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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, 25 April 2012

A MOUNT OF SPOIL


TUESDAY 24TH TO WEDNESDAY 25TH APRIL 2012      

We had to be at Atherstone by Wednesday as Jacquie was catching a train to London on Thursday morning, the forecast was for a dry Tuesday and a very wet Wednesday, accordingly we decided to do the major part of the journey on Tuesday.

This comprised continuing along the Ashby Canal to Sutton Wharf, where we could turn SKYY around for the return journey. Back in 2009 we spent some time up here with chums Marilyn and Brian, exploring the supposed battle field of Bosworth, where Henry V11’s army killed King Richard and defeated his army thereby allowing Stoke Golding to call itself ‘The Birthplace of the Tudors’.



Shortly before we left the Ashby Canal by its narrow gateway, the town of Hinchley was bypassed, famed by having the first stocking machine installed in 1640; now it’s famous for the production of todays, very successful range of Triumph motorcycles.

We hadn’t been long on the Coventry Canal when the steam boat President and butty passed on route to London to take part in the Queens Jubilee Pageant on the Thames.  

We stopped at the boatyard at Boot Wharf in Nuneaton for diesel, it was quite congested and we had to lie alongside another boat, but as I remembered that their fuel is very competitively priced, it made the effort worthwhile.

Most of us wouldn’t think of Warwickshire being able to lay claim to having a mountain, but it does, known as Mount Judd. A spoil heap that was forty years in the making, from the waste from the Old Judkins Quarry. The quarries, from which granite was removed, stretch from just North of Nuneaton to Hartshill, much of the land has now been reclaimed and is crisscrossed with paths making it an ideal place to moor and walk Duggie, so after six hours of cruising that's what we did.

The next morning was very wet and a reluctant Duggie was again shown how exciting old quarries can be, before we moved off for the one hour passage to Atherstone. We secured a mooring, battened down the hatches and here SKYY, Duggie and I will sit out the rain for the few days, whilst Jacquie enjoys the bright lights of London.

Monday, 23 April 2012

DON’T ASK FOR CREDIT


 MONDAY 23RD APRIL 2012                                        

We had again moored in a very attractive setting, which whilst I was hurriedly tying up yesterday afternoon, before the rain returned I hadn’t fully appreciated. The sun was out today and it actually felt warm, it was also encouraging to see water continuing to pour of the surrounding fields into the canal and with more rain forecast for the week hopefully it should prevent any more drought related canal closures.



We cruised about six miles to Stoke Golding, passing the delightfully set Ashby Canal Centre at Wykin Bridge with their smart fleet of red hire boats.

There are good moorings for the attractive villages of Stoke Golding and its close neighbour, Dadlington, on the opposite side to the towpath. We walked through both villages and with a choice of three pubs decided on the Dog & Hedgehog in Dadlington only to realise that I hadn’t got my wallet, disaster! At least SKYY isn’t dry.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

HAIL THE CONQUERING SKIPPER

FRIDAY 20TH TO SUNDAY 22ND APRIL 2012
                                                                     
Friday’s destination was Hawkesbury Junction, also known as Sutton Stop, this is the junction of the Oxford and the Coventry Canals and the stop lock between the two still exists with a rise and fall of only about nine inches, but the old canal companies guarded their water very jealously. Shortly before we arrived we passed the graveyard of old Volkswagen vehicles, I will never understand the mentality of collecting things and then just letting them rot away, but the lady in the bath didn’t appear concerned.
 


Another pub has bitten the dust, The Elephant and Castle, five minutes before the junction, is now boarded up. The Greyhound, however, right by the lock, is busier than ever, we couldn’t get a table until 8.30 on Saturday evening. As we walked towards the pub we were concerned by the heavy drumming sound coming from that direction, it was Morris dancers, but of course I had not bothered to bring the camera, but we enjoyed another excellent meal in this characterfull pub.



 Sunday morning was bright and warm as we descended the nine inches and turned right under the bridge and headed North, Another pub that was only boarded up a year or so ago, The Navigation Inn, would appear to be undergoing a restoration, or I hope it is rather than demolition. We soon passed The Charity Dock, I think it must be owned by the same guy who collects the Volkswagens, only here he has more mannequins and an even bigger collection of rotting boats.

 

A few minutes later we accomplished the tight turn into the Ashby Canal and planned to cruise for another hour or so, but within minutes the sun was suddenly blotted out and a vicious hail storm hit us. I kept going until the sun came back out, but my bottom half was drenched and as soon as a bit of Armco came into sight, I moored up to it, just in time as the rain returned as I fastened the last mooring line and here we will stay.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

WHEN IS A TOILET NOT A TOILET


TUESDAY 17TH TO THURSDAY 19TH APRIL 2012    
                                                                    
 Our friends and their boat that are joining us for our venture onto the Fens are not able to leave the Thames until later this month, with that in mind we decided to have a lazy day at Hillmorton. Sorry, I realize that most of our working friends and family will consider that every one of our days are lazy, all I can say is “tough”. In the evening we followed the directions for the ten minutes walk to the Stag and Pheasant pub. Although the neighbourhood was nondescript the pub externally looked relatively promising, what a disappointment, everything about it was uninspiring, not even the adventures of the ‘Simpsons’ on the wall mounted TV inspired Jacquie. Its only redeeming feature was that it kept us dry whilst a squally rain storm passed by.

The weather at the moment is heavy rain showers, we are very grateful, as it must help to alleviate the water shortage on the canals. On Wednesday morning we picked a dry moment and Jacquie set off along the towpath with Duggie, but not before we all togged up in our waterproofs. The towpaths are the muddiest that we have seen for a couple of years and by the time we all arrived at Rugby, we were all wet and Dug was very muddy as well. The usual shopping trips to Tesco’s and to Halfords for more of their excellent rolls of paper cloth, ideal for cleaning up after painting and oily engine bay jobs. Of course I have to have a pilgrimage to Maplins, this time to buy a self loading screwdriver, brilliant.

We had moored by a grassed area, upon which sits a toilet block, this has been boarded up for as long as we can remember. To my surprise on Thursday morning, I saw a gentlemen from the boat in front of us; disappear around the back of the block, carrying a cassette and on investigation there is a functioning Elsan Disposal unit there, hooray, just in time, must add that one to my Nicholson’s guide.


We tried to find a less muddy, morning walk for Dug before casting off, as we knew that after more heavy overnight rain the towpath would be even worse, we failed. We left Rugby in the dry, but soon the rain returned, so we stopped for the day at Brinklow, purchasing two more bags of coal and a small tin of bitumen from their well stocked chandlery, the bitumen for touching up the scars that are already starting to mar our shiny hull.

Finally apologises for the dearth of pictures, rainy weather never inspires me to take photos, I am afraid the boarded up toilet is as good as it got, I will endeavour to do better.

Monday, 16 April 2012

A TOUCH OF FROST

FRIDAY 13TH TO MONDAY 16TH APRIL 2012

bit of pampering in a spa at Leamington, what could go wrong there on a Friday the 13th.; well nothing, Jacquie had a lovely time, courtesy of her Son and his girlfriend, a birthday present. Jac returned so invigorated that she wanted to set sail immediately for the freedom of the cut and at midday on Saturday we left the marina, good timing the hire fleets had all returned to base and the first hirers were unlikely to leave for a couple of hours or so.

First stop was Midland Chandlers at Braunston, our meeting with Ann and Gerald of Hampshire Rose had reminded us that we wanted to get the same, extremely comfortable, folding chairs that we had seen them relaxing on last August, the good news was that there last two were on special offer and now we are just looking forward for warm weather so that we can try them out.

The sun was shining but the air cold and soon after leaving Braunston it threatened rain and we moored up in a very beautiful spot just short of Willoughby Wharf. Sunday morning was again bright, but still chilly and as our mooring was so lovely we stayed the day and I did some polishing.

Before it got dark we lifted the planters of the roof and deposited them in the front well under the cratch cover, just as well, as the overnight temperature dropped to minus 4.5 degrees. The morning was splendid and the cold wind of yesterday had dropped, SKYY was wound up early and Jac walked Duggie along the towpath whilst I cruised towards Hillmorton, its three locks and the entrance to the old workshops.

We dropped down the locks, stopped at the water point for all the usual services and then slid into the first available mooring. The afternoon sun was just warm enough to eat our lunch from the comfort of our new chairs on the rear deck, before we set about Duggie with the hair clippers, but I gave up when blood started to flow from his ear. I think it will be much kinder for him to continue to find professional groomers to look after his good looks.

Friday, 13 April 2012

THE BLACK BOTTOM

FRIDAY 6TH TO THURSDAY 12 TH APRIL 2012

Wigrams Turn Marina was very busy over Friday and Saturday with all of the hire boats leaving for the Easter holidays so we made the decision not to leave until Sunday. In the meantime we walked Duggie over the fields enjoying the pastoral scenes on the way, but we were also pleased to see that the water level at the Calcutt reservoirs looked healthy

On Sunday Jacquie drove to Braunston whilst I enjoyed the cruise there, despite the showers of rain. Jacquie and Duggie walked back up the canal to meet me and we moored opposite the Boat House Pub, it was relatively peaceful apart from a hire boat skipper thinking he was in a fairground dodgem, I gently suggested to him that if he kept a little forward throttle on he would have more control.

Seven am on Monday the alarm woke us and we immediately headed SKYY up to the entrance to Braunston Marina, the one with the wooden bridge over it, there I swung SKYY 180 degs. and reversed back to the lock, but even at that time I was third in the queue for the nine o’clock opening. Fortunately the lock was over flowing and as soon the first two boats had gone up, the pith helmeted lock keeper let us through on our own when he realised we were just going up the one lock. As we came backwards out of the lock Tim was reversing a boat from the dry dock and as soon as he was clear I motored in.

Whilst Tim pressured wash the hull, I set about repacking the stern gland, the tooth pick that I bought at a market stall, did exactly what I intended it to do and that was to remove the old packing, which can be seen at the top left of the picture. The new packing had to be compressed with the flat of a screwdriver and pressed into the gap around the prop shaft and then pushed home. By the time the third piece was in, there only just enough thread to get the locking nuts on, but I am sure once we have cruised a bit I will be able to tighten them up

My other jobs were to paint the starboard gunnel and to sand flat and paint the cream and red bands on the stern, all made so much easier whilst in dry dock. The flower tubs also got a repaint and the garden centre at Wilton Locks provided the petunias and trailing lobelia and although not in flower yet, hopefully they will be up to our usual floral standard

.A walk around Daventry reservoir was encouraging as there is now a reasonable amount of water in it, the level on the stones looked as if it was only about five foot below normal; compared to our last walk when there was just an expanse of mud below the stones

By the time we were ready to leave the dock on Thursday morning SKYY looked very smart. Tim’s blacking was shiny and the early morning sun glinted of the sparkling cream and red bands. Just after we left the lock we moored up and treated ourselves to a full Monty breakfast aboard Gongoozlers Rest, and then had an enjoyable reunion with Ann and Gerald from Hampshire Rose, who were moored nearby. Jacquie set off in the car for more shopping and I returned aboard SKYY to Wigrams. Jac parked the loaded car at the marina and walked back to bridge 108 and hopped aboard for last part of the journey before entering the marina, as usual I bounced of the rubber strakes at the entrance, just like the hire boats do, but fortunately no damage to the paint or blacking. The promised April shower arrived just as we tied up, but the journey had been in relatively warm sunshine all the way. Just a few more land based things to attend to before we start the adventure proper on Sunday.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES

SUNDAY 1ST TO THURSDAY 5TH APRIL 2012

Winter is over at last; well it was until April arrived, but on Sunday we move to Braunston ready to go into dry dock, first thing on Monday, so it’s time to get blogging again and hopefully the Adventures of SKYY this year will be worth blogging about.

Last winter was spent quietly recuperating, following my bypass surgery of 2010. This winter was action packed; house sitting in Surrey for a month, visiting family and chums and revisiting carpentry skills and after fours year of abstinence, getting back on skis, I can still fall down spectacularly, but this time I could get up again. My trusty Moto Guzzi motor-bike also got several run-outs whilst we were in France.

One of our daily Duggie walks is up the hill to Napton village and just passed the church is a small farm full of sheep and their new born lambs and West Highland cattle and their cute calves. What a delight this time of the year is, but I must get used to carrying my camera again to capture those special moment.

Amongst all the usual preparations before setting off, painting the gunnels etc, I changed another four halogen bulbs to LED’s. They are improving all the time, the last one I fitted to a spotlight in the saloon made the radio fizz, but these latest ones have no effect on the radio and now the colour is almost indistinguishable from the halogen, maybe just a bit brighter, but certainly not the greenish hue that Jacquie so hated. Just another six to change and we will be completely LED’d.

Our plan to cross the Wash and spend the summer on the Fens has firmed, up having booked a pilot to take us over in mid June, our only concern is the drought, but hopefully some more rainy days like the last two will help, already the water level in the marina has risen by about three inches. We can’t wait to get cruising again.