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.

Wednesday 18 September 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 23

A New Mooring.

Friday 13th September

After checking a few facts about the buildings at Sutton Stop and then publishing my blog, I let go, having decided to cruise down the Coventry Arm to visit Tesco, close to the Ricoh Stadium. Another boater had told me about it previously and indicated there was a mooring on the off side, which he used when he shopped there. The visitor moorings , such as they are, are on the towpath side just before Bridge 8, but the bridge cannot be seen from these moorings, so best plan is to go as far as Bridge 6A, where there is a winding hole, turn and return to the Armco mooring just above Bridge 8. It is then just a short walk over the bridge and down the Foleshill Rd. to the Tesco store, which is enormous, but if you know Tesco, this one is laid out the same as the rest of them. I think I found the offside mooring, which appears to be well trodden, but I imagine the distance to walk to the store is about the same as the one I was on.

I had a leak in the secondary fuel filter, which had dripped onto a paper tell tale placed underneath. I was tempted to release the filter and twist it to re-bed it on the rubber seal, which would mean all that bleeding through to the injectors again, which I was very reluctant to do, but I noticed a drip from the top union by chance and tightened them up further, which I hoped would solve that problem. Sure enough, the tell tale showed no further drips at another check.
By now the time was getting on and I returned to Suttons and found a prized vacant mooring just above the lock at 3.30pm, having decided to stay here for the night.

Any ideas what these are? 
They are cast iron and close by the Toll Office at Sutton's.

Thinking about the Coventry Arm, there have been considerable changes since I had been down it about 10 yrs ago. There is now far less detritus in the cut and no plastic bags, so I had nothing around the blades, as expected. A great deal of house building has taken place on brown field sites, so it is far less industrial and in some places, quite rural. Needless to say, I was impressed and quite tempted to travel as far as the Basin on some future occasion.

Quite rural along the Coventry Arm.

Saturday 14th September

It was a chilly morning with my breath condensing in the air and only 10ºC inside the cabin, but the forecast was for a fine and sunny day of about 20º C, which is ideal cruising weather and it turned out to be true.

Although it was time to move on towards Rugby, I had to do the usual engine checks and top up the tank with water opposite. While that was filling, I went to see if there was anyone at the Toll House, because I wanted to know about the cast iron weights that I saw there yesterday. Sure enough, there was a volunteer on duty and he informed me that they were the sockets at the bottom of the hinge pins of lock gates, so another problem solved.

Finally departing at 11am, it was nearly 12 miles to Newbold and took 4 hours on an uneventful trip, stopping just above All Oak Wood to make a sandwich and hot drink. I made coffee as I was travelling, by using the rather laborious Italian style stove top coffee pot.This time I used an alternative method of using a coffee bag in the cup, which is far quicker and less messy. I have to admit to being a coffee snob and refuse to drink instant coffee, unless it is offered by someone else, when it would be churlish to refuse. However, this Taylors coffee in a bag is very good, although rather expensive for the amount that you get.

Finally reaching Newbold, I found a mooring at 3pm, although there were not many vacant spaces and at this time of the year, I did expect more. Having moored up securely, I had a pint in The Barley Mow and a snooze after the exertions of the trip.

Sunday 15th September

Not much going on today, except for moving into Rugby Wharf this afternoon to finalise the agreement to take the mooring on for a year, which we will do on Monday. I am quite looking forward to a change of scenery, mooring and meeting new people. Also, being off line, there will only be hire boats passing on their way to and from the base at the end, as well as a few coming in for fuel etc,

There were a few sunny spells this morning, but by midday it had clouded over, but there was no wind and the day was still quite warm.

I did some touching up of the paintwork now that the boat was moored with the damaged side to the bank and surprisingly, the paint was still liquid after a few years, but there was no catalyst as that had gone off  a long time ago, so I will have to rely on time for it to harden.

I set off for the wharf at 3.30 and was soon there. I winded at the end of the arm, but the mooring allocated to me was occupied by another boat, so I had to moor in the only available space on the off side, which was beneath a tree where I moored a couple of years ago.

Whilst winding, I had a word with one of the occupants and later came up to introduce myself to Margaret and Dave and a little later to Lisa. They assured me that it was a very friendly community and there were several live aboards there, looking out for each other and the boats. I was quite buoyed up by that as I thought it would be so. I also had a few words with the couple on nb Sultan, who live here and are still working. Several Willow Wren boats were now moored up for the winter on the towpath side, which were not there previously, but I had been warned of this previously in the office, so I might not be able to escape easily in the winter months, although I did not move last winter on my Wey mooring, except to get water.

360º view of the Arm can be seen here:- http://www.rugbywharf.com/photos.htm

Friday 13 September 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 22

Return to Sutton Stop

Monday 9th September

Rain was forecast for area for most of the day and by now I had moved further south to Hartshill and The Anchor Inn, where I was obliged to go to publish this blog on their wi-fi as there was nothing available surrounding the boat. I had intended to get to Sutton Stop today, but that meant getting a good soaking once again and I was not prepared to do that.

However, the rain ceased about midday and I set off. It was a very quiet run with very few other boats about and I suppose the reason is that the main holiday season is now closing down. Moorings at Sutton's on the other hand, were very few close to the junction and of course many boats were 10 to 20 ft apart, but I did find a gap behind the first boat close to the narrows and wondered if I could squeeze in. I reversed with the stern in the gap and pulled in on the centre line to find that with the stern button kindly raised on the boat behind by the captain, it just fitted with a couple of inches to spare, so I had a pint in The Greyhound to celebrate.

Sutton Stop with the pub, junction, engine house and four water points it is always an interesting place to watch other boats get around the 180º turn, and to meet other boaters. It has only one stop lock where the Coventry Canal meets the North Oxford Canal, which has a rise in water level of only 6 ins. This was because the water level of one canal was higher than that of the other one. It also separated one canal from another and the companies of the day were unwilling to share their water. It was also named after the family of lock keepers and not the toll clerks, as I thought.  They gauged the boats to apply duty to the owners for the cargo they carried on company water. Needless to say, it is a very busy place for gongoozling boat movements and showing off when taking a pair of boats around the turn when the punters at the pub are sitting out on the patio.

Views from the junction bridge of the Coventry Canal on the left going to Fradley
and the North Oxford Canal on the right heading south.

Junction bridge and the turn from The Greyhound.

The Greyhound from junction bridge.

The Coventry and Toll Office next to the narrows, 
where boats were gauged on their loads.

The original pumping engine house, which housed a 
Newcomen pumping engine named "Lady Godiva."

Entering the Stop Lock.

Tuesday 10th September

Not much going on today, although the squealing from the alternator belts was getting annoying every time I started up the engine. That is the time when the domestic batteries are low and the alternators try and produce maximum current for recharging. It settles down after a while and it is better if the engine is run at minimum revs during that period, but only if moored up of course.
Sometimes the operation goes better than other time and this was one of the awkward ones. Firstly, all the junk stored in the engine ‘ole has to be removed so that I have access to the alternators. Because the BMC was an original vehicle engine (London black cab and Sherpa van), there was only one alternator fitted, but two is better than one on a marine engine, so there was another one fitted on the port side, which in the words of Calcutt marine is usually a bit of a ‘dog’s breakfast’. Both belts needed tightening and by now I knew which spanners were required, so set to, using a big spanner as a lever to get them really tight. Being at the front of the engine, not only is it a tight squeeze to get there, but there is considerable leaning over the engine to get to the dog’s breakfast on the other side, which means that the engine must not be too hot. Having now done the job, it was time to start up and see what difference it made, and like previous times the squealing was no longer there and the rev counter registered straight away when the alternator coils were excited – job done.
It was also time to change the two diesel filters by now, as I had extended the time limit to 1,000 hrs, instead of the usual 600 as recommended in the handbook, where only one filter is fitted. Had I been going on the Rivers Thames or Trent, I would have changed them before departure, but on the canal system, the worst that could happen was that the engine would misfire and most probably stop, so there was no danger of being uncontrollable on a  fast flowing or tidal river. However, I had enough of getting in and out of the engine’ ole for today and would leave that job for Wednesday. Time for a bit of R and R in the pub.

Wednesday 11th September
The lady on the boat moored behind me had given me a small pot of homemade blackberry jam yesterday, which I thought was a very generous gift, so I had it on toast for breakfast and it certainly was delicious.
It was time to bite the bullet and change those filters today. I had done this several times previously at 600 hrs and had bled the engine right up to the injectors previously by turning the engine over on the starter motor, but this tends to knock out the battery and heat up the starter solenoid as well as a possibility of burning out the starter motor, which would be an expensive and inconvenient problem. This time I was going to use the mechanical fuel pump only……. well that was the intention.

Replacing the filters was no problem, but bleeding the air out of the system was a real bugger and something I was not looking forward to. A guy walking along the towpath told me that the BMC with a rotary injection pump was the worst engine of all to bleed – thanks for that encouragement! The problem was actually working the fuel pump lever by hand to get the fuel through, because the pump moves such a small quantity at a time. The first filter can be bled easily, because it is first in line from the tank and so is gravity fed, but the one after the pump is not. With that one done, I moved on to the injector pump and bled it through the two bleed screws. According to my information, the engine would now fire and so it did……for two or three seconds! Now I had air in the injector lines, so they had to be cleared by loosening the unions at the injectors. I had by now got sick of pumping by hand, so turned over the engine until fuel appeared at the injectors. Two unions were tightened before more engine revs, but the lump refused to fire, so I tightened another union and this time it did fire up on three cylinders, so whilst it was running I did up the final one – success at last and that had taken up the whole afternoon. If and when this needs to be done again, I shall get it done at a boatyard; to me it is not worth the hassle and discomfort.

After a quick shower, I was due to meet up with my daughter and fiancé at The Greyhound for a meal, but I was so tired that half my main course was taken home in a doggy bag. No complaints about the food, which is always good there and we had a very good evening of conversation and laughter. How I wish that this was my local pub. Just to add that it is never empty and must be a goldmine.

Thursday 12th September

I had not written up my blog since Monday, so that was to be done, along with booking a train home next week and making sure of a mooring during that time in Rugby Wharf. There was a long list of e-mails to be read or erased, because no action was taken yesterday, but it all got done eventually.

Although the weather was promising at the start of the day, it became more cloudy and windy during the afternoon and was not good boating conditions, so I abandoned any movement until Friday, making it more or less a day in the office.

Sunday 8 September 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 21

Meal at The Swan and lots of cars.

Saturday 31st August

Strange weather this morning when it began clouded over and windy, then a cloudburst later after I moored up, before the sun appeared and was very pleasant.

I did Shadehouse  Lock solo and then there were volunteers at the remaining 3 locks and I tied up on the waterpoint to fill the tank, before moving across the cut for a longer stay.

The meal in The Swan with my eldest daughter and her fiancé was very good and all home cooked. Pizzas made of homemade dough and the crab dish was extremely good with chips and salad.

Sunday 1st September

Another rest day, so it was a late start. I had some cooking apples hanging about and just needed some blackberries to enhance them when cooked up. I found them on the Coventry near the swing bridge and got enough before popping into The Swan for a pint. I had a long chat with some other boaters on the next table and we compared notes on a few selfish boaters who insisted on mooring up several feet apart and other aspects of life on the cut, but nobody mentioned toilets or batteries!

Back on board, it was time to do some cooking for a few days ahead, including the apples, potatoes and some leeks. I intended having a BBQ this evening to cook a sirloin steak and some sausages that were left over. It is difficult trying to balance what is left over in the fridge and what is freshly purchased, as I do dislike throwing food away.

It is time to think about another visit back home and I am hoping that I can book a week’s mooring in Shobnall Basin. If that proves impossible then I have a backup at Mercia.

Monday 2nd September

I let go after emptying any rubbish and headed back towards Alrewas. There were  volunteers on duty this morning, but I was lucky with other boats coming towards me, which saved me either closing the bottom gates or having to stop and open top gates – as the old boaters used to say, “It were a good road.”

I pulled in at Alrewas, being in two minds whether to stop there or not and there were not many vacant places in the centre. However, I did pull in between two other boats on the piling and two other boaters had by this time, asked me if there were vacant moorings in Fradley, of which there were several, which indicates just how popular it is there.

Tuesday 3rd September

The first thing I had discovered this morning was that I had run out of gas. I had not renewed the empty cylinder when I changed over bottles, so now there was none at all. I did think that this was rather strange, as the previous bottle had lasted over a year.I had to fall back on using the microwave for my morning cuppa, but it worked out OK and I even made a cup of coffee in it later by using a coffee bag, which I keep in reserve.
I now had to think of where to get more gas, either by going on to Burton, or backtracking towards Rugby and decided on the latter as I also wanted an easier train journey home in the next couple of weeks. The train from Burton involved more changes and of course cost more, being that much further from home.

Winding the boat would involve moving in reverse for a considerable distance past several other moored boats, so I went forward through Alrewas Lock onto the Trent where I reckoned that I could turn at the end of the lock cut. The river flowed in at that point and it was not an easy manoeuvre, but I got round using full revs before going back into the lock. The alternative to this operation was to travel the half mile of river section and wind beyond Wychnor Lock, which would have taken an hour at least.

Another boat left abandoned to CRT to get rid of.

Back up through the locks to the Junction, where I turned left on the Coventry Canal to Streethay Wharf, where I could get gas and diesel.

The Mucky Duck at Fradley.

I had never stopped here before and was amazed at the amount of stuff in their chandlery, some of which had been there for many years judging by the amount of dust on it.

Onwards to Huddlesford Junction where I pulled in for the night and to have a look at The Plough, another pub I had never patronised and very pleasant it was too although the beer at over £4 a pint was more expensive than the Midlands norm.

Wednesday 4th September

The morning was spent writing up this blog and answering e-mails, so I did not get away until midday, with the intention of getting as far as Alvecote. It was an incident free day but extremely windy and was good to occasionally get in the wind shadow of trees and bushes, but despite that the cut changed direction as it weaved about, so sometimes it was blowing on the stern – not a day for brimmed hats.

A most unusual wind turbine.

I arrived at The Samuel Barlow at 5pm and had no difficulty getting on a vacant mooring as the wind pushed the boat in the right direction and into the bank. There are several working boats here, which I suspect are going to the Huddlesford Heritage Gathering on 20th and 21st September, including nb Darley owned by Blossom Edge, who has been boating since he was a boy, but we don’t see a lot of him nowadays. http://darley135.blogspot.com/

Thursday 5th September

I departed Alvecote about 10am in sunny but windy conditions and on occasions it was quite cold when the sun disappeared. I passed Grendon dry dock thinking of the hours I had spent in there blacking Nuneaton and Brighton. A man was signwriting a boat and I think it was Dean Box who did the work on Stronghold, but not quite sure if it was or not.

I had no wish to push this floating tree along.

I was soon in Polesworth and only stopped to make some coffee and have a sandwich, before heading for Atherstone and up the 11 locks.

I was fortunate in that the first five locks were not only in my favour, but there were boats heading down some of them, although the sixth was against me (it was full) and had to be emptied before I could enter. By this time another boat with crew, had caught me up and I was ready for a rest, so pulled in on the empty visitor moorings below Lock 5, tied up and had a well deserved pint in The King’s Head across the bridge. This pub was closed for a few years, but after restoration, it seems to be thriving as it is canalside, which is good news in view of all the pubs that have closed in recent years.

After a shower, I phoned Eric who lives in the town to see if he was going for a drink, but he is at the Slough Festival. I met a man dog walking on the towpath, who told me that there was a classic car festival here in the town at the weekend, but after researching it online, most of the cars were within my lifetime so they could be of interest.

Friday 6th September

I walked up to the Co-Op to get a few essentials, but did most of the shopping in Aldi, which I had forgotten was here. In comparison with the Co-Op, Aldi easily outstripped them in popularity and all the tills were in operation.

It was time now to tackle the last five locks of the Atherstone flight, but this time I was following another boat, so all the locks were against me and had to be emptied before I could go in. Once again they were all, bar the top lock, done using the Jacko Method, as I now call it, because it was taught to me by John Jackson of nb Roach. Briefly described, as I have done so before, the boat is taken out of gear as it enters the tail of the lock and I step off at a suitable point with windlass in hand. Leaving the bottom gates open, I walk up to the top and when the boat is a about 6 to 10ft from the top cill, I draw half to a full paddle. This stops the boat and holds it in position, while I walk down and close the bottom gates, before returning to draw the remaining paddles. The method works on single locks only and all those ascending into Birmingham, but not on the Aylesbury Flight, where the boat needs to be left in gear and on tickover to keep it on the top cill.

Lock 1 was of course done by the volunteers and I pulled into the water point to fill the tank. By now I was saturated once more by a sudden cloudburst as I was filling Lock 2, with nowhere to take shelter and had to change all my outer clothing.

Once watered up, there were ample moorings to be had and I pulled in to share a ring with another boat. The stern line was attached and the centre line was on the bank, but a boat named Manxman steamed past at such a rate of knots that my bow was pulled into the centre of the cut and struck his stern, despite me trying to hold the centre line. I shouted, “SLOW DOWN”, but by this time it was too late. I absolutely abhor these selfish bastards, who are so inconsiderate to others trying to moor up – they know how difficult it is when others come past and you can always see when mooring up is taking place.

Howard Williams came past on Nuneaton later and I was curious as to where he was taking her without the butty in tow. I did find out when we had a chat later.

Saturday 7th September

I badly need to wash the bedclothes and considered them to be too much for the twin tub to cope with. I had been on the lookout for a launderette for a while and at last I found one in Atherstone. Surprisingly, I had walked past it several times, but thought by the title that it was more dry cleaners and service wash, but not so because I could do my own washing there. I thought Braunston Marina was expensive, but this one was only £1 less for wash and dry. Because I have no spare sheets, they have to be dried immediately after washng so that they can go back on the bed. 

Whilst waiting, I had a half pint of Imperial Russian Stout, which is brewed by Marston’s in small quantities. Being 8% ABV, it would not be sensible to have a pint and was like a meal in a glass and very flavoursome. I had a long chat with Shane, the landlord about pubs that we both had in common and both being friends of Eric, we seemed to gel straight away.

The rest of the afternoon was spent tidying up inside the boat, before I went to The Maid of the Mill for a pint. Very much a locals pub, where most customers seemed to know one another. It was noisy with two TVs going as well as loud musak. It is many years since I last went there and although it has been taken over and improved since then, it is still not a place I would frequent again, but it went on my database all the same, where there are now 134 pubs listed.

For the first time, I lit the new Morso stove, but could not get a decent draw with the restricting bracket stopping the ash door from opening when the top door was closed. I decided to unscrew it, but the screws were riveted on the inside and could not be unscrewed, so I set to with a hacksaw and cut it off. Now I could get a decent draught through the grate and the fire burned fine, but gently as is was the first firing.

Sunday 8th September

Today was the annual Atherstone Motor Show for classic cars and the weather was good with the sun shining and no wind. Several roads are closed for this event as they are taken over for display purposes and the crowds were out in force in the sunshine. Most of the cars were from the period in my lifetime, but there was a handful of older cars from the 1930’s. Motorbikes were also included, as well as few campervans. Most of the shops were open for business and the food outlets were doing a roaring trade. In the Market Square, there was a very loud disco and a few solo buskers.

AC Cobra?

Austin Metropolitan.

Not sure what this is.

A Shirley.......

.....so the badge says.

Bogus policeman with 
two tone horn going full blast.

Jaguar XK 140. 
Even the radiator cap was polished up.

Engine of above.

XK 140.

Rear end of a beautiful car.

A Lambretta.........would you believe?

A very busy place.

Engine of replica E Type Jaguar.

I spent two hours walking around the cars, before having a final pint in The Angel and heading off towards Hartshill, where there were ample moorings outside The Anchor.