About Me

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After thirty years of hiring, I finally bought my own 50ft boat in 2005, which was built in 2001 by Andicraft at Debdale Wharf. I mostly cruise single handed and have no problem with that, although it does take a little longer than with a crew. My mooring is on the Wey Navigation, so I have a choice of routes on the Wey or the Thames.

Tuesday 24 June 2014

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. Tale of a Tip-cat.

Having been home for a few days, I returned to the boat club and went to where I had left my boat, only to find it was not there. Pete Hardy did mention that he might need to move it. When I did find it on a vacant mooring, I realised that I had just walked right past it! Another night in the bar chatting to various people, including the Commodore, whom I wanted to thank for the club’s hospitality.

I now had to return to Great Haywood to collect the tip-cat that was being recovered by Chris Shenton. I phoned him to see if it was ready, but it was not complete, saying that it was in such a bad state that he had had to rebuild it almost from scratch and supply the chains to my dimensions; however, he would have it ready by the following day, but it would be a bit more expensive. Sure enough, it was ready at the appointed time and I have to say that it was a bargain at £40 and looked a first class job. The usual price new is from £60 to £95 and even more!

Coming out of Great Haywood Junction on Saturday, who should be around the corner and stemmed up on the mud, but Nuneaton and Brighton. I don’t know who was more delighted at the meeting, probably the scurvy crew, because they asked me to give them a snatch off the bank. Once back in deep water we bade hasty goodbyes, with a promise from me to meet up for beers later. Meet up later – yes, but for beers – no!

With permission granted at the Anglo-Welsh base, I could moor stern on to the bank, to fit my new fender arrangement. I then set off back down the Staffs and Worcester towards Awbridge, knowing that the Trust crew were loading for the Summer coal run at John Jackson’s yard and I hoped to catch up with them in that vicinity, which I did, but not in the circumstances I had imagined. The boats were now well loaded with bags of assorted fuels and sat very low in the water. Just as I had a problem here last year in the same spot, so they were there again, on a mud bank in the middle of the cut, just below Wightwick Mill Lock. Barry was in the process of using the Pull-Lift to try and winch the motor through the obstruction, with Colin and David in attendance and although the boat had moved a few feet, the limitations of movement of the Pull-Lift were evident. Eventually John Jackson turned up for a visit to the pub, but offered to come and offer advice as a more experienced person in these matters of getting stemmed up. The butty was pushed well out of the way and I happened to be on the motor at the time, so I fell for the task of rushing the obstruction from a distance at full speed and alternating this with wriggling the stern end sideways to try and scour a channel through the mud. Eventually it worked and the motor boat slipped through with the butty behind and we made for the lock and worked both boats through. By this time it was dark and any thoughts of beer in the minds of all of us were dashed, as the pubs had long since closed. The pair were moored for the night above the lock, as any further meanderings along the next pound were fraught with hazards after dark, as well as another chance to run aground.

Friday 20 June 2014

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. On to Stafford.

I had previously arranged a mooring for a few days at Stafford Boat Club, while I took a train home, so that was my next destination. I had arranged for a tip-cat fender to be recovered by a fender maker in Great Haywood, so I took it up to Anglo-Welsh base, where Chris Shenton calls in every day for a chat with the boys. I arranged to collect it at the end of the week.

I was early at Stafford Boat Club, so moored up a few hundred yards before. The ground was very soft after a lot of rain and passing boats kept pulling the mooring pins loose and I had to hammer them in even further after every passing. The last straw came when a Viking hire boat came along at too fast a rate and I had to gesticulate to slow down, which they did to some extent. When I explained that they were pulling my pins out, they looked a little nonplussed. I should probably have said mooring spikes and they would have understood what I meant. The private boats seem to be worse than hire boats for speeding past moorings – maybe they all reside in marinas and have little understanding of passing moored boats.

Eventually, I pulled up to the boat club and spoke to Pete Hardy, the harbour master and he arranged a mooring on the main line, breasted up to another boat. The club was almost at the end of their 50th anniversary celebrations, so there were loads of people and boats there for the weekend – even campervans on the lawns!

I needed to wind the boat, so that I was stem to stem with the breasted boat I was about to moor next to. A hire boat was also coming the opposite way, so I gave two blasts on the horn to indicate that I was going to port, which brought all the boat crews out to watch the antics. I pulled into the marina entrance and waved the hire boat past, before attempting the turn, which was tight, with only feet to spare, but all went well with no wind to blow me about.

I asked my next door neighbours to give me a knock when they went to the bar, as I did not know anyone else. Much to my surprise after a chat and drinks, I spotted Mike and Jenny Moorse cross the room, so I excused myself from the present company and joined them. It turned out to be a very enjoyable and sociable evening after all............and there was EPA on handpump!
Stafford Boat Club moorings.
The Club House.
Wet dock and slipway.

All in all, a very impressive setup!

Thanks to the Stafford Boat club for your hospitality.

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. On to Rugeley.

Note. this page should be before Alvecote working weekend, but I cannot seem to place it in the right order. Can anyone advise me how to do this?

My first lock of the day was Wood End where I goofed up big time. Going up in all the BCN locks had been done the same way, by stepping off the boat at the bottom gate and allowing it to drift slowly in, out of gear. I would then walk up to the top gate and draw half a ground paddle, which would stop the boat just short of the top gate and hold it there while I closed the bottom gates. Not this time though! To my amazement the boat accelerated towards the top gate and gave it an almighty clout, much to my embarrassment, because a waiting boater had meanwhile closed one of the bottom gates and saw it all. Why is there always someone watching when you make a mistake and no one sees all the skilful things one does? The number of gongoozlers is usually in direct proportion to the size of your goof up, although not this time!

Eventually I reached Rugeley and found a 48hr mooring close to the shops. There has been a Morrisons here for ages, but now Tesco have opened a new store on the other side of the cut, which seems a little ridiculous to have two superstores so close to each other. There is also an Aldi a little further away, so plenty of competition.
Aquarius passes by with a cargo of loose coal...................
closely followed by butty Ilford, both bound for Moira on the Ashby Canal.

It is extremely busy on the Trent and Mersey here, with boats passing every few minutes and some of them not slow enough! I think this sign in the window might be a good idea:-

 “Some souls are considerate and slow down when passing, but there are souls who don’t!”

I watched a boat pass yesterday and said to the lady on the bow " What does F.U.B.B. stand for?" which was the name of their boat. "You had better ask my husband," she said. So I did. "My wife was a teacher and I was a civil servant, so the boat is called Fucked Up Beyond Belief, but that was too long to be sign written!

Two pubs were worth a visit here; The Vine and The Red Lion. I visited both and although the folks in The Vine were very friendly, the choice of beers was limited to Bass or Bass. On the other hand, The Red Lion was smaller, older and more intimate and there was a good choice of beers on tap, even though I drank Bank’s Mild, just for a change.

That was after my fight with a washing machine in the launderette! I read the operating instructions, which said to put the powder/liquid in compartments 1 and 2, so I closed the lid thinking they were behind it. There were no compartments at all and the liquid should have gone into the drum, but the lid was now locked and although there was a button which unlocked the lid, it didn’t! So I started the machine, but the button still did not release the lid, so my last resort was to pour the liquid down the recess for lifting the lid. The washing came out clean, so it must have worked – time for a pint, me thinks!

The forecast for the following day was rain all day, so I moved onto a 7 day mooring a little further along, intending to stay until the day after, when the weather is going to be much better. I think I may have become a fair weather boater! My neighbour was a local man and told me of a boat moored at a farm where diesel could be had for cash at 79p/litre and a 13kg gas was £22 – definitely worth a visit and only a couple of miles away just above the winding hole at bridge 68. In fact it was called Taft Farm Wharf and just below bridge 69. The working boat was called ‘Dexta’.

My schedule has now changed. There is a NBT working weekend coming up at Alvecote, so Barry put the word out for anyone passing in a car to give me lift there on Saturday. John Mills came up with an offer, so I will stay on the 7 day moorings at Rugeley until Tuesday of next week.

I must have been getting low on water by now, so I had to go north to wind the boat, then come south to a water point, before going further south to wind again and return towards Rugeley. On the way back, I intend stopping at The Plum Pudding for a pint, though I will have to change out of my rags, as it looks quite an upmarket pub. In fact, it was a rather tired pub inside, as I later discovered, but the beer was fine.

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. Alvecote Working Weekend.

Note. this page should come after "On To Rugeley", but is in the wrong order. Can anyone advise me how to do this?

It was a working weekend at Alvecote on the Narrow Boat Trust boats. I was hanging about at Rugeley, having booked a temporary mooring at Stafford Cruising Club the following weekend, which was only a few miles away, whilst I went home for a few days.

I was fortunate to get a lift from John Mills to Alvecote and it was good to see Barry again after the BCN Challenge, where Stronghold came 23rd of 39 entries. Not  bad, considering we only entered for a good time on the BCN and a chance to revisit Ma Pardoe's on Friday night and The Great Western, Wolverhampton on Satuday night! On the other hand we won the competition for naming the Ogre of Gosty Hill Tunnel as "The Cratch Snatcher of Gosty Hill Tunnel."

Steve Smith and Ian Palmer were also at Alvecote painting and blacking the hull, as Nuneaton was very high out of the water without her engine. There were so many jobs to be done and eventually I ended up removing the mud box, so that a union could be tightened on the diesel pipe connecting the two diesel tanks - not an easy task below the engine room floor, even though the floor had been removed to disconnect the engine ancillaries. The pipe had been weeping into the bilge for ages and now was the chance to put it right. The problem was that it had been assembled when the hull was out of the water and all the pipes were rigid, making it doubly difficult, but we got it out and gave it a good flush out before reassembly, as well as tightening the diesel union.
The diesel pipe is between the fuel tank(bottom of pic) and rectangular mud box.

Barry and I took a trip to the local tip to dispose of used engine oil and discovered that there was a Re-Use Shop there, where anything that was saleable was set out for re-sale at very basic prices. What a good idea! Why don't other waste disposal sites do the same?

The engine was returned by Lister Mike (as Barry christened him), on a Land Rover the next day and even started it up on the back of the vehicle, even though it was not bolted down. It ran as sweet as a clock, with no vibration, even when revved up. Snowy turned up later with the JCB and hoisted the engine from the ground into the hold, where it was put back on staging to make access easier when replacing the ancillaries. We even managed to get a coat of green paint on before it was hoisted back into the engine ole later and all the water, fuel and electrical connections were made.
Refurbished engine without gearbox etc.
Lifted back into the hold for additions of gearbox and header tank.
Back home with a coat of green paint applied.
Ready to be bolted down.
Finally, the lid goes back on.
Maggie Young arrived hoping for a ride on Nuneaton later in the day, but operations were still incomplete by the time she had to leave. We had two new members, recruited by Ian Palmer and one of them, Ron was quite happy to turn up two days running to help with the blacking.

 Barry gave me a lift back to Rugeley, so that I could move Stronghold to another mooring further up the cut, as she had now been resident for 7 days, although there was ample space for other boats. I also need to charge the batteries somewhat to keep the fridge cold, before returning to Alvecote. Eventually, I got a lift back from David Thompson the following day, as Barry was about to leave also. At last, I could have a shower! It was another trip to the launderette with a weeks worth of washing and this time I got it right! As The Vine was just around the corner, a pint was in order to while away the time before collecting the washing. I happened to talk to the pub owner who was about to pay for his drink with thrupenny bits. I said Not a lot of people would know about those now. So, he gave me one that came from the mint in 1967 and had never been used.

It was time to move on towards Great Haywood and in doing so, I called in at Taft Farm Wharf, where there is a working boat moored selling diesel and gas. The diesel was 79p/litre and the 13kg gas was £22. No questions asked and no declaration. Unbelievable!  Diesel is normally about £1.20/litre and 13kg gas is £32. Someone is making large profits out of boaters.

I found a good mooring just above Haywood lock and disappeared in the direction of The Clifford Arms.

Tuesday 3 June 2014

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. Leaving Brum.

I left the BCLM the following day heading for the centre of Birmingham along the New Main Line, which only had three locks at Factory Junction. The going was very easy along this very wide canal, built by Telford between 1823 and 1838 to straighten up Brindley’s Old Main Line, but in parts is a new canal. It reduced the distance of Brindley’s canal by 7.5 miles.
The old and the new at Spon Lane Junction.
Engine Arm Aqueduct in cast iron - beautiful engineering!

I cruised through Oozells Street Loop and found a convenient mooring surrounded by almost new apartments. The only exit from the city now was down the Farmers Bridge flight, known as
The Old Thirteen, before Aston eleven to Salford Junction. I had heard some years ago that the Aston flight was a hotspot for vandalism, so it was an early start at 6am, even though it was going to take a couple of hours to do Farmers Bridge. I need not have worried, as all was quiet and I had done 19 locks by 10am. Fortunately for me, not only were all the locks at Farmers Bridge in my favour, but the top locks had all the gates left open!
In the bowels of Birmingham at Farmers Bridge.
The gate is open ready for me, as were all the rest.
I did 33 locks that day,(I must be slipping!) before I found a decent mooring close to the bottom of Curdworth, at The Dog and Doublet, where I stayed for two nights to catch up on my blog and a few other things.
The end of 'The Bottom Road' at Fazeley Juction, at last.
My plan was cruise to the Trent and Mersey and possibly go south to Alvecote if anyone was there on the Narrow Boat Trust pair of boats, then maybe visit the Ashby Canal after that. My main objective on this trip is to head north and as there was no one around at Alvecote, I aimed for Fradley junction instead. After the last three locks of Curdworth, it was 11 miles of lock free cruising to Fradley and it was one of the best days out so far, in nice warm sunshine. I almost stopped at Hopwas for a pint, as the village moorings were convenient for the two pubs on offer, but I refrained for some reason. All was going very well, until another boat pulled out right ahead of me – how churlish! Not only that, but he refused to keep up with the other boat now ahead of him. Did he not look behind, or was it just bloody mindedness?

As usual at Fradley, all of the moorings before the junction were full, so I went up through two locks and managed to squeeze my 50ft into a space only 49ft 6ins above Shadehouse Lock. I then set about pumping out the bow locker, which had been under the leaking waterfall at Middle Lock. It was then time for a pint at The Swan (aka The Mucky Duck). I had read about their kitchens being closed for hygiene reasons a while back, but decided that they must have cleaned up their catering act and chanced a lamb casserole there. No bad reactions so far!