Saturday, 27 May 2017

Gloucester Sharpness Canal &the Tall Ships

Captains Log

Canal Date 27th May 2017.

Cruising along the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal.

We have stayed on this canal for a few weeks now and we have very little desire to move off. It is a truly delightful place. All of the swing and lift bridges are manned and no locks at all. That all makes for a very relaxing time for us. We have been pottering up and down the canal with out much in the way of a plan; just where and when the mood takes us. Life is good!

We have found the delights of the Dockers Club in Sharpness. It is a very welcoming club with sensibly priced beers and excellent food at even better prices. Not trip along this canal is complete without visiting there.

We have had two trips into Gloucester Docks. It is nice there but it can be very busy but this time we were the only narrowboat on the pontoons. There were some white Tupperware boats on the wall on the other side. It is free to moor in the docks but it always costs me a small fortune when we walk round the town. Even though we don’t need or want anything; we always manage find a few things that we could not live without!

We were moored up at Purton when a Tall Ship, "The Earl of Pembroke" moored next to us. It was huge and made our boat look so tiny.

There ware several more Tall Ships arriving very soon as  is the Tall ships weekend in Gloucester Docks over the Bank Holiday weekend. I am sure it will be very nice to see them all in the dock but it will be far too busy for us. We will just watch them sail past us further down the canal.

While we were close to the vets we had our dogs pass ported so we can take them away if the mood takes us. We also had a canine tooth removed from our eldest dog; she was not too happy about that but very soon got over it!

I fitted a fancy fuel polishing kit to the diesel line in the winter. I like the idea very much and it had worked fine until recently. When I first had the kit I complained that the fuel pump supplied was 5/16” dia and the pipe fittings and the pipe were 3/8”. In my simple mind, that was just wrong and was bound to be unreliable. The company assured me that it would be fine. Well I was right and it started to leak, just a bit moist to start with then it started to dribble. The boat stunk of diesel and something had to be done. I had to remove the secondary pump and by-pass everything.

I will sort it out when I can get to a hydraulics company and find the right sized fittings.

We moved to one of our favourite mooring spots at Purton. There is a floating Pontoon there that is reserved for commercial traffic but there is a spot for one boat next to it and we grabbed it. While we were there the rest of the Tall Ships arrived for the festival and moored net to us. It was a magnificent sight; three tall ships all moored together and our little narrow boat almost touching them. It is the stuff that dreams are made from.

We shall wait for the bank holiday traffic to disperse before making our way back up the canal to Gloucester, then up the River Severn to Stourport and back to the Midlands. We should be on the Staffs & Worc’s Canal by mid June.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Captains Log   Canal Date 25th April 2017

Cookley to Gloucester Sharpness Canal.

Well, after doing all that work on the camper we eventually set sail and headed south.

We travelled the remaining length of the Staffs & Worc’s canal to Stourport. We managed to make that last a week!

I took the opportunity while in Stourport to put aside a full day to attend to a very small leak on the central heating. I know that fixing the leak would not be a difficult job but I also know that getting to it would be a major undertaking. The leak is somewhere on the hot water tank. The tank in is a cupboard inside the wardrobe. The wardrobe door is significantly smaller than me!

To gain access I first had to empty the wardrobe and that meant finding somewhere to put everything. That in its self is no easy task. I then have to remove the wardrobe door; that gives me another inch of space. I then have to remove both hanging rails and remove the wall between the wardrobe and cupboard. All the time I am doing this there is the very real risk of pulling any one of the myriad of cables. I then can get to see the hot water tank.

Seeing it and working on it are very different things. Remember this is a narrow boat and they don’t call them narrow for nothing.

I delved deep into my “It might come in useful sometime” plumbing box. I soon found where the leak was. I could see it; I could even touch it but getting a spanner on it, well that was it was a totally different ball game. It was a job that would have taxed a gynaecologist! I managed to get it tight enough to stop the obvious leak but would not start to rebuild the cupboard until I was sure that it was fixed and no other leaks. I did not want to do it all again.

I had to build the wardrobe again on the evening as the bed was several feet higher with all of our clothes on top.

I had put that job off for a few weeks as I wanted to be in a town where I could get hold of plumbing fittings if required and none were needed. If I had done it when I first noticed it then I know I would have been stuck for a part.

While we were moored in Stourport we also managed to meet some old friends.

We dropped down the lock into the top basin and filled up with diesel and picked up a new gas bottle. It was just in time as were nearly out of fuel.

We had thought of stopping a few more nights there but there was no room in the basin so we went down the locks onto the river. Once again all of the available moorings had been taken. We had no alternative; we had to start the run down the river. We did not get very far. We moored up at the Lenchford Inn; a pub we have used many times before but not for a long time. It was still good.

The River Severn is a little bit wider than the Staffs & Worc's Canal
A fully loaded Barge going under the Road Bridge at Upton upon Severn 

Next morning we set off again. The weather was fine but cold. We thought of having a full day on the river and put a few miles in but the cold soon took all of the enthusiasm away. We did make it to Upton upon Severn though and that is the thick end of 20 miles and several huge river locks.

I expected Upton moorings to be very busy as it was getting close the Easter holiday. We were the only boat on the pontoons! We stayed there for two days before going for the final leg of the river – All the way to Gloucester. The river was running low and the weather had improved so it was an altogether more enjoyable cruise.

You do not see many of these on the Staffs & Worc's Canal either!
I called Gloucester Lock on VHF and booked my passage. If you don’t call them you can be left hanging on the wall on a fast flowing river. I have done that once before and that was once too many times.

We were the massive lock all on our own and soon locked up to the Gloucester Sharpness Canal level. It was Good Friday and just about every white painted plastic cruiser in the world was moored in the docks.

Although there was still room of our boat I thought that it would be far too busy and noisy for us so we continued of anther two miles. It was empty there, much more the sort of moorings that we like.

We stayed there for ten days. The bus stop is only a few yards away and that takes us into Gloucester. A perfect arrangement and we get to play with our bus passes.

Eventually we found the need to change the view so we moved a few bridges down the canal. They are all swing bridges and all are manned. It is a true holiday for Pam with no locks at all on this canal.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Captains Log – Canal Date 24h  March 2017.

We have not moved very far over the winter, just enough to keep within the CRT guide lines.
We have chugged back and forth from Bratch Locks to Stourport.

We did plan to go on our winter pilgrimage to Snowdonia again in February but when I dragged the caravan out I found that the Santana had not done it much good and the gas locker had started to collapse. I did not want to tow it behind the Santana Landrover as that would have caused even more damage. I sold the Santana and  caravan and bought an affordable but rather tired VW camper and went away in that. While it is a very large van it makes a very small caravan and it took a bit of getting used to but it did the job and we had our week on Snowdonia. Unfortunately the clutch started to slip on the way and I was expecting to come back on the back of a lorry but it did make it with a bit of very gentile driving up the hills.

I have had the clutch changed and a few other maintenance jobs done and it is becoming a good usable vehicle. It is rather large to use as an every day vehicle and a bit small as a caravan. It is a compromise; that give us the worst of both but with advantages. The insurance is much the same as I was paying on the caravan and massively cheaper than the old Landrover. That is huge cash saving each year and I also feel that it is more likely to still be where I parked the next morning. Landrover are a major target for thieves; even though the Santana was not a Landrover as such, it was still very a target for the thieves.

I have had plenty to do on the camper and it has kept me “entertained” over the last month. I have re-wired the habitation as it was in a very poor and dangerous condition. I have had to fit a diesel heater as it only had electric heating. There were plenty of other jobs to keep me amused. The daft thing is that I have done all of this work on it and will not be using it again until November as it is now time to break out of the Staffs & Worc’s canal and resume our World Cruise of the Inland Waterways.

We shall sail south down the river Severn just as soon as the winter restrictions are lifted on the river locks. That will be the start of April. We will spend some time on the Gloucester – Sharpness canal. It is a nice place to be in the spring and we should be able to watch some of the Spring Severn Bores.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

New Year’s Resolution is to keep the blog up to date.

I will start with a short résumé of last years travels.

We were later starting out last year. This was down to me being called for jury service in Birmingham. I was later told that I would not be required but I had already delayed my start to the years cruising. As I was not going anywhere and had time on our hands while waiting for the courts to make their mind up we took advantage and bought a puppy; a Cocker- Poo.

As soon as we had finished sorting out the new puppy we set off down the all famous Tardebigge locks. For anyone who is not familiar with that flight it goes for 2 miles and just when you think you have finished it continues on the next flight and then the next! You have to do some 40 locks before you can find a sensible overnight mooring.

We continued to Worcester and then down the River Severn to Gloucester.

We spent a few weeks on the Gloucester – Sharpness canal before heading back up the mighty River Severn to Stourport and then on the Staffs & Worc's,through the BCN and on to the IWA festival at Pelsall. The run along the Curly Wurley was “interesting” I have never picked up so much rubbish on the prop in my entire boating career to date.

IWA Festival

I am not sure what I expected or why I went but I am glad that I did. I was expecting much more trade stands but the event was mainly based round the entertainment in the beer tent. I don’t think that I am in any rush to go to another one.

From there we made a very slow cruise to Stone where I had the boat out of the water for blacking and a bit of maintainece. From there we went up to Middlewich and across to the Shropshire union and then back to the Midlands again for the winter.

We travelled a total of 515 miles and worked 324 locks and moved 112 swing bridges.

No breakdowns or major issues, just routine bits of maintenance.

I did change the prop for and Axiom and that made a massive difference to the boat.

I painted the ceiling of the boat white. This was mainly to hide some of the discolouration from damp that was starting to show but it looks so much better that I wish I had done it from day one.

We also changed the seating in the boat. We changed the bed-settee for 2 swivel recliner leather chairs and then had the dinette recovered in cream leather to match. It has also helped to lighten up the inside of the boat but it does show up the muddy dog paws though but it is also wiped clean. Again we are very happy with that. We also replaced the front and rear canvases; the old ones had shrunk so much that we could not do up the zips. That lot was a fair old run on the pound, hopefully we will not have to spend any more large amounts of cash for a few years.

It has not a bad year for playing about on a boat.

What are we doing this year?

Who knows? One thing for certain is that we shall be moving around the system and I will be updating it with photos here as we go. (If I can remember how to do it)


After the weather and batteries, internet access is the most talked about and most annoying thing to ever happen to boats.

I have been with EE for a few years now and generally found their coverage to be as good as it gets but in the last few days I have lost all internet on the Wi-Fi dongle. You rely on it so much for every day life and wow do you miss it when it is not working. After multiple and lengthy calls to EE I am still no closer to finding out if the problem lies with my equipment or their infrastructure. I have ordered some new kit from them and you never know; it may even get things working again. Lets not hold our breath though; I have been down this road before!

Well it arrived on time and behold – it worked perfectly. That’s a first for me.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Captains Blog.

Canal Date 12th June 2015

Heading for Cookley (Slowly)


Since the last update in May I can confirm that we have travelled 50 miles without any gearbox replacements at all. I am beginning to think that it has now been fixed.

We stayed at Dimmingsdale for two weeks, most of which we were away with our other love in life Landrovers. We went to the Landrover National Event at Eastnor Castle. I was running the site communications. Nothing that clever; we were just issuing radios and making sure that I got them back again in time to charge and issue the next day. We also operated the information and control unit. It was an enjoyably but busy few days and was soon over. We then took full advantage of a very empty and quiet Eastnor Deer Park to recover for the next few days before heading back to the boat. It makes a change from the boat but we were still very happy to park up the Landrover and Caravan and return to the boat.

We moved on from Dimmingsdale and slowly cruised on down the Staffs & Worc’s canal. We have travelled this length of canal many times but it looks completely different this time of year. The early green mist of spring has given way to a forest of green; every tree and bush is in full leaf with spring flowers carpeting the floors and meadows. Wall to wall ducklings everywhere and the splendour of the blue shock of Kingfishers darting back and forth. The danger is that it becomes the norm and one almost stops being amazed by the views



Captains Blog.
Canal Date 20th May 2015
Back Home’

 We have moved on from Alvecote along the Fazeley canal through Fazeley and onto the Trent & Mersey at Fradley. From there we went on to Great Haywood and back down the Staffs & Worc’s Canal and ended up here – Back home at Dimmingsdale wharf. As is fitting for a pair of lazy pensioners we only moved when the sun was shining and then not very far. It is a run that would take a “proper boater” two days; it took us three weeks! It must be said that it was three very enjoyable and stress free weeks.

Just where the Staffs & Worc’s meets the Trent & Mersey there is a very wide stretch of canal near Tixall strangely named “Tixall Wide” This is a perfect spot for me to try to re-calibrate the electronic compass on the automatic satellite system. This requires the boat to turn at least two full circles and there just are not many bits of the canal that one can do that. I did two tight circles to Port but it did not work, I then did two more to Starboard and that did not work either. Oh well – back to the man for a repair then! While I was doing this I was getting more and more spectators. I was the entertainment for the day. I am sure that they thought I was drunk or just plain stupid. Now the second one is a bit close to the truth so I shall move on.

We moored up to get some shopping at Compton near Wolverhampton. While Pam went to the shops I stayed behind to mind the boat. I saw a boat approaching the lock at a silly speed; He slammed into revers and banged into our boat. He asked where he could turn his boat. I had no idea so he tried to turn a fifty-foot boat in a thirty-foot canal; now I am not a mathematician but even I know that’s not going to happen. He was revving the nuts off his engine forwards then reveres, mud and water flying everywhere. He did not have a clue! He gave up and started to reverse back, again on full throttle and again into my boat – twice and then into the boat behind. We managed to calm him down and told him he would have to go through he lock to wind. He tried to enter the lock. Unfortunately, he did not open the gated first, not only that he did not fill the lock and just for good measures there was some one already in the lock! He hit the gate with such force that I am amazed he hid not smash it to bits.
We stayed there long enough to sample the pub and the chip shop; both being better than average.
We moved on, once again not very far to Dimmingsdale Wharf. This is as close to coming home as it gets. We moored up and met up with David, the site owner. I managed to talk myself into mowing the grass for him. It is a large lawn and a small mower. It took much longer than I had anticipated but looked very nice once finished. I also talked myself into doing the same before we leave. By the time I had finished it my foot was very sore indeed.


Friday, 1 May 2015

A Day of Anniversaries

Captains Blog
Canal Date 1st May 2015
A day of anniversaries!

Mayday Mayday Mayday! A day to remember.

Not only is today our 44th wedding anniversary, it is also my 6th anniversary of giving up work and the 6th anniversary of leaving the safety of the marina to sale the high seas. Well the canals if you are being pedantic. It really does not fell like 44 years of marriage and it is like yesterday when we chugged out of the marina.
Our gift to each other was a commissioned “Rag Rug” It is a fabulous bright and sunny Sunflower. The photos just do not do it justice. It is a true work of art and I really think it is a waste for it to be trod on while on the floor.

I also picked a single flower for Pam – Well where was I going to get a bouquet of flowers from round here?

 We are moored right outside the marina where we bought the boat; Alvecote near Tamworth, there is a “Floating Market” here over the weekend and that will be something to look at.

 Well the gearbox is still working as it should and not sending up smoke signals. We have done 30 trouble free miles and I am staring to get a just little tiny bit of confidence back. Well I have to now I have paid the bill!

We are heading back to our home country and will spend a week or two caravanning at Eastnor Deer Park to help out at the Landrover National event which will be taking place over the coming bank holiday weekend. That will make a change. There is much less chance of me falling in the canal when one is caravanning.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

A whole 3.5 miles without a breakdown!

Captains Blog
Canal Date 18th April 2015

A whole 3.5 miles without a breakdown!

I was expecting to be sat stood sitting there waiting for days for another gearbox to be fitted to  the good ship Daddy Cook. I was wrong. He turned up the next day with yet another shiny new PRM150 box of gears on his little wheelbarrow. An hour & half later it was in and working. I did suggest that he may save a bit time by only putting a few of the bolts in and not tightening them up too much as it would save more time tomorrow when he has to remove it all again. He was not too impressed with that, I don’t know why. Some folk do get a bit touchy at times.

We celebrated have a working boat by going for dinner at the Sutton Cheney café. Tomorrow we shall try to move the boat in a forwards direction without the use of ropes attached to other boats. You know, the normal way with our own engine power, the way it should be.

We set off at first light (0900hrs was the first daylight I saw anyway) Everything worked just how it should. It moved forwards when forward was selected and it went backwards when reverse was selected and no odd or expensive noises were evident. We casted of and aimed for the distant port of Market Bosworth. Now this is massive voyage of almost 3 ½ miles; If it can do this then it can do anything. We it's almost twice as far as the last gearbox managed!

 I was listening for every tick, rattle or knock but no, it was working. I was concentrating so much on the gearbox that I almost failed to notice just how stunning the countryside was. With Spring everywhere it is just beyond beautiful. That green mist of Spring descends on to all of the hedgerows and trees and works its magic converting dead wood into vibrant colour and fresh life.

We made it all the way to Market Bosworth, I was more than a little relived. I have no idea how long it will be before I get any confidence back in the gearbox; it will take time as at the moment it is about zero!

Still, all is not bad with our world, we had a chip shop supper last night,  now that puts everything back to right!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

From Bad to Worse!

Captains Blog
Canal Date 15th April 2015

Things go from bad to worse!

The Man came and changed the gearbox on Monday evening and bless him he worked until 8.30 in the evening to finish it. We tried it and all was well. Next morning we set off at dawn, well 0930hrs, to move on to our next mooring location of Sutton Cheney. We need to move as we were into our fifth day on a two day restricted mooring.

All went well, the new shiny gearbox performed well, it was smooth and quiet.

The visitor moorings here at Sutton Cheney are very nice indeed. There is a café a few yards along the path and the Bosworth Fields Battle Site the other direction. The mooring are pontoons on the off side and so are very quiet. Once again it is only a 2-day site so we can’t stop long. I tried to move the boat along the moorings this morning (Wednesday) only to find that once gain it would work perfectly in reverse but nothing at all in forwards! It's a brand new gearbox and showing similar faults to the old one. It just can’t be faulty; it is just too much of a coincidence. It must be the control cable or low oil’ it just has to be something simple. Now at this point I think it is right to remind you that this is NB Daddy Cook and the only thing simple on this boat is the owners! I spent an hour looking at the gear cable and oil levels. Nothing wrong there so I phoned RCR again (The company that supplied and fitted the new gearbox). They sent the same man out again, after about 30 seconds he came out with the same line as before “The box is F****d again mate. Not what I expected and certainly not what I wanted to hear. I sat and watched him take out the gearbox again. My nerves and temper being calmed by a proper man sized glass of scotch!

So here we are again – on a 48-hour mooring with no hope of movement in the near future. He will return wit

H yet another gearbox just as soon as he finds one but he has no idea how long that may be!

I phoned C&RT to let them know that I was stranded again; they said that they knew as I had already told them. I then had to go through the whole sorry story with them.

The most annoying part of this saga is that every passing boater askes what’s wrong, we tell them and then they say Oh really – PRM boxes never go wrong! Oh yes the bloody well do!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Gearbox busted on the Ashby Canal

Captains Blog
Canal Date 13th April 2015

A Tale of breakdowns and humiliation.

We have been slowly travelling along the Ashby Canal and enjoying every minute of it. It is a very quiet, rural and lock free canal. We moored up just past Hinckley opposite the Triumph Motorcycle factory. I was rather hoping that there would be a visitor centre or even factory tours there but no, it's like the Bank of England with security everywhere. I don’t know what they have to hide there but they certainly want to keep it to themselves, whatever it is. On the other side of the bank is a Tesco distribution centre. This turned out to be a problem. They have a very loud Tanoy system and although we were several hundred yards away it could still be heard. I found out that in the silence of the night it was very much louder. It was in almost constant use and every time an announcement was made Millie barked. She firmly believed that someone was at our doors. That made for not the best night’s sleep ever! We moved the boat a bit further along the canal in the morning. It was a bit of a pity because we had a very friendly and obliging Water Vole opposite the boat, I have not seen many of them before and this one was nice and close. But at least at the new spot the Tanoy was very much less obtrusive.

We moved the next day, not very far and not very fast to yet another stunning location. While moored up I decide that it was about time that I changed the gear cable. This was changed last year by RCR and they fitted a 4.5-meter cable, the correct size is 1.75meter. Although it worked it was far too stiff in operation and it felt like something was going to snap. This is the first time I have fitted the cable and it's not a difficult job at all. It all went well and once done the control was nice and smooth, just how it should be.

We moved on the next day to Stoke Golding, Moonshine set off about 20 minutes before us. I had only travelled about 500 yards before I lost drive. The wash for the prop was going in all directions. I lifted the weed hatch to get at whatever was round the prop only to find it was clear. I put everything back together and tried again. This time I could see that at tick over the prop was going in the right direction but as soon as power was applied it went backwards- Most odd. I could also smell the unmistakeable aroma of overheated oil.

Well I had changed the cable yesterday and it was fine before that so we hauled the boat back to the moorings for further investigation. I took the cable off and had exactly the same fault.

I am at a loss now; I cannot imagine what I could have done that was so wrong. I phoned RCR and their engineer came out about 2 hours later and diagnosed the fault to be a total failure of the gearbox and the only cure is a replacement. It was a relief to know that it was nothing to do with me but a shock to find that a replacement gearbox is over £1300.00; now that is going to hurt a lot!

The engineer had to walk from Trinity Marina about 2 miles away and said that the boat would have to be moved before works could be done so I phoned Gary and he came back and towed me the next morning to Stoke Golding Visitor Moorings. How undignified, being towed. I just know that I shall never hear the last of this from Gary. That is how we first met. He towed me out a few locks because that gear cable had snapped. It is becoming a bit of a habit now.

Now the moorings and the village of Stoke Golding are just about as good as they get. If one is to be stranded anywhere than this is the place. Unfortunately it is only a 48 hr mooring so I phoned CRT and informed them of my predicament and they were very understanding and helpful.

That was Thursday, it is now Monday and I still have not had any confirmation from RCR. We are sat in a nice boat at a nice mooring with good friends in a nice village but with a broken boat.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Moored up for the bank holiday at Hartshill

We have arrived at The Anchor Inn at Hartshill near Atherstone. We will remain here for the Bank Holiday weekend and let the weekend warriors have the canals to themselves. We have noticed a dramatic increase in boat traffic this week; we have had to queue for locks again!

We passed Alvecote Marina where we lived for a while when we first bought the boat, we had travelled that length of canal loads of times but it has been so long now that I only remembered bits of it. It is a nice rural canal once you have cleared Tamworth.

The weather over the last week of so has not been very kind to us; we have had 48 hours of gales with rain and hailstorms popping up all over the place. It also has been very cold for the time of year, we are still lighting the fire most days. This time of year I would expect to light the fire but only of an evening. The weather has been interesting; the boat bumping up against the bank and the noise of the wind in the trees and the driving rain. It was almost like a summer holiday in Wales! The poor weather has made the towpaths very muddy and unpleasant. I doubt it will be a BBQ weekend somehow. The bad news is that we are moored right outside a rather inviting looking warm and cosy pub and I expect that means that we shall have to try it out (Again). 

So far this year we have done 110 miles and 83 locks and it's only the start of April. We have completed the last of the locks for a while now and we are lock free all the way from here to the end of the Ashby Canal and back again; that will please Mrs Cook no end. I shall have to think of other ways to keep her fit!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Birmingham to Curdworth

Boat Movement:   Birmingham to Curdworth.
Time to leave Birmingham, we have seen enough of it over the winter, we have bought all that we need and I want to get away from towns and cities for a while. We set off at 0800hrs this morning. Very early by my standards but we had a long day ahead of us.
To get to where we want to be (Minworth is the first place I would consider for an overnight stop) we would have at least 27 locks and about 7 miles. Now that’s more than we would normally do. It was bright but unseasonably cold when we set off and within minutes we arrived at Farmers Locks; the first flight of 13 locks. We were very lucky as a CRT chap helped us down the complete flight and saved us considerable time and effort. The pound is about a mile long so that gave Pam a short rest and time to make us both Tea & toast before going down the Aston Flight of 11 locks. We progressed well down the flight even though all locks were against us. (Well that is normal anyway)

Once clear of the Aston flight we had a long pound and miles of lock free cruising. We did come across a mud hopper along the stretch that runs under the M42 that had come loose and was blocking the canal. I had to moor up and sort that out before we could continue. The Muppets that moored it was using string instead of rope and just to make matters worse they used about 6” of 2x2 wood as a mooring stake. The mind boggles. We did manage to find a chip shop on route and we called in. Well it would have been rude not to. They were rather nice, I’m not altogether sure that I believe Pam when she said that they were the calorie free chips. Slim-line chips – now there’s a fortune just waiting to be made. We went past our planed mooring spot and continued on to Curdworth visitor moorings. It is not the best moorings in the world, the towpath is black mud, it's in a cutting with overhanging trees but it will be fine for a night and so much quieter than Birmingham city centre.
We were travelling for six hours and we only saw one other boat travelling. Oh how that will change after Easter!

Monday, 23 March 2015

Hawne Basin and back


Boat Movement:  Birmingham to Hawne Basin

Solar Eclipse

We got up at 0800hrs to make sure that we would be ready when eclipse started. We stayed at the back of the boat and watched it through. Truly a most spectacular sight indeed. It was about 85% complete and although it did not go completely dark it did go very cold very quickly. Our Daughter-in-Law, Sarah joined us and we went to find a late breakfast. We looked at a few places in Brindley Place but they were a bit too up market, and not what I was looking for. We ended up at a Weatherspoon pub on Broad Street and had a very good proper English breakfast and at very good prices. We chatted away for at ages at the table and had a really nice time together. I must be growing up as I drank coffee in a pub!

We walked back to the boat and we went our own ways, Sarah went home and we sorted the boat ready for movement.

We set off at 1215 and travelled along the BCN new line. It's not my favourite, I much prefer the Old Line but the New Line is much quicker. I was trying to get to Hawne basin before 1600hrs to get fuel but that was out of the question. The route took us through two tunnels and they could not be different. Netherton Tunnel is huge. It is wide enough for two boats to pass with ease, it is very all and has a sizable tow path on each side. By contrast Gosty Hill tunnel is worryingly narrow and dangerously low.

Gosty Hill Tunnel; A tunnel to remember!


The tunnel entrance looms as we pass the old tug dock


In the sludgy, silted up water progress is already very slow and we're not even in the tunnel. It's only 550 yards long and we can see the other end but, clearly, It looks certain that it is too low for our boat with the top boxes. This calls for vey slow progress; this tunnel may take quite a while.


It gets just keeps on getting tighter

And it's certainly narrow, not much more than our boat's width but its least for a while until a third of the way in the ceiling height drops suddenly, a rather menacing Dracula greets you, and it's claustrophobically low, the brickwork arching just over us. I had to stoop to fit under the roof which was inches above the top of the boat. The top boxes and solar panels are just missing the brickwork by no more than a few inches at best. The boat is chugging along on tick-over, any faster would just dig up the silt and just dig down into the sludge. It's a very worryingly tight fit in there. Suddenly the roof rises again and for a few minutes there's a bit of relief from the claustrophobia. It almost Cathedral like in contrast to the lower part but before long it drops down again for the final bit. Just as low and narrow as the previous. I was very relieved to have navigated through it without losing any paint of solar panels


We arrived at 1630 and I had several attempts at getting under the bridge into the basin; it is a very low and narrow bridge and it's a bit of a bugger at the best of times. This time I started the turn just a fraction early and I just had not got the correct line and had to try to correct it, just at the wrong moment the wind started; that’s never the best way of doing things. We eventually moored up in the marina without damaging either the boat or the bridge and slotted in-between a row of moored boats. It is just the type of moorings that I hate with a passion but as the boats either side are empty it will do for the weekend. The gates are locked outside normal hours so we cannot get out to either a chip shop or pub so we will stay here and eat proper home cooked food instead.

Waking up in a marina is most odd. There are boats touching either side and I really do not like it one little bit but it is a safe mooring in an otherwise not so good area. The factory unit behind us started to play Radio One exceptionally loud at 1000hrs but thankfully it did not last very long.

We went for a short walk up to B&Q on Mucklow Hill Halesowen; I was looking at electric drills to replace my knackered one. I had no intention of buying anything, just looking. If I did decide then I would wait until Wednesday when I get a 15% discount. We had a good look round the store and I could not make my mind up. We left and walked into Screwfix, once again to see what was available. This time they had a promotion on with DeWALT. I weakened and just had to buy a drill with three LI-ION batteries and a fast charger. It was more than I wanted to pay of course but it is a good make and hopefully should last a long time. I also had some twist drills to replace the ones that I have managed to break with monotonous regularity. That’s us broke again!

Gary & Pam went to the chip shop on the evening, that is not as easy as it sounds as the marina gates are locked and they are less then keen to give us a key so we have to ask to be let out and then ring the bell and hope that someone can be bothered to let us back in again. They were not very long and we all ate on Moonshine. The chips were followed down with tea & coffee and then I produced a bottle of whisky. Not a bad evening at all.

Boat Movement:    Hawne Basin back to Birmingham City Centre.

We needed to move to the services side to get water fuel and coal. It was like a Chinese puzzle; they moved a temporary moorer out of the way. I moved to the other side of the marina and tried to hold position while the boat that was against the facilities moved into the berth that I had just left. I then reversed back to the facilities spot. It all sound much easier than it actually was but we sorted it out in the end. Nick, the chap who deals with the fuel & shop welcomed us like old friends. We filled up with diesel. The tank just took 102 litres of red diesel at £052 P/L. I also picked up a few bags of coal; hopefully that will last us now we are heading into spring. 

We set off at 11.45, much later than I had expected. Gary, on Moonshine was gone at 0930hrs so was well beyond catching up. The run along the BCN was very nice, although we had the sun on our backs all the way; it was still a bit cold. Another boat wanted to overtake us so I slowed and pulled to the bank. He made a right pig’s ear of things and became stranded on the bottom. I had to reverse back to avoid a collision and then had to wait for several minutes while he extricated his boat and started to move off again. The boat was “Duke” and was crewed with several young men. We arrived back in Birmingham at 1615hrs. Just about 4 ½ hours travelling exactly the same as when we came. We moored on the same moorings as well. I do hope that CRT does not think that we have stayed here all that time.

I was beginning to feel the cold by the time we had moored up and we soon had the fire going and the dinner cooking. We intend to stay here for a few days before tackling the 27 locks on route to Minworth.
Happy days.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Hopwood to Birmingham City Centre

Movement at last.

We are free to move as we wish now the stoppages have cleared. Yet another dull and grey morning but at least it is dry. We set off at 0930hrs towards the bright lights of Birmingham. It was quite cold and as we went through Wast Hill tunnel I started to feel the cold, by the time we had passed through some 50 minutes later I was properly cold and wet. I have never known so much water leaking through the roof of that tunnel before. I ran down the boat and put on a few more layers and returned to the helm looking even more like the Michelin man than I normally do. As expected for this time of year, we did not see any other boats moving all day with the exception of one CRT workboat that was rushing to get back in time for lunch.

We moored up in the city centre at the usual spot close to the sea life centre. The moorings were completely empty. Birmingham never gets full, not even in the peak season. I think there is the fear factor of mooring in the centre of any big city but we have only ever found it to be a nice and quiet mooring with loads to see and do within easy walking distance. A few days are plenty though, I do not like it here over weekends though as it can get a bit busy and noisy at night-time when the clubs and pubs empty. We have never encountered any trouble just people talking and laughing louder than one would like late at night. Let’s get this in some sort of perspective though – I do not like towns and I have a positive dislike for any city but they do have their uses and Birmingham is in the centre of the canal network.

We all went for a walk into the town, just an amble for the sake of a walk.  We managed to walk round the shops without buying anything at all. Didn’t we do well.

The view from the boat - Birmingham Canals at Night

Thursday, 12 March 2015

2015 - A fresh New Year with plenty of boating to be done.

We have survived yet another winter on the boat. This winter was not as bad as the last few. We had very little snow and the canals only froze over for a day or so. That is a vast improvement on previous winters.
Just to help with the warmer winter we had unlimited amounts of free fire wood. There have been so many trees cut down that there is a surplus of timber. The chainsaws earned their keep this year, that for sure.
We spent the start of the winter on the Worcester Birmingham Canal at Hopwood. From there we moved slowly round through Birmingham and eventually on to the Staff's & Worcester Canal. We saw the new year in there and then reversed the route back through Birmingham and then on to Hopwood and Tardebigge. With the Tardebigge flight closed we could not go any further in that direction and then Birmingham was closed because of a leak we were a bit stuck.

The winter has given us a chance to catch up on some boat maintenance. The engine is fully serviced, a few electrical niggles have now been sorted. A new thermal insulated carpet in the saloon has been fitted and a posh new helmsman's seat has been fitted. But now its March and all of the stoppages are clearing, the maintenance completed and we can start to move once again.
We do not have and fixed plan for this year. We always change things anyway.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Back to the narrow canals

After what feels like ages, we have left the wide ship canal with the Tall Ships and the rivers, we have now entered the narrow Stratford Canal. The locks and bridges are just so narrow. They do not look possible to get the boat through!

The last two weeks we have been travelling up the River Avon. This is such a beautiful river. There are only nice bits, better bits and down right bloody lovely bits. It cost £60.00 for a fourteen day licence. The best £60.00 I have ever spent.

We stayed for a few days in Stratford upon Avon. An Ideal spot to replenish the food stocks and we walked round the town just like tourists. On the down side, once you moor up in the basin at Stratford then you instantly become part of the tourist attractions. I had people standing on the back of the boat having photos taken and I could not count the number of times I was asked if we actually live on the boat or just go home every night.  The boat must appear on hundreds of photos and be viewed all over the world. Just like any large town, it is multi cultural, but with the added influx of coach trips from all over the world. Its hard to find anyone that speaks English with an English accent.
We are moored up just outside Wilmscote (5 miles north of Stratford) in the middle of nowhere. I can not hear and road traffic. The only signs of life is the occasional train in the distance. Perfect peace.
We will stay here for a few days.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Forced boat movements

Captains Log
Canal Date 18th May 2013
Location   Sharpness

Well, we can not travel up the River Severn for the foreseeable future as it is in flood. So that’s plan A well and truly dead in the water.

We were told that we could remain in the docks until the river returned to normal; however we would have to move out on Tuesday as the Fire Brigade are using it for a practice. As nice as it is at Gloucester Docks, we felt it was time for a change of scenery so we set of south again down the canal. We stopped at Purton again. This is my favourite spot on this canal. It is a fenced off area where we can let Millie go without worrying and the towpath runs out side the compound. Just perfect for us.

There was one other boat moored there but plenty of room for us. I expected to stay there for a while but this morning we were told that this location is reserved for the tall ships as it had a very deep edge. So once again we were on the move. We went a bit further south to Sharpness. We can stay here until the river is safe and in the mean time we will be able watch all of the tall ships go by as they travel to the Tall Ships Festival in Gloucester Docks. (Photos of tall ships to follow)

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Gloucester Docks

Captains Log

Canal Date             14th May

Location                    Gloucester Docks

I think we may be having a re-run of last year. We are stranded in the docks, we were going to travel the river Severn yesterday but it was running a bit high so we waited another day. This morning it is much higher and the river is now closed so we will have to wait here until the weather improves and the river level drops to normal.

I can think of worse places to be stranded. We have an unlimited amount of pubs & restaurants to try out and there’s a Cadbury outlet shop.

We will survive - I am not so sure if the bank account will though!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Gloucester Sharpness Canal

Captains Log
Canal Date                14th May
Present Location       Gloucester Docks   Gloucester Sharness Canal

 Well, what a strange month it has been. We have has burning hot sunshine, heavy rain, gales and horrid cold spells.

The last report on here was on the river Severn at Upton. What has happened since then?
Well I have not fallen in the water, the boat has not broken down and all is well in our little world. 

The trip from Upton to Gloucester was interesting in so much as you could clearly see where the river had been only a few weeks previously. It was a good 10 feet higher. I am so glad that we were not out on the river in those conditions. That would have been just a bit too scary for us. We had to wait for the tide to turn at Upper Load Lock.  Apart from that the only issue we had was on the final approach to Gloucester. The river splits just before Gloucester. It is known as the Partings. The channel taken by boats is quite narrow by river standard causing the flow to be much faster and just to make life interesting we were being pushed along on an out going tide. We were going at a fair lick! It was then when I opened my mouth just in time to put my foot into it. I said to Pam “This is where we will meet a combine harvester!”  In that instant a bloody great ship came round the corner. One of the huge river hotel boats. Now he was not going to move out of the centre line. He needed the deepest channel.  I could not get into the bank as it was full of fallen trees from the floods. I could not stop as the river flow was far too strong. I could see the white of the captain’s eyes. He was not a happy bunny at all. We just managed to pass each other. I went as close to the fallen trees as I could but the wash from his ship pushed me into the debris. Not much damage, just a few scratches in the paint work. 

We joined the Gloucester Sharpness Canal and I have never felt so relieved to be off a river since the last time I was on a river!

We spent a few days in the basin before heading down to Sharpness. We spent much of the time moored at Purton. There are hundreds of wrecks there on the Severn bank. They had been beached there to help stop the erosion of the canal by the Severn. They make for a most interesting walk. While there we had fully laden river barges going past each carrying 250 tons of rubble from a building site. They were full! No more than 2” of boat above the waterline.  Think how many lorry loads that would have been. It was nice to see the canal being used for what it was designed to do. The weather was just perfect while we were there. I did get a bit of sunburn on my head. I wonder where all my hair has gone to? I never used to get sunburn on the top of my head. This is about as far from our home as we can go in this direction and it is where we had most visitors.

We broke the run back to Gloucester into small steps. We stopped at every village and point of interest we could find.

We are back in Gloucester Dock. We docked on the floating pontoons in a gale. I thought I knew what I was doing but the strenght of the wind took me by supprise. I was expecting it to cause some issues but I thought I had allowd for it and was firmly in control. That is until the boat swung completly round. It took 4 of us to pull it against the wind. The afternood was as bad as I have ever had. Almost sea sick.
We are now slowly building up courage to tackle the mighty Severn again. Probably on Thursday. Then going up the River Avon to Stratford upon Avon.

The river Severn is at normal summer levels now, but it is raining and it can rise very quickly. If it looks even slightly dodgy then we shall remain here until it settles again.
Our up to date movement can be found on Water Explorer.