabbits, as we steamed past and arrived back at newark safe and sound in good time for the heavens to open!
14 (there were 15 when we left) signets met our arrival, happy with their parents in the safety and seclusion from preditors in our marina. What a marvellous sight!

and on to Sawley for a while...

All night it had rained and in the morning we decided we must press on to at least Loughborough. The water level on the lock was still in the 'green' so we were Ok for the time. Tempers rose as the inclement weather and bad luck negotiating the locks got the better of me. Later after lunch, I calmed down much to Richard's relief, and I got things into perspective, I hadn't broken anything just was having a bad day. The day gradually improved and the news that Richard's Mum and Dad would still be in Sawley if we could get there by teatime.
Loughborough wharf, was a tricky area to turn the boat around especially as the driving rain/wind forced the boat into a sail! We deposited more rubbish, filled up with water and carried on.
Going through Kegworth, I just thought this Hall was worth a photo, as it really did look the part in amongst the woods. The Soar valley is very beautiful and charming even on a rainy day! Soon we came around the corner to Kegworth Deep lock with the remains of an earlier chamber next to it, by-passed as part of a flood protection scheme. It was strange to see all the relevant parts of the lock still poking through the grass even the gates! I filled the deep lock so that Richard could bring the boat in and then attempted to open the paddles to empty it, only to find they would only lift half way. So there we were for about 10 minutes and another boat arrived. The guy came over and suggested I opened the paddles a little more else I'd be there all day, so I explained they didn't go any further. I gestured to him to try and they opened fully, another case of 'if at first you don't succeed, try a bit later'!
25 miles from Leicester, the river Soar meets the Trent, overlooked by the 8 cooling towers of Ratcliffe Power Station. Reeds lined the Soar past Redhill Marina. We are going to a regatta there in August, so we hoped there would be an improvement in places to moor, it was quite congested! Further on houses on stilts lined the red cliff bottom.
We spotted this boat all done out like a captain's ship with a wheelhouse at the stern!
Trent lock is where the counties of Derbyshire, Leicester and Nottingham meet, the Trent, Soar, Erewash Canal and Cranfleet on the Trent to go back to Newark but we were going West to Sawley. The river can be quite a battle against the wind as it was and the sailing dingies crisscrossing our path. Into the lock at Sawley, the lock keeper welcomed us and activated the machnical lock gates behind us. We were now in safe hands once more.
Wind and now rain hindered our passage through the marina where we eventually moored in the temporary visitor moorings, reassured albeit hesitantly by the brokerage office that the 'party' boat next to us would be angry if he couldn't get out that evening. Then he backtracked and said we would be fine so long as we moved first thing. The party boat man must have been a formidable figure, as I got the impression the office had had run-ins with him before! As we usually moor in a BW marina we are allowed to moor free at any of their other marinas across England, so this being one we were allowed to plug our land line in and use the facilities free of charge. So the washer went on, the carpet got hoovered, you know the story.
Not long after we had moored, Richard's parents arrived to take us to his brother's in Sawley. We stayed there for a couple of hours for a Chinese and several attempts at Rockband on their boys XBox, which was hillarious as I have no sense of rhythm, and their 4 yearold was better than all of us!
Rain and more rain meant that the next day and indeed today, we are still moored on the 'cut' (rather than the marina itself) now, but the river is in flood, so we cannot go anywhere!
Looking across to the river Trent, whole branches could be seen floating downstream. Whirlpools swirl around giving the water a treacherous appearance. It was obvious to us that going back through the lock towards Nottingham was not an option, but to sit it out and do some painting was quite appealing!
If you big up this picture you can see the warning sign that the river is in flood.
Richard's brother took us shopping to get loaded up with a week's worth of food and then today we cycled into Long Eaton to have a look around. The level has not gone any higher and should subside in the next day or so, provided there is no more rain, watch this space......

Foxton Junction, Leicester to Mount Sorrel

(Richard thought this was a very arty photo, he is easily pleased!)
Next morning, we set off to Debdale Wharf, where a tricky 90degree bend tested Richard, in order that the filler cap at the stern could be accessed. A mere £34 filled her back up ( a declaration has to be made on how much fuel is used for propulsion /domestic, so as the correct amount of VAT is paid!) and off we went again. Those of you who know us, know that Richard would have to put a small mortgage worth in the 'Brick' (ex army ambulance (101))to even get us off the drive, let alone a week's cruising, but we loved her all the same!
Saddington tunnel at 881yards long was a walk in the park compared with previous ones. We hoped to see evidence of bats, but were unlucky, despite the gloom in there.
12 locks stood between us and a good night's sleep at our next mooring at Kilby bridge. A lovely couple followed us through these locks all the way with their new 'battery' powered boat . The gentleman, it transpired, had worked on the Ark Royal during his time in the Navy, but recently his wife had had an accident and had problems with her memory. They lived aboard their boat and were visiting relatives around the Leicester area. Richard was intriged with the engine concept especially the silent running. The bow thruster was the only thing that gave it away. he told us he could creep up on fishermen and make them nearly fall in, the engine was that quiet!
Throughout this section, the countryside remains charmingly unspoilt, which makes the slow filling widebeam locks pale into insignificance.
The guide talks about the 'descent into Leicester - if not hell!', so we made an early start, trying hard not to let our thumping vintage style engine wake the rest of the boaters. This day we would do 19 locks! The day began in earnest, no-one else around, however arriving at Dunn's lock on the outskirts of Glen Parva, there was an issue with the gate at the lower end of the lock. A family had been waiting for British Waterways to come and repair the gate since the previous day, but no-one had responded. I called through and within an hour BW had arrived with a repair barge! A very serious chap walked towards us at the lock and asked what the problem was. He did no more than to go up to the gate and open it! If our jaws could have dropped any lower, they would have hit the floor! He said he had been in the job 30 years and it happens all the time. I felt sorry for the family waiting below the lock who had to get to Market Harborough that day to meet relatives off a plane. But when several different people had tried the gate after them he knew it was just time for the obstruction to be dislodged.
Whilst we had been waiting a guy called Peter arrived on Samantha Rose, another traditional style narrowboat but slightly longer than ours at 70 feet. He accompanied us through the locks to Mount Sorrel where we parted company. He was an expert at single manning his boat, in and out of the numerous locks and was great company.
Gradually urbanisation takes over the canal's passage into Leicester and the first thing which annoyed me was the graffiti on some of the lock gates. The threat of vandalism has brought about the padlocking of the paddles on the locks which I found such a shame.
Going through Leicester itself was actually thankfully quite uneventful. I steered the boat into the locks whilst Richard and Peter worked the paddles and gates. The local Regatta was being held over the weekend, so numerous boats had begun to congregate throughout the central 'Mile straight'. Our main concern was churning something up in the propellor, as anything could have been thrown in over the years, as with any city. Richard took several photos as he sailed through, mainly of ornate bridges and a heron!

Coming out of Leicester was as beautiful as arriving as the River Soar takes over parts of the waterway. Mount Sorrel would be our mooring for the evening as the weather was closing in and after all those locks and the early start, we were ready to stop.
Unfortunately supplies were at a minimum, and finding the shop would be another expedition in itself! Laden down with bags, a bottle of wine and a take away Indian, we arrived back at the boat exhausted but relieved that we had survived the 'youth' of Leicester, as so reputed!

Husband's Bosworth Tunnel and beyond...

First thing in the morning, after packing away the Cobb and all the bits we had just left out overnight as it had been so gorgeous, we started up the engine and headed further along the Grand Union. Husband's Bosworth tunnel (1170yards)appeared before us through a deep tree-bowered cutting, after only about half an hour into our journey. The dog decided he really didn't like it on the roof and opted for Ryan's cabin at the back with us. The engine can be quite booming and I worried about the sound waves on the brickwork!
The countryside around here was worth the visit and we could appreciate it as there weren't many other boaters along that section at the time. Some of the tight bends can be quite hairy getting the boat around if another boat meets you unexpectedly! Fascinatingly, the old Grand Union used trees as 'living' mileposts, and in the 1980s the Old Union Canal Society replaced them measuring the miles to and from Foxton.
Foxton Locks consists of 2 staircases of 5 chambers each. Boats can pass between the 2 staircases but there is a lock keeper on hand to organise the order for boats if there are several and give advice. There are pubs/cafes and a shop at the locks, so plenty of gongoozerlers(people who watch boaters) milling around, treating it as a proper day out!
In 1900, a boat lift/inclined plane was built at Foxton to ease the bottleneck for the trading boats. Archive photos in the museum reveal the astonishing grandeur of the inclined plane, an upper and lower deck , seperated by a 1:4 gradient. 2 counterbalanced tanks were capable of taking a barge or pair of narrowboats up or down the hill and the huge cogs carrying the cables and the ramps themselves can still be seen in places. (Source: Pearson's Canal Companion) The lift was closed due to being unprofitable in 1910 and the flight reinstated as the preferred method. There are plans to fully restore the plane to it's former glory and full working order.
It was my second visit to Foxton and I insisted on taking the boat down again to hopefully improve on the previous performance in the middle where I collided 'gently' with another boat waiting to come up! All went well with no collision but the angle of the second staircase and the boat waiting there means a bounce off the entrance to lock 6 is inevitable. Let's say no more....

The boat gracefully glided out of the last lock where I slowed to let Richard aboard. Turning right, we had decided to be nosey and look at the Market Harborough arm of the canal, which was originally intended to link Leicester and Northampton. Unfortunately the project ran out of capital and there the canal terminated.
Exiting the village of Foxton, first the footbridge needed to be opened for the boat and then we came across a road bridge! I jumped off the boat again to unlock the system of padlocks and stop signs and with much huffing and puffing opened the bridge slowly so that Richard could glide through. Then repeat the process, for the exasperation of the next boater. (and waiting motorist!)

Apart from the nauseating smell from the bone works (old bones are transformed into meal and tallow for use in the making of glue and soap), this canal was beautiful. It took almost 2 hours to sail to the basin at the terminus, where we were intending on staying for the night but there was no room, so we emptied the toilet, as you do, and turned around to come back. The gardens that lined the left side of bank were so glorious and framed by weeping willows, it was hard to understand why, apart from the hire company boats, there was little traffic on this route.
We made our way back to moor on the outskirts of Foxton just past the road bridge. I must really be benefitting from all this exercise, but it isn't showing yet! Too many power snacks!

Tunnels and Locks. Braunston to North Kilworth

The. first tunnel I encountered, was before we got to Rugby. It was a short (250yards) tunnel with a light display, switched off at sunset so as not to disturb the bats! It was worth going through for that, showing up all the old brickwork. The tunnel was built to cut the original course of the canal down considerably.

We passed another fantastic feat of human engineering in the shape of an aquaduct for the old railway line, completely redundant now. What a total waste.

However, Braunston tunnel is the seventh longest at 2042yards with no towpath through it, but boats can pass inside. Walkers have to go over the top of the tunnel by means of an old horse path.

It took us almost half an hour the get to the other end and was pitch black other than Richard's halogen offroading light (about 150watts!). I turned the engine room light on to give extra light at the stern but it didn't make much difference. I would not have wanted to break down in there or meet another boat!

Richard negotiating the rope on the approach to a lock.

As we arrived at Norton Junction further on, a lady shouted to us from her lovely cottage garden, (pictured) that she had nearly bought our boat. Did it have a corner bath, "oh yes", I had replied, confident in the fact that we had beaten her to it!

We turned North onto the Grand Union Leicester section to take us up to Watford, where we would moor overnight, to challenge the lock flight first thing. The weather has been fantastic throughout this trip, virtually having no rain and endless sunshine.

Shortly after our arrival, a boat pulled in front of us onto the services mooring and then proceeded to erect a tv aerial. Why should we be bothered? These locks operated via a queue system with the lock keeper. You informed him/her of your arrival and you go in the order they decide. We were a little disgruntled when this chap shunned Richard's offers to assist him to moor, as it appeared he was on his own and then it looked like he was going to queue jump! Later on another boat arrived behind us who were on a mission to do the whole of the Leicester ring in a week! No mean feat as it had just taken us a week to do what they had just done in 3 days! They were 4 really lovely guys from Stockport, interested in us and our boat. In the morning, we told them to go in front of us so that they stood half a chance of achieving their aim and also wouldn't get stuck behind us all the way to Crick! Get this, we also let the old guy go as well so that we would have the canal to ourselves and not feel under pressure. We will go to heaven and actually he turned out to be quite a nice bloke (of few words) with a disabled wife, so had been struggling.

The flight of 7 locks was quite hard to do as going up hill is harder to keep the boat in the right position whilst the water swills around like a washing machine. The locks raise the summit level of the canal to 412 feet taking you under the M1 and immediately regains it's reclusive character.

Crick Tunnel is almost a mile long at 1528yards and again was very dark and had no towpath.

We wanted to stop at Crick for a phonecall from someone saying they would measure and price our boat for a new cratch cover (the acrylic/canvas cover at the front) but they turned out too expensive so we went shopping in Crick instead. What a pretty village, with two pubs and a Co-op and some good ideas for paint colours (woodwork on window frames) for Ryan's bedroom makeover!

The canal meandered for a what seemed like an eternity until we decided to moor just before a village called North Kilworth. The Cobb (a coolsided oven that cooks like a bbq, but tastes like oven cooked) came out and the burgers and sausages were soon cooking on it! Unfortunately, I cooked far too much and the dog had his fill as well, much to Richard's despair as we are trying to get him to lose weight! Richard decided to do some painting to cover up the scratches recently acquired following glancing blows from hire boats and some startlingly very shiny privately owned boats! One nearly gave us a sideways shunt whilst we were under a bridge and could go nowhere. Nevermind, we are not perfect, having 'bounced' off edges of moorings etc. Richard did his best and used up some old gloss, he was happy again.

Hawkesbury Junction and the Oxford Canal -Week 2

This is an amazing junction of the Coventry and Oxford canals in a U bend (the most acute bend imaginable) framed by a bridge forged in Derby in 1837. There is a pub called the Greyhound, right where the action takes place so if you crash the boat or have to do a 60 point turn, everyone outside the pub can be your audience! Of course there was another boat to negotiate already coming through the lock at the junction, but Richard was not put off and managed to get the 61 ft around the bend after a couple of shunts and passed the boat without a scratch. Disappointingly we didn't hear any applause as the vintage style engine we have in the boat is very load at the stern!

The sun blaized down as I grappled with the lock after the turning.
The Oxford canal was very pretty in comparision with Coventry but we had issues when trying to moor as the side of the canal was slanted meaning getting close to the bank was impossible, so we carried on further to see if things improved. At Brinklow there was a picnic area so we moored there with no problems.
We passed through Rugby and then Hillmorton locks, where we had a strange experience with 'impatience'. I will elaborate; a guy on a boat waiting to come down the locks tried to open the gate that Richard and the Lock keeper were sitting on, waiting for the lock to fill! The Lock keeper says it happens all the time and he just shrugs and smiles. Some people have just got to 'get on'.

Scooby looks at the bridge over the Oxford canal where the new 'cut' passes the old arm. Apparently the original canal was shortened in the 1830s by around 15 miles, but the old parts still remain in use as marinas and for local businesses.
The bridges were all beautifully made and kept in remarkable condition.
We spent the next night at Braunston where a visit to the marina where we nearly bought the first boat but the survey said 'no'! was a must. Richard bought some new stern buttons and I did another load of washing! How very interesting. It was nice to visit somewhere we were familiar with from a different perspective.

Drayton Manor and the end of week one

Almost a week into the trip, we moored outside Drayton Manor Park entrance, where a footbridge designed like castles either side of the canal took you over to the road. Richard and I went for a 'recky' that evening to suss out prices and the opening times and nearly died! However me being me grilled the security guard about getting in and he told us to buy them online. We returned to the boat and discovered that we could save £7 each buying this way, so top tip for anyone in the future! Ryan and Richard cleared off to enjoy themselves and I stayed to do some sanding and varnishing on the doors in the front of the boat, my choice.
Only 3 hours later and numerous phonecalls from Richard to ask if I was alright and that they had moved up in the queue since half an hour earlier and then where was Ryan and then he'd found him again, they returned! Apparently the 'scary adult rides' that they actually had had a go on had amounted to 3 as most of them were closed! So much for value for money!
The long and the short of this ramble was to tell you that all that varnishing I had managed to get done and the tickly bits on worn edges through the rest of the boat were now in jeopardy as I had planned to be on my own for most of the day! We spent the rest of the day warning each other to avoid sticking to it all over the boat!

This is a picture of one of the many beautiful back gardens we spotted.

Later that day we turned around and started down the Coventry canal. Atherstone locks -a flight of 11 locks, took us towards Nuneaton where we had decided Ryan should catch a train for Sleaford in readiness for work and college the following Monday.
Ryan confidently sent the boat up the flight doing a better job than either of us could. We stayed at the previously mentioned Valley Cruises Marina to hastily do 4 wash loads.(Really not very interesting is the fact that the generator has been in for repairs since the beginning of April so we have had to rely on the electric hookup in the marina and battery power throughout any travels, so it's return would be welcome as we can't use the generator without it!)
Saturday was another gorgeous day and I had managed to get most of the washing dry, so Ryan had plenty of spare clothes to take back with him. We set off the short journey to Nuneaton which was a complete contrast to the countryside we had just experienced. Apparently town centres are not the most secure places to moor at night so we have tried to avoid them but as we were only stopping for a few hours we moored just on the edge. Richard assembled the bikes from off the boat roof and we set off into town to the train station. He was quite happy to jump on the train and disappear before us, we didn't get the chance to wave to him, parents are so embarrassing! He arrived at my Mum's house 2 hours later, right as rain, perfectly capable, I don't know why I was so worried!