- Mac & Jacquie Court
- 70 now and our five wonderful years aboard our narrowboat Skyy seem along time ago. Jacquie, allowed me to build my replica three wheeler kit car, which was a great success. Now it's time to start on a bigger project and that is to make a good Triumph Stag even better, here goes.
Wednesday, 30 April 2008
On Monday we just pottered, catching up on boat work, when Tug from Golden Eagle invited us to dinner that evening, he did eventually clear this invite with his wife Kirsty. Again, another example of impromptu canal hospitality.
Tuesday morning, we got away slightly the worse for the amount of wine drank with Tug & Kirsty, thanks guys for the splendid curry. The six locks of the Astwood flight were nothing, but just following those is the 30 lock flight of Tardebigge, this is the final lift to the level approach to Birmingham. The weather turned very wet and the forecast for Wednesday was also wet, so we pushed in the pins at Stoke Works and decided to stay put until the weather improved before tackling this major climb.
Tug had suggested that we did not go through narrow locks with our sausage fenders down and as we had got hung up in a lock when one of these fenders got caught in the lock ladder and coming through the Stratford locks, the fit was so tight that we ripped off one fender and cut another in half, we thought this was good advice and bought 3 karabiners ( spring clippy things as used by mountaniers) so that we can simple clip on the sausages when we moor up.
Today we rose up out of Worcester, through 13 locks. Quite an achievement, they were narrow locks, so they don’t take so long to fill, but this was the first time that just the two of us had worked through so many locks. Jacquie proved herself more than capable of bringing the boat into and out of the locks and sharing the lock work meant that it didn’t feel at all like hard work.
This lovely foal appeared as we rose up through Offerton Top Lock.
The last lock is just before the M5 and half a mile passed that is the village of Tibberton were we stayed for two nights.
Jacquie returned late Friday evening having visited her Dad, who is a Chelsea Pensioner, and we spent Saturday morning discovering Worcester Cathedral and the city. We climbed the Cathedral tower and were fascinated by the bell ringers practicing on soundless dummy bells, but they were all wired up to computers and able to monitor their all important timing. The view from the top of the tower made the claustrophobic final climb well worth it.. One chap actually proposed to his lady on top of the tower, happily she accepted.
Imagine our surprise whilst wandering through the lovely old streets, to find that Mac & Jac have already opened a Deli. One might think that Jac has already had enough of being a water gypsy and has started an alternative career, but, no, jiust coincidence.
I just thought that I should mention that we had a problem getting the computer to recognise the T -Mobile Web & Walk modem, Keith from Quidditch said that he has burnt out two connecting cables, and we had previously smelt hot plastic, but couldn't identify where the smell could be coming from. Ashley had been watching TV via the internet and it seems possible that with high transfer rates the cable could overheat. I tried the same cable with the camera and sure enough the computer didn't recognise it. A new cable resolved the problem.
After lunch we moved up to Lowesmoor Basin, just on the northern edge of Worcester City centre, where Viking Boats gave up a helpful and friendly welcome, we fueled and watered and stayed overnight. The local Aldi supermarket was an interesting experience, their grapes were surprisingly tasty.
We stopped shortly after passing through Diglis Basin, which Nicholson’s guide described as having bags of charm, full of ramshackle buildings and eccentric boats. Well the ramshackle building, in the main, have either all ready been replaced or are in the process of being replaced with new apartment blocks, which certainly have very little charm. Some of the original warehouses have been converted with a degree of success. A shame but inevitable I guess.
Ashley very expertly brought the boat into the Diglis Basin lock and also had time to capture this image of me letting his Mum do all the work, Nothing new there then.
Jacquie and Ashley deserted me, to travel to London, courtesy of Great Western Trains. So I spent the rest of Thursday and Friday doing the usual maintenance, including changing the engine oil and filters.
Friday, 25 April 2008
We awoke to the sound of heavy rain on the roof, but again by the time we were ready to descend the last Avon lock that would send us out onto the River Severn, the sun was shining brightly.
We had sixteen and a half miles and one lock to travel to reach Worcester. This is the widest piece of water we are likely to cruise up unless we do The Thames. Fortunately with recent, relatively dry weather and the sunshine, the cruise was delightful and the life jackets that had been deployed were un-necessary.
We stopped for lunch at Upton upon Severn, and again a delightful riverside jumble of buildings, most of them pubs, some not yet reopened following the floods. We moored by the Swan Inn, who had only reopened on Good Friday, they gave us a warm welcome and good beer. Up the High Street we found a great butchers, something that in the south of England we have been deprived off, stuffed lambs hearts for dinner tonight.
We arrived at the huge double Diglis locks just before they closed at 6pm but I had phoned ahead to the lock keeper and he had the left hand lock prepared for us. There were long plastic poles at each end to thread the mooring lines through to stop the boat moving about, but it was a gentle giant of a lock and we smoothly rose to the top. We tied up for the night immediately after the lock and before the entrance to the Worcester and Birmingham Canal.
Following out poor start on the two rivers, wedging under the bridge at Stratford and running aground, Jacquie did admit that in the whole the rivers had been a pleasant and not too scary an experience, apart from witnessing the recovery attempts of a narrow boat that had sunk in January, but we have decided that we do prefer the canals, as there is so much more freedom as to where you can moor, and with more traffic, they feel friendlier.
Thursday, 24 April 2008
A quick wash down of the superstructure before going through Strensham lock as we were meeting, in Tewkesbury, with John and Barbara, friends from our years in the Childrenswear industry, they would also be bringing some chums of theirs, who were visiting from Scotland.
By the time we had got moored up just before the last lock on the Avon, the sun was breaking through. The timing was perfect, when we walked up to the Abbey, our chums were waiting at the front entrance.
The Abbey is inspiring, but not overpowering in its scale and judging by the pictures of the July flood the original builders knew where to place it where the waters wouldn’t get to it.
Amazingly Tewkesbury shows very little of the floods devastation. The town has recovered very well and is a delight.
Our mooring place was perfectly selected with a public bench right alongside the rear deck, so after a sandwich lunch in the garden of the Bear Pub, which was right opposite were Skyy was moored, we returned to the boat for coffee, which was taken in the sunshine.
Tuesday, 22 April 2008
Can't say much about Sunday, it rained, we puzzled, ate, drank, read and waited patiently for Monday. Ohh !! I nearly forgot Jacquie baked a cake, splendid.
We waved to the two chaps on Eric as she stomped passed us on the way back to Wyre and we continued at our more stately pace to stop at Pershore for much needed supplies. Nice town, some of the architecture had a Spa like look to it.
We moored for the evening at Strensham Lock and walked into to the village of Eckington. The centre of the village was full of thatched, black & white cottages, a stout Norman church, a little post office. They could have made Larks Rise to Candleford here. The sun had broken through the clouds and it was a beautiful evening. Thank goodness we are on the move again.
Sunday, 20 April 2008
Rescue arrived in the shape of a narrow boat called Dream Maker, or so we thought, but sadly we had to give up the effort after about 30 minutes. Although we could swing the bow right out across the river we just couldn't get the stern to break free. Thank you, crew of Dream Maker, for your much appreciated efforts.
We are now prepared to wait until Monday morning when we have been promised a tug fron the Avon Authority. Fortunately we filled up with diesel and water and empted to loo tank before we left Evesham. We also have two more 1000 piece puzzles to keep us from going stir crazy.
Friday, 18 April 2008
Next stop on the Avon was Bidford, a most attractive village with all the shops that you might need, including a hardware shop and a butcher. However its most important feature is its multi arched bridge built in 1482 by the Monks of Alcester, and still in use by today’s road traffic, I doubt there is much that we can build today that will still be in use in 600 years.
We over nighted in the George Billington lock cut, George died, very young at 37,but he donated the funds for the building of the lock which was completed in 6 months with the help of boys from the local borstal. He was able to see the finished job two weeks before he died. Sadly the very attractive Fish and Anchor Inn is on the other side of the weir stream and was tantalizingly out of reach. Need more wine!!
This lovely river is disappointedly defaced by tattered scraps of plastic festooning the trees and shrubs up to a height of ten feet approx. obviously left behind by last Julys flood. I don’t know how nature will clean up it’s act without the intervention of man who left behind the mess in the first place.
THURSDAY 17TH APRIL 2008
We cruised into the centre of Evesham under the Workmans bridge, which I thought was rather splendid to have been built just to allow the workman to get to work, but on crossing over the bridge I saw that it had been named in honour of the then Mayor, Henry Workman, silly me!!
We moored in the shadow of the Abbey Clock Tower and walked into town and to the station to meet Ashley, Jacquie’s son, much needed reinforcement for the forthcoming trials and tribulations.
The weather in the afternoon was splendid, so we decided to stay put in this great location, and I set about painting out the damaged to the hand rail inflicted by the Stratford, Clopton Bridge.
FRIDAY 18TH APRIL 2008
We left with the intention of staying over night in Wyre Piddle, just because we liked the name of it.
We passed through a couple of locks with beautiful old mill houses alongside before we approached a mooring place to stop for lunch, we discovered it was now a private mooring, we did the right thing and motored on, only to run hard aground.
After much pole pushing, rocking of boat, transferring of weight and revving of engine. Ashley and I got down to our underpants, donned our wellies and entered the water, again after much shoving, heaving , but not sweating this time, we managed to move it about a metre, but it was still stuck fast. The nice man on the end of the phone at The Lower Avon Authority said that if we were still in the same place on Monday, he would get a tug to us. We are doing a puzzle and writing blogs at the moment awaiting a passing boat that might be able to pull us off.
Tuesday, 15 April 2008
We had moored overnight just before Wootton Waven, where the canal passes high over the road on a aqueduct and about a mile and a half further down the cut there is another cast iron aqueduct. this one crosses not only a road, but a railway line and a river and in both these situations we soared high above them. The sensation is really strange and as the top of the iron trough is just level with the rear deck of the boat and there is nothing to stop you walking off into space should the urge take you.
After that excitement there was a flurry of locks to bring us back down to earth as we finally descended into the famous Bancroft Basin right in the centre of Stratford upon Avon. Lots of gongoozlers watched our maneuverings into our chosen mooring space. Gongoozlers is the proper name for those folk that hang around locks and bridges, fascinated by the doings of boat people and hoping that somebody will get it seriously wrong.
Steak and chips was the order of the day and Marlows was the venue, their rib eye steaks were done just as we wanted them.
SUNDAY 13th APRIL 2008
A lazy Sunday, reading the papers, a nice walk along the Avon, carvery lunch at The Thatch and then an afternoon snooze. Lovely!!
MONDAY 14th APRIL 2008
We bade Kim & John a tearful farewell, as they took a taxi from Stratford back to their car in Wigrams Turn Marina. Our first, proper week cruising the canals with them, had, as when we had been on a canal holiday with them before, been so enjoyable in every way. See you soon guys.
We attended to boat chores and then dropped down the one lock from the Basin and turned left to head up the Avon to find a berth for the night. On the left there is the the Old Bathing Place. The river widens at this area and was obviously used for bathing. There is now here, what is know as a sanitary station, a place for filling with water getting rid of rubbish etc. except it is so far up the bank that my 20metre hose was 2m short. No mind, we had a peaceful night in this beautiful place.
TUESDAY 15th APRIL 2008
Almost up todate with the blog and good news I managed to upload photos onto the blog this morning. The secret is to get up at 6am, wipe the ice from inside the windows, crank up the computer, make a cup of coffee and hey presto, I got transfer speeds up to 500kps. More pictures to go, but thats the answer, by 8am speeds had dropped down to 50kps.
The main reason for doing this blog was to keep friends a family informed of what we were up to. However it's not surprising that other canal people discover the blog and we have had a couple of comments.
Del & Al of NB Derwent6 sent us their good wishes and will keep a look out for us, reciprocated!
John & Cathy are about to move on board their boat 'Mamaduke' and set of on their on adventure. We will keep a lookout for Mamaduke and wish you good fortune.
Paul of WaterWayRoutes has added our blog as a link to his website
Thankyou for your interest and good wishes and apologises for the delay in acknowledging them.
Andrew of NB Granny Buttons, also had picked up on our Blog and did some considerable research on our boat's name 'SKYY'. It is the name, in the correct font style, of an Amercian Vodka. Why the original owner of the boat chose that name, we don't know. I understood that he was a shop fitter, but we only met him once on our first veiwing of Skyy and there were more important things to consider at that time.
We debated changing the name, but leaving the cost implication aside, we decided we actually like the name. Sue, from NO PROBLEMS said she thought of it as SKY WHY, and I have said to a view curious folk, that we asked the painter for Sky Hi, but he misheard us, HA HA!!
We left this lovely spot in the river and gracefully turned around to head back through Stratford onway to Evesham. I thought I was perfectly lined up for the correct right hand arch of the bridge when the current caught the rear of the boat and swung ito the the right. Result, wedged across the arch. Fortunately a helpful soul took a rope to the top of the bridge and with him pulling oneway, me pushing the bow the other, Jacquie on the helm, we eventually got it through. A gongoozlers delight. A little damage to paint and to cratch cover, but mostly to dignity.
A quick bike trip back into town to Woolies for some gaffer tape to patch small tears in cover, which was just as well as by the time we moored near Welford on Avon, it was tipping it down.
Friday, 11 April 2008
17 locks to Heaven, having done 4 of the 21 locks yesterday, that is what the Hatton Flight is called when you arrive at the top, a just reward for the effort of working all those locks. Fortunately the Waterman Pub welcomed, but walking towards the pub we say this duck and moorhen nesting on of the moored boats, aint nature cute! and spring on the way.
Found a farm craft centre were we aquired a pea cane for hoisting T mobile dongle, but still haven't managed to get sufficient speeds to upload pictures yet, but most importantly came back with some Stinking Bishop. Kim thought it was her feet smelling today, but remembered it was the cheese, delicious. Moored for the evening at Turners Green, with lots of little hairy goats for company on the other side of the cut, This is just before the junction with the Stratford Avon Canal at Kingswood Junction.
FRIDAY 11th 2008
A very squally showery start to the day as we turned onto the Stratford Avon Canal. We immediately stopped to do a hand operated pumpout, first time for John who was happy to do the pumping rather than being at the stinky end.
The Fleur de Lys provided a good sandwich lunch, we returned to the boat suitable fortified and to bright sunny weather but the wind had got up to an uncomfortable level, so we moored up after a couple of locks for a Siesta, before moving on when the wind had dropped.
This canal is very picturesque with it's unique barreled roofed lock side cottages and the centre split to the bridges so the line from the towing horses could be passed through so preventing the old bargees from having to unhitch the horses.
We had interesting encounter with a swan who wouldn't take 'no' for an answer, it had a nip at all of us as well trying to deflate, the bike tyres.
Wednesday, 9 April 2008
Kim & John arrived in time for bacon butties and we then departed straight ahead from Wigrams Turn Marina onto the Grand Union Canal on route to Stratford upon Avon. We almost immediately had to shake down our locking procedure at the three Calcutt Locks, which was good practice for the eight locks of the Stockton Flight. We accompanied a traditional canvas covered working boat, called RENFREW, through the locks. One of their crew was anxious to jump ship from their unheated accomodation to our slightly more comfortable looking boat. We told him we couldn't possible deprive him from the wonderful experience of working such an authentic work boat, tough luck!!
Great weather bright blue skies, just the occasional April shower.
TUESDAY 8TH 2008
Leamington Spa was a real disappointment from the canal, we moored up at bridge 40 which is the suggested mooring point for the town, a rather sad looking area and were advised by a local dog walker, that it probable was not a good idea if we didn't want a window broken. At his suggestion we moved on to bridge 43 and tucked ourselves in on a bend between a couple of other boats, right beside a really good nursery and HomeBase just across the road, which was most useful for buying a strap wrench for removing the fuel filter only to finds that Midland Chandlers had sold me the wrong replacement one.
The Nursery came up trumps with some lovely frilly pansies and ivy, hopefully they will survive the overnight frost whilst awaiting to be replanted into the roof tubs.
WEDNESDAY 9TH 2008
We moved on just a few bridges to no. 49 and walked into Warwick. Wow! What a great town, delightful, our first discovery was a sweetie shop, full of jars containing sugar coated memories of the quarters of sweets that we used pay 2d for. Now they were 99p a 100g. £4 lighter we left.
The urge for coffee lured us to the Brothers Kitchen of the Lord Leycester Hospital. The temptation of homemade cakes proved irrestable. Suitable fortified, however we could not stomach the entrance fee of £17.95 to Warwick Castle, I am sure that it would be a great experience if you were there all day. We found the exquisite Mill Garden at the bottom of Mill Street right underneath the walls of the castle, were the motley crew took their revenge on the captain and incarcerated him in the stocks until he agreed to buy the beer at the next pub.
Jacquie took the helm for the first few locks of the Hatton Flight and managed incredible well under the calm tuition from the panicing Captan.
We stopped for the night between locks 30 and 31, just before the rain arrived and when that shower had passed, those frilly pancies got planted out by a proud Jacquie.
Tuesday, 8 April 2008
Tim, of Union Canal Carriers who carried out our bottom blacking of which we are very pleased, said that we would be let out of the dry dock at 8am on Sunday morning. Quelle surprise. Neige and lots of it. Beautiful clear blue sky and fresh white snow as we cruised back to Napton.
We spent the rest of the day cleaning all the dirt from the topsides, that had been left behind by the jet washing, ready for he arrival first thing Monday morning of Kim and John the repribates who persuaded us that a life on the canals would be the very best thing, however we now realise that just thought it might lead to cheap canal holidays on something considerable more comfortable than you can hire. Got it right didn't they.
Our last day in dry dock, it’s getting boring, so what did we do? We went to Braunston Marina Laundry, but then things took a real turn for the better when we met with Brian of KYLE, who invited us into his ever so cosy boat-mans cabin to shelter from an April hail storm. KYLE has a beautiful vintage engine and we enjoyed the lovely tonka tonka sound whilst consuming Brian’s red wine, what a lovely encounter.
It just goes to show you are never alone on a canal boat. Always a friendly soul about to give you a helping hand or mooring advice etc. and even the occasional glass of wine.
Sunday, 6 April 2008
We entered the dock on Thursday morning at 9am. We had to reverse into the bottom lock, so that when we excited at the top we would be able motor forward into the dry dock. Previously my attempts at reversing any distance had been a very erratic affair, but having been given some good advice, we managed it without mishaps.
Once we were in the dock the gate was pushed sideways over the entrance and then lowered and chocked into position, a sluice at the top end was opened and very quickly the water ran out and the Skyy was centred and settled down onto large baulks of wood. Tim almost immediately got down into the dock and started to pressure jetthe hull. The algae and paint was blasted off leaving a remarkable clean hull which was the left to dry overnight.
In the meantime we wandered up to the chandlers, and spent the usual fortune, but with very pleasant encounters with other boaters. Jim and Jane from Apple Queen took pity on us on our way back to our cold dark boat (we couldn’t run our engine to recharge the batteries as we had no water around the hull to cool it, so we had to minimise our use of electricity as we would be here for three nights) and invited us in for tea and biscuits. We said that we would go to the quiz night at the Mill House and they thought that they may also go. What a quiz team we turned out to be, we won the pot of £17. Obviously the secret is it to make sure you pick intelligent looking people as quiz partners and in this situation Jim and Jane were not only lovely company but clever with it.
The next day we got the bus to Daventry, principle to visit the doctors to try and get rid of my persistent cough, that achieved, well visiting the doctor bit, we will have to wait a little longer to see if the cough clears up. Daventry turned out to be a lovely old market town, complete with open market, Tim, our bottom blacker, said that there are plans to build for another 20,000 residents, what a shame.
This was the first time that we used our over 60’s national free bus passes. Great!! the buses were bang on time and picked us up and dropped us right outside the entrance to Braunston Marina. What timing, these passes became valid for the first time ever on April Fools day, the official start day of our adventure.
Again I will add pictures as soon as possible.
Wednesday, 2 April 2008
What a great start we had. To our surprise the great pile of cases and carrier bags actually fitted into our little car and to our, even greater surprise it all disappeared within SKYY and all done in the dry. all the pots and pans and Jacquie's clothes and shoes all stowed neatly away, Jacquie has now threatened to return to the storage unit and come back with more, ha does she really think that I will give her the car keys.
On Monday 31st. Barb & Colin arrived at lunchtime to perfect weather, blue sky, no wind, so we set of on a little cruise to the winding hole just before the Folly Pie Pub. They have never been on a canal boat before and were impressed with both the boat and an immaculate exit from the marina and a faultless 360 degree turn, mostly due to the no wind condition it has to said. Jacquie served up a great lunch, which we ate on the rear deck. What a wonderful taster of what lies ahead of us.
The biggest surprise was recognising RETIREMENT NO PROBLEM, at the winding hole, I have been following Sue's blog for some time and just before we set off I sent her a message, it was lovely to see Sue along with Lucy and Meg, her well behaved Border Collies, coming down the towpath to say hello. I am sure we will meet up Sue & Vic sometime soon on our travels.
Wednesday morning we filled with diesel. empted the loo tank and headed off for Braunston, as we have to be at the dry dock by 9 am Thursday to have Skyy's bottom blacked. This will take about 3 days as first the old paint, rust and marine growth have to be blasted off and then several coats of a bitumastic black paint has to be applied. This has to be done every 2 years and this is the first time that Skyy has been done since new. Fortunately we can stay aboard whilst this is being done and I intend to use the time to service the engine, but we also plan bus trips to Daventry and Rugby,as I imagine that it will not be too pleasant while the blasting is being done. We will be using our new national free bus passes, yipeee!!!