Wednesday 31 July 2013

Rugby to Hillmorton

Rugby to Hillmorton : 3 miles, 3 locks
To date : 586 miles, 331 locks

The rest of the night was peaceful and we were glad we'd moved.  This morning just after breakfast a lady appeared at the side hatch window.  She introduced herself - Jenny and Frank on nb Lady C.  They're from Brisbane and it turns out they have been reading the blog on and off since before we left Australia.  It's lovely to meet people who have found some sort of inspiration from my ramblings.  Jenny said it was Frank that was set on the narrowboat dream and she took some time to warm to the idea.  They're only doing six months and will then be selling their boat and returning to Australia.  We had a great chat through the side hatch with me in my dressing gown.  So nice to have met you both!

Last night's disturbances have left their mark.  Mick didn't want to stay a second night in Rugby as we'd planned.  So once we were all sorted this morning we went down to Tesco for a good grocery shop - fresh stuff that I would rather we choose ourselves.  We had lunch and a tidy up and then moved on again.  What a shame that a mooring we enjoyed so much last time is now somewhere we'd probably not want to stay again.

Reaching the bottom of the Hillmorton Locks we breathed a sigh of relief.  We quite like mooring at the top of the locks.  We topped up the water tank at the water point below the bottom lock... chatting to a couple on Louis & Joshua boat number 72.... then with a French lady at the first lock who was fascinated with the whole procedure.  We breezed through the locks and much to my amazement I managed to get the boat into every lock without touching the sides once.  Miracle!  There was a volunteer lock-keeper at the first lock who said we were the 61st boat through today.  Very busy.  At the top there was just the first couple of moorings free so we went into the same place we moored Sunday night and before long a boat went into the last one.  It's a lovely, placid place and we're glad to be here.

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Rugby - a disturbed night

We had our first bad mooring experience last night.  We were moored on the parkland side of the visitor moorings in Rugby and in the evening a group of about 8 youngsters rode in on their pushbikes.  I'm guessing they might have been about 14 or 15 years old.  They started knocking on boat windows and then began harassing the fellow on the boat ahead of us for alcohol.  It went on for a while and when they banged again hard on our living room window Mick went out.  They were all gathered around the fellow on the boat ahead so Mick went to offer him some moral support.  The kids moved away with their bikes and started hurling abuse and threats.  The guy ahead said they were going to move on but it was 9pm and at first we thought we'd ride it out.  I think the kids had threatened to smash his windows.  Then the fellow on the next boat came out and put their tiller on too.  Mick went to talk to them and he said his wife was quite upset and rattled by it all so they were moving too.  If they left there'd be a long gap and then just us on our own right at the end.  There were no boats moored on the opposite side except right at the other end.  Suddenly it didn't seem like a good idea to stay there the night.  So, at 9.20pm we moved off down the cut.  Further along by the industrial area there was one spot vacant.   It appeared the boat ahead of us who had headed off 5 minutes before us, had tried to get in there and kept moving.  We decided to give it a try and although it wasn't ideal it felt like a safer place to be with a long row of moored boats about us.  The stern wasn't tight in on the bank and we were aground on the bankside but getting on and off the bow is no big sacrifice even if it's a big step across.

Hillmorton to Rugby

Hillmorton to Rugby : 3 miles, 3 locks
To date : 583 miles, 328 locks

Well, we've done it!  We booked our flights home today.... for the 5th June 2014. After much agonizing we have decided to stay on a bit longer than we originally planned.  Now... to decide where to moor over Winter.

The first boat heading down the locks went past at 6.30am this morning.  It was a couple of hours later by the time we were ready to go ourselves.  All three locks were in our favour so that was a nice bonus.  It makes a difference when the locks are duplicated.  We stopped for water at the bottom, having done a load of washing this morning.

The weather held off most of the way but there was a bit of rain for a short while.  We were at the Rugby visitor moorings not much after 10.30am.  It's a popular spot with a retail park so close and the only available mooring was the one Barry and Carol had been on last time we were here.  It was the first mooring and not quite long enough so we have our stern against some blackberry.  I got the pruners out and nipped them back a little so now we can at least walk along the gunwale to get out that way.  We like it when there's no boat behind and even better that it would be difficult to get to the back of the boat.  Boats have come and gone all day with many just stopping to visit Tesco and then going on again. 

We went down to where we'd seen a shop last time that seemed to stock just about everything household.  With another 10 months ahead of us now we decided we'd get a few picture frames.  We found some other useful stuff.  Mick bought a ten quid jig saw, I found a Regatta fleece on sale, and there was a Currys so I bought a new wireless mouse after an unfortunate mishap with the last one.  Just as we emerged the heavens opened.  We scuttled into Subway and sat out the rain over lunch.

The rain came on and off over the afternoon while I worked and booked our airfares.  Looks like more of the same tomorrow.

1. Mick was impressed.  A floating workshop!
2. - 4. Tonight's mooring
5. - 6. Look to the right, look to the left
7. There were 11 Tesco trolleys in this creek!!!
8. Ominous
9. Oooohhhh... look at the Dyson
10. Mick cooked dinner... all by himself.

Monday 29 July 2013

Braunston to Hillmorton

Braunston to Hillmorton : 7 miles, 0 locks
To date : 580 miles, 325 locks

Just a couple of hours today.  We had moored at the top of the Hillmorton Locks on our way to Braunston a few months ago so decided to stop there again.  It would give me the afternoon to do some work and Mick could get on with his windows.

First stop was the water point, then winding at the entrance to the marina before heading back to Braunston Junction.  We waved to the bacon butty eaters in The Gongoozeler's Rest and goodbye to the Canadian travellers as we passed by them again.  We passed The Boathouse and then onto fields of ridge and furrow, grazing cows and lots of hire boats.

The morning was pleasant and sunny when we left but as we cruised along a bit of cloud came over.  We even thought we'd get some more rain... it had bucketed down during the night.  It didn't eventuate and we reached Hillmorton in time for lunch.

Mick's happy  We saw an advertisement in the Towpath Talk for a new biodegradable product called Narrowboat Cleaner and Degreaser.  There were ropes coiled on the roof of the boat when we bought it and they'd obviously been there quite some time.  We'd tried all sorts of things to remove the stain they'd left but nothing worked.  They had become fainter over time with all the scrubbing but were still obvious.  So yesterday Mick asked at Midland Chandlers and they had a 5 litre bottle.  It was quite expensive but we decided it was worth a try.  The mechanic who last did work on our boat also made a bit of a mess of the non-slip step at the edge of the stern with his boots after he'd stepped in oil or grease.  Success!  The new wonder product made light work of both the problems.

It is definitely cooler today and the there's a bit of a breeze up.  We like the mooring.  A bit of sun, a bit of interest with the lock just in front, batteries on 100%, best phone reception we've had in ages and internet signal at full strength too.

This afternoon the rain came in a deluge but it didn't last long.  It looks like we'll have more tomorrow.




Sunday 28 July 2013

A day in port - Braunston

Another lovely day of English summer.  It's so much nicer now that the temperature is a few degrees less and we're enjoying it.  Being in Braunston for the weekend in such weather is a bonus. Late yesterday a pretty pair chugged by.  On the calm and peaceful canal it was lovely to watch.  I wonder how those unpowered butty boats stop when they have to?!

We've chatted to some lovely folk today.  First there was the lady living by herself on her boat, then there was a lady we bumped into in the marina office/store who wanted a piece of wood cut and Mick volunteered to cut it for her, we met Wally from South Africa who is doing up the rather neglected boat he and his wife have bought and finally there was Colin and his wife on nb Just Ruby who we first met at Napton.  Then, later today we got chatting to 6 Canadians on a hire boat moored a couple of boats down from us..... Carol, Terry, Doug, Geoff, Greg and Lynn.  How fantastic to meet people from so many different countries.

It was very enjoyable wandering around having a look at the boats for sale and browsing the little store and watching the progress through the locks.  While we stood looking at the brochures of the boats on brokerage, one name jumped out at us.  It was nb Northern Pride.  She's sold already.

We had a grocery order due for delivery between 6-7pm.  Unfortunately I get absolutely no phone reception here so would not receive messages about the delivery.  Just before 6pm we went and sat by the roadside at the entrance to the workshop area that we'd asked for the delivery to come to.  After about 10 minutes my phone beeped as it finally got a weak signal up high by the road.  The message said that our delivery would be over an hour late!  We came back to the boat to have some dinner and half an hour later... about 6.30pm... the Ocado delivery fellow appeared at our door.  Honestly, you can't fault the service.  He was full of apologies about the confusion and drove his van right down to below the little gate from the towpath. 

As we sit here now it is pouring rain and rumbling thunder.  A bit of rain will be welcome..... I've heard talk that the lack of rain could cause problems with the water levels in the canals.  Hope not!

Saturday 27 July 2013

Napton on the Hill to Braunston

Napton on the Hill to Braunston : 7 miles, 0 locks
To date : 573 miles, 325 locks

Last night as we sat to watch the news the dog who spends his days at the canal whimpered outside the window for Mick to come out and play.  To deter him we closed all the blinds on the towpath side and left on the front doors open.  I caught a movement out the corner of my eye and saw him jump into our cratch and curl up on the floor of the cratch!  Cheeky boy.  There was a stunning sunset last night.

There were two little families of moorhens by our mooring at Napton.  One appeared to have three chicks and the other just a single chick.  The boaters were making jokes about the moorhen creche as it seemed they were all sharing parenting duties.  Sometimes all four chicks would be with one mother, sometimes the four chicks would each be with a different parent, sometimes each dad had two each.  At feeding time it made no difference whatsoever who was feeding who.

We arrived in Braunston just after 11am and were very happy to see a boat leaving the mooring where we'd been on our last visit.  So we're back in the same spot again.  Perfect.

We had a 2 for 1 lunch at the Boat Inn and watched as more and more boats went by and then back again after being unable to find a mooring.  It is definitely worth arriving early at your destination in Summer and especially on a Friday.  So we've settled in for the weekend.

Braunston is a great place to wander around looking at boats and chatting to people.  Mick just loves it.  We enjoyed a chat this afternoon with a lady living on her boat alone with just her dog for company.  We've seen many of the same boats that we've been leap frogging for the last week or so.

Friday 26 July 2013

A day in port - Napton on the Hill

It certainly is on a hill!

A cooler morning and a bit of rain overnight.  Over breakfast we had a visitor.  It was the dog we met when we came to Napton with the two Aussie women who were staying with Jane and Ian.  We have no idea of the dogs name but he’s a bit of a fixture on the canal down here.  Apparently he lives in the village and goes home each night.  He just loves fetching a stick and kept bringing one to us and laying it on the gunwale in the hope that we’d throw it… again.. and again.. and again.  There’s not much in the way of decent sticks along here and they were pretty pathetic offerings.  Mick took sympathy and gave him a stick from our kindling bag.  This dog never seems to tire of the game and when we ignored him he began putting the stick through the side hatch and dropping it on the floor. 

We took advantage of the pleasant weather to have a good walk around the village of Napton on the Hill.  It’s a pretty village with a church perched high on the hill, a couple of pubs and a little village store.  We bought a few bits and pieces in the store including 4 cards drawn by a local artist.  We’re thinking we might frame them and put them on the dinette wall.   

Along the way we saw a house with a sign advertising free range eggs.  At one pound for half a dozen they were the cheapest we’ve bought since the first week we were in the UK.   The village meanders up the hill with some really nice houses and most of them have stunning views down to the valley where the canal is.

The views from the church were fabulous and were well worth the steep little path to get up there.  We chatted with a fellow who was doing some painting in the church and then headed on our way back.  As we passed the last of the houses and headed down the narrow road that leads to the canal there was a bit of drizzle and we thought we and our groceries, phones and camera, might get wet but it was a false alarm.

I had a couple of hours to do some work before lunchtime.  Just as we finished our lunch we heard frantic cries from the back of the boat  “Help! Is anyone there?! Excuse me! Help!”.  I raced down to the stern to poke my head out and see what the fuss was about.  A boat was trying to reverse around the bend with two women holding ropes bow and stern.  When they’d reached the moored boats they’d run into trouble.  The first boat, which was behind us, had nothing on the roof at all so they’d managed to get the ropes across the roof but when they encountered our pram cover they were in trouble.  It wasn’t going to get any better because our aerial was even higher and the boats beyond us had all manner of things on top of them.  Their boat was drifting on backwards and the lady was desperately trying to keep hold of her rope.

I quickly shoved my feet into my shoes with my heels not properly in them, and grabbed the bow rope from the lady just in time before she dropped it in the cut. I scooted along our outside gunnel and met Mick at the bow so we could pass the rope around the aerial.  By then the stern rope lady was there too so we passed that along and I fended off the bow of their boat from hitting us.  Other boaters, hearing all the fuss came out of their boats and so the process continued.   There were people standing on the roof of their boats passing the ropes over and others out on their gunnels fending off the meandering boat.  It really wasn’t the easiest way of reversing past moored boats. 

The cause of all this?  Their boat had got stuck in the bottom lock as it was an inch too wide!  I don’t know at what point in the proceedings they had discovered this but it must have been awful all the same. The Napton locks are fairly narrow but they certainly aren’t the narrowest we’ve been in.  It reminded me of something Peter Berry from nb Kelly Louise had once emailed me before we bought our boat.  It was along the lines of choosing a boat with a known shell builder as it’s important that the dimensions are exactly right.  At the time I did take note but now I can see now how vital that piece of advice was.  How disastrous to have a narrowboat that can’t fit into narrow locks.  They might as well have a widebeam!

This is a mooring with lots of people to chat to.  While I work I can hear Mick’s voice talking to all and sundry.  There’s been plenty of cricket comments… getting a bit boring now… and we’ve met a couple of Aussies and a British couple who have lived in Australia most of the last 20 years or so, spending the UK Summer over here on their boat. 

While out walking this afternoon, and admiring the cherries on the trees, I spied the name of a boat I thought I'd seen on the Crown Narrowboat website.  It was nb Coromandel... another Kiwi name.  I saw the Crown on the stern and said hello the folk.  They were heading the same direction as I was walking back to the boat so we had a chat along the way.  They've only had her a month and were so happy with the boat.  Another happy Crown owner!