Meeting Old and New Friends in Mixed Weather.
Sunday 6th October
It was a day in the office sorting out my blog and trying to rescue pics from my phone and Bluetooth them into some sort of photo file on this laptop. Why the hell I have to jump through so many hoops to do it beats me, but I achieved my goal eventually with strict perseverance and much patience.
There are still several small jobs to be done, but at the moment they are on the back burner. The day finished with a pint in The Folly and some more photos of the interior.
Monday 7th October
A wet start to the day did not encourage boating, although it did dry up later, but still with grey skies. There are far less boats passing each day now, which is somewhat of a relief. I do need to get some exercise and could do with a walk either up to the village or up the flight of locks, but first there is a great deal of blog to be organised and then published and it took several hours to finalise.
I did manage to get out for some exercise up the flight of locks and as Mike Askin once said to me, “Never approach a lock without a windlass,” so I took one with me, although I only used it once when I returned to the bottom lock to help a crew through. The lady who was locking could not lower the ground paddle and when I said, “Have you taken the catch off?” she did not understand what I meant, as they had come from Stockton, where they are all candlestick paddles and had not worked the rack and pinion paddle gear before. Sure enough, the catch or pawl was still in place.
I repaired to The Folly for the last time this year and got chatting to a couple of regulars whom I had seen there before. Dale was particularly jovial and was a continuous cruiser on nb Kingfisher and we seemed to hit it off straight away. Frenchy was the nickname of the other guy, who was much more reticent. They appeared to cruise together between Napton and Atherstone. I quizzed Dale about the watering hole they used in Atherstone, which was of course, The Angel Alehouse.
Tuesday 8th October
It was time to move on again today, but first there was a bag of rubbish to go in the tip and there were larger than usual blackberries to be picked before I parted, so it was rather late when I left.
The weather was sunny, but very windy and after a while I could see that rain was approaching, so donned the Driza-Bone just in time as it rained and blew really hard. After that the sun appeared again and was quite warm. I got into Braunston in two and a quarter hours non-stop along my favourite stretch of canal. I say that, because in some places you cannot see a house, pylons or cars, only sheep and I think this is why so many boaters moor up here in the sticks just for the peace and quiet.
Much to my surprise, there were very few moorings to be had in Braunston and I cruised through as far as Ladder Bridge, where I winded the boat and returned to the marina main entrance, but here there is a ledge which holds the boat out about 3ft from the bank, which I previously knew about. At that moment the heavens opened and there I was on the bank without any waterproofs on getting soaked. Having tied off, I ducked inside to change my clothes, but I could not remain here, so continued up the cut and found a spot in front of The Cheese Boat at the end of the permit holders moorings and that was it for the day.
Wednesday 9th October
A pleasant sunny morning greeted me, but there is no internet connection here, so I intend to move up opposite The Boathouse, where I know I can connect to BT and the pub opposite – spoilt for choice there! Chris and Linda on nb Mars passed by the moorings and had been out for a month cruising, but there was only time for a few words as they passed by. They were returning to their home mooring at the boatyard by the Bottom Lock.
I moved off the mooring up towards The Boathouse and there was a space opposite, although beneath a tree where roosting birds can decorate the cabin top overnight along with falling leaves. Firstly, I had to get some water and went to the services just beyond The Turn, where there was another boat, who admitted to awaiting an engineer to fix a broken wire on their gas boiler! Being a shared boat there was no way the two women were going to even try and fix it, so why did they have to wait on the water point? It was necessary to use my long hose, although they did move along the mooring a little to accommodate Stronghold. The water pressure was quite forceful and compared very well in relation to many others I had used, so the tank was quickly filled.
I reversed into The Turn and winded to take up the one vacant space, although there was now a spot outside the pub, but TV reception was poor, or even non-existent over there.
Thursday 10th October
The morning was showery on and off, but I had to move further up the North Oxford Canal towards Rugby and headed for The Olde Royal Oak, just south of Hillmorton. The trip was uneventful, apart from a connection dropping off the alternator, so I had to stop and fix that, before making some coffee and moving on.
In just over two hours, I reached the pub and there was only one boat there, so space for me. After some lunch, I tackled wiring up the new inverter with lower resistant wire, as the previous cable was causing a considerable voltage drop and causing the inverter to complain with an intermittent buzzer indicating low voltage. I had problems getting the bared wire ends into the three pin plug and whilst doing so, the boat was hitting the concrete bank, which I thought was a bit strange as there were balloon fenders down. Imagine my surprise when I looked out of the window and saw water between the boat and the offside bank. In other words, I was adrift at the stern and was close to the towpath. I rushed out to correct the problem and then much to my surprise saw Andy Clarke walking towards me up the towpath. I see him most years at Canalway Cavalcade and now here he was, with his wife controlling their boat a little further along. He gave me a push off and I then threw the stern line to another guy outside the pub, who pulled me in. I had also talked to him outside the pub on a previous occasion last year apparently. This time I tied up far more securely.
Friday 11th October
With an eye on the weather forecast, it was a case of shall I, shan’t I move up to Rugby? The sky was overcast and it had rained in the night and as it was not raining at the moment, I decided to go for it. All went well after tightening the loose connection on the alternator and it remained in place for the trip. The winds were very strong, but the nature of the canals is very often hedges line the towpath side, which breaks the wind considerably.
I pulled into Clifton Cruisers for a pump out and despite the outlet being on the offside and Stronghold being breasted against another boat, the guy was quite happy to perform the operation on the outside. The waste tank had lasted 57 days and was not obviously full, but I know from experience that they do a good job here for £15.
Onward towards the visitor moorings and it was strange not to stop here, as I could use the car to visit Tesco later from the home mooring. I made the tight turn into the wharf in one go, winded at the end and moored up with two lines, but a few minutes later Deb came along and asked me to move closer to Ragamuffin, so as to be able to fit a hire boat in the space behind me, which although a pain to move, made available a couple of convenient mooring pins.
I could now drive to Tesco and do a bit of necessary shopping as well as get some more blade fuses at Halfords.
Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th October
The weekend was spent at my daughter’s house in Coventry.
One interesting thing about the weekend was that at last I managed to pay a visit to The Rugby Tap after a suggestion by my daughter. I also discovered that it was accessible by No. 4 bus from the wharf with a short walk from the centre of town.
Having only been to one micro-pub before in Skipton, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I was looking forward to this one. The number of ales on the stillage were 12 in total, but only 5 were on tap. The price and ABV were chalked on each barrel. The beer was drawn straight from the barrel so no gas or sparkler, as in most of the other pubs – just as I like it. There were also 6 ciders or perrys on tap from box containers as well as the usual alcoholic beverages of wine and spirits. The biggest surprise of all was that there was no bar! The landlord was sitting out there with the punters, although keeping himself to himself. There was no musak, fruit machines or other trappings of the modern pub, except for wi-fi. Conversation was king here. Food was limited to sausage rolls, batches (filled soft bread roll) and crisps. There was one universal toilet, that was also for the disabled. A quiet and friendly atmosphere prevailed, which made it easy to converse at normal level, instead of having to shout above the level of ambient noise in busy pubs – what a find this is and I am determined to go again.
Monday 14th October
A wet start to the day, which continued intermittently all day. The fire had kept in all night, so the boat was still warm in the morning. Two hire boats went out and I wish them luck in this weather, as it is forecast to be changeable all week, although it eases up towards next weekend.
On further investigation into the blown fuses on the new wiring, I looked up the current consumed by the new inverter, which was 15 amps, so a 10 amp fuse in the fuse board was inadequate. With the smaller diam wiring casing a voltage drop to the inverter, it could not consume this amount of current, so the 10 amp fuse was OK. Now that I had increased the cable to 6mm, it could consume more current and therefore it would blow a 10 amp fuse and a 15 amp was required – QED! But in fact that was not so, much to my surprise, because the 15 amp blew as well.
Later, I had to buy a 12 volt plug to fit the car cigarette lighter socket, because the old one had failed. I found a short one (they all seem to be short nowadays) in Tesco.. When I got back to the boat, it was plugged in and did nothing, so I tried all the remaining sockets on board and it still did nothing - how strange. By now I had had enough of this pantomime, so went to bed still perplexed.
Tuesday 15th October
Having tried the 12 v plug in the car socket to no avail, it was time to get a refund, which was not a problem in Tesco. Now the search was on for a rather longer one and it is amazing how rare these things are, but I eventually succeeded in Halfords. I tried it out immediately in the car socket and sure enough it worked - hurrah! The mobile battery was down to 13% and it was virtually useless during that time, which made me realise how much I missed it. Back on board, I could now completely charge the phone and I then took a chance of blowing another fuse and plugged in the inverter, which remained on – surprise! Now why is that? There was still a big voltage drop in the 6mm cable, but it was working with the generator running. Voltage when off was 13.85, but dropped to 13 when under load. The inverter will only be used at night, when I can’t run the engine or generator. Hopefully, the problem is solved, but I keep fingers crossed.
For the first time in days, there was no rain and there were short bursts of sunshine indeed. The towpath here is extremely soggy and I can imagine how bad it will get in the winter.
Not having a ‘free’ internet connection was also winding me up and I fiddled about with settings on this laptop, until I wondered if I had buggered it up altogether, so I went into the office and asked Jan if I could try her wi-fi out and it all appeared to be OK. I was also hoping to pick up that connection on my aerial back on board, but no such luck, unless I can get a mooring closer to the office. I am sure I got a free connection a few days ago, but it does not even appear on the list any more. I may try the aerial at the stern, as sometimes only short distance can make a difference.
Wednesday 16th October
It was a bit of a late start, but then nothing really important to get out of bed for.
I checked over the engine this morning before starting up, but had to mop out a lot of rain water from the bilge first. I am still none the wiser as to how it gets in there, although there is a possibility that I have not investigated yet.
Having decided what I was going to eat this evening, I had to take a trip to Tesco once again for ingredients. Upon return, it was time to cook a dish that I often made at home – scalloped potatoes, but this time I had some changes in mind.
After preliminary cooking in the micro-wave, I tidied up and tried the wi-fi aerial up a mast at the stern end of the boat and although it was higher than before, there was little difference in the number of signals that I received, so that was a waste of time and rather disappointing. It looks like I am going to have to use my personal wi-fi router whilst on this mooring. However, I will still be able to pick up BT wi-fi when out cruising. Alternatively, I could cruise along to Newbold, about half a mile away, where I am guaranteed a BT signal, as well as a nearby pub.
Thursday 17th October
It was very cold this morning – below 10ºC inside the boat, although the fire had kept in overnight. These are the times that I could do with an automatic heating system.
I had been having a slight problem with one of the new LED strip lights and I was rather ambivalent about returning it, because although it worked, it sometimes dimmed without touching it. The outcome was to remove it and return to Midland Swindlers for an exchange, before having to rewire it all again. There was no reason that they would not exchange it, so that alone was a one hour return journey through the centre of Rugby and then another hour for the unwiring and rewiring. However, the new one appears to be behaving as it should.
For the first time ever, whilst at the chandlers, I bought a bag of logs, as the supply I had bought from home was now all burned and I found that a log on the fire was the best way to keep it ticking over during the day, when I needed only the minimum of heat. I read recently that the only secure means of keeping a wood burning fire in overnight in Canada, where it can drop to -25ºC, was to set the alarm clock every four hours to wake up and restock the fire with more wood. I would not be happy having to do that!
The next thing on the agenda was to drain the cooling water from the engine and refill with anti-freeze added – yet more water in the bilge to be removed. It was speedily done and the level will need final checking tomorrow.
Friday 18th October
Much warmer inside the boat this morning and the fire was still ticking over. I ran the engine for a while, but forgot to check on the water level first. It was very bright with the sun shining, but still chilly. Apart from packing up the stuff to take home, I had a window lock to fix and also wanted to pick some sloes from a well laden tree that I found a few days ago.
Just on the process of writing up this blog, when a hire boat arrived and hit my bow quite hard at an angle. Going outside I found one of the boatyard workers trying to steer astern but the boat was not responding very well at all. I told him that maybe he gives himself a few boat handling lessons, because he is one of the guys who gives tuition to first time hire boaters, but no apology was forthcoming. Because I was hoping to go up to the wharf later to unload the heavy gear into the car, he phoned Deb in the office and moored opposite, where I suggested. If this is the way they treat customer’s boats, then perhaps it would be wiser to only stay here for a year. I intend putting out fenders on the outside just in case of future mishaps. As someone else remarked these guys in the yard are not boaters, despite showing newbies how to handle their first boat.
I did manage to get Stronghold up to the wharf, by winding outside the arm and moving forward back up the arm, winding again at the end and getting the stern close in to the concrete with the bow well out at an angle. All the other moored hire boats were doubled up and there was only a short gap into which I could tie up. All the heavy stuff was loaded into the car, by which time it was getting dark. I returned without a headlight on and carefully tied up on my allocated mooring with the aid of a torch, before having something to eat. My daughter picked me up in the car later and I was whisked off to The Tap once more for a couple of well earned pints, as this was to be my final night for a few weeks and tomorrow I drive home.
I think of all the summer cruises, this has been the most enjoyable one with no pressure to get anywhere in particular and mostly just “simply messing around in boats” as Ratty once said. I had explored the Trent and Mersey down to Shardlow, which I had missed out on previous trips, so had now completed the Leicester Ring in stages. Stronghold mostly behaved herself and I had established a new home mooring, all of which was very satisfying. So I look forward to pastures new next year and will research previously unexplored canals in the meantime whilst in hibernation mode.