Monday, 14 August 2017

The Bird You Cannot Mention and the Feather Duster

Out on the Trent - catching the tide to Cromwell
Hello. As I write this I am enjoying a bag of Tavener's American Hard Gums. I do like these sweets, although they are not as hard as they used to be.

P.S. I nearly forgot, here are the jottings.

This week we have enjoyed a continuation of showers (occasional, some heavy and persistent), wind (constant, always a bloody nuisance) and enticing sunshine (pleasant in a coat-removing sort of way).Tuesday was different though. We woke early to the sound of hammering on our cabin roof. Eventually I conceded that this wasn't part of a dream. Removing a porthole cover, I peered, bleary-eyed, at a chilly, grey world and at the rain lashing down. Then I got up and made Linda and me a cup of coffee, the first of many that day!

At around 11.00 a huge work-boat with a crane on it chugged passed us. We saw nothing else moving for the rest of the day. I half expected to see the Ark, but it didn't show.

The next day was drier and the forecast for Thursday was good, so we decided to move up through Lincoln to Torksey. Just after we had left Lincoln I noticed a little cruiser following us, which rapidly got closer. After a while I slowed down and waved for it to pass. Five minutes or so later I looked back, wondering why it hadn't gone by. Oddly, it seemed to be doing a boat version of "aimlessly milling about"; still following us at a short distance, but wandering from side to side. It was as if they had dropped something and were trying to find it again. Every now and again there would be a burst of speed, then they'd drop back again. Eventually they pulled into the side, got out and did a kind of a war-dance. Very strange. We just shrugged and left them to it.

I wasn't looking forward to the trip back to Cromwell as it would be a long day. The incoming tide would assist us some of the way, but there would still be a good distance to cover against the current when the tide turned. The lock-keeper advised us to leave Torksey between 09.45 and 11.45 on Thursday, so we dutifully chugged down to the lock at 09.30, and entered the lock shortly after. I asked the lock-keeper what the levels were like on the Trent. "Oh, there's about 6 foot of fresh", he shouted back. Then gates began to open. "6 foot of fresh", I was thinking. "It's a bloody good job we've got a good engine".

As we left the lock I noticed a stretch of weed, logs and other rubbish across the cut ahead of us. I put the engine in neutral and drifted through this barrier, as I didn't want any rubbish round the prop, especially when travelling up the tidal Trent with 6 foot of fresh on it.

All was fine for the first couple of hours. The tide carried us and we were travelling at a good rate of knots. Eventually the tidal flow slowed, stopped and then began to ebb. Consequently our progress slowed. I increased the engine revs and we picked up speed again, but gradually we were making less and less progress. The water being thrust out from the prop looked normal, there didn't seem to be any problem there, but something wasn't right.

Eventually we made it to Cromwell lock, but it had taken us well over four hours. We moored on the lock landing, waiting for the green light, and I wandered to the bows. And there I saw the reason we'd had such a battle. There was a sort of D.I.Y. garden centre caught around the bows. Amongst the acres of vegetation were various tree branches, rushes, water lilies, blanket weed, assorted river weed and a Walkers cheese and onion flavour crisp packet. We must have picked this lot up when we left Torksey and pushed it all the way here. The effect it had was the same as driving a car with the handbrake on.

It gave me great pleasure to attack this abomination with the boat hook. The only thing I was unable to retrieve was the crisp packet, though I removed a snickers bar wrapper that suddenly popped up out of nowhere.

Friday came, as it does, and we left mid-morning and made our way to Newark, where we moored in King's Marina. Compared to the day before our journey was good; we shot through the water like a speeding harpoon (please forgive a bit of poetic license). There was plenty to see on the way. The usual cormorants, ducks, swans and even one of those birds the name of which we are no longer permitted to speak of. You know the bird I mean.

Claire, Jason and Lyndsey visited us while we were in Kings Marina – we enjoyed having a hook-up for a couple of days but Tricky wasn't impressed – it was a long walk to find the grass. The weather was unseasonably pleasant – what a surprise! We left on Sunday for Farndon, hoping to moor on the pontoon there, but it was not to be. Some rotter had beaten us to it, so we turned the boat (always a kind of a wing and a prayer thing) with the intention of heading back to Newark. After turning, we spied a space on the private mooring outside the very posh Farndon Marina. After some remarkable manoeuvring (no one shouted at us) and having a bit of a chat with someone in the Marina office, which included handing over a small fee, we were granted permission to stay there. By 19.00 hours all the other boats on this pontoon had left and I was keen to turn our boat again, ready for the following day. There was plenty of room to manoeuvre and a fair current on the river, so I merely lengthened the bow line, released the stern line and pushed the stern out. The current took over and swung the boat round through 180 degrees, allowing me to tie the stern and shorten the bow line again. Text book stuff. And yea, I can now sit on the mountain of smug!

We are now moored at Stoke Bardolph, just a few short miles from Nottingham. And there you have it.

As you will probably have gathered, this weeks epistle is written by Carl – Linda will be back next week I expect.

Love from
The Floating Chandlers

P.S. The above is the P.S.
P.P.S. Our feather duster got blown into the river on the way here today. It could worry people as it looks like a drowned parrot.
Sunset over the Power Station at Torksey

Cosy Boat

Torksey Mooring

Time for walkies!

Lincoln City Centre

The Glory Hole Lincoln

Monday, 7 August 2017

Very Windy on the Witham

Sunset at Fiskerton Fen

Morning all,

It's unusual for me to write on a Monday morning but I just couldn't get in the mood yesterday. We'd had a busy day on Saturday and when I sat down to write to you on Sunday, I kept dropping off. Boating does that to you, it's so relaxing that sometimes I find a whole day has gone by and I've done nothing except maybe walk the dog. Yesterday was just such a day - we walked the mile or so into Woodhall Spa and wandered through the woods to the quaintly named 'Tea House in the Woods'. It's nice to find a place where Tricky is welcome and she soon had an admiring audience of people wanting to say hello to her. She's embarrassingly aloof though and ignores everyone once she's checked that they don't have any treats. We settle down inside with our coffee and I read the potted history of the Tea House printed inside the menu and I'm informed that it dates back to 1903.(The Teahouse, not the menu). I first came here with my parents in the late fifties and I've got an old photo of Mum, Dad and we three little girls sitting outside the Tea House with our sarsaparilla or whatever passed for a treat in those innocent times. For some reason, I've got a kitten with me, which seems a little odd, but Mum can't remember why after all this time, so I guess it will forever remain a mystery.

We're moored at Fiskerton Fen today, I couldn't leave the Witham without making one last trip to the little bird hide on the pond nearby, hoping for another sighting of the Barn Owl. I've taken lots of photos of the wildlife on the Witham including a Grebe family that were almost always by our boat at Antons Gowt. I saw the little one hitching a ride on Mum's back several times and finally, early one morning, I opened the side hatch to find them within camera shot. I did manage to get that photo and I've downloaded it to my Twitter account where it hangs around with zillions of other photos. Will anyone look at it in 50 years time and wonder about the story behind the photo?
Grebe chick hitching a ride

We called in at Southrey on the way through, to pay another visit to the lovely little wooden church of St John the Divine. It's worth a trip if you're in the area - a very pretty church with some interesting stained glass panels. Its a fairly new church compared with the mighty Lincoln Cathedral nearby but it has been sympathetically restored and the interior is homely and welcoming. The visitors book shows that people from near and far are interested in this remote corner of Lincolnshire. I can't resist reading the comments – I'm so nosy!

I can already feel the first hint of Autumn in the air. The lushness of summer has started to fade, the trees are dusty with the first hint of leaves turning brown and the blackberries, plump and luscious, beckon from the impenetrable heights of the bramble hedges, where only the birds can reach them. I'm looking forward to the damsons and apples which will be ripe by the time we get to the Shroppie, and Carl's looking forward to lots of crumbles! The weather's still on the breezy side, which would normally put the Captain in a bad mood if we were on the canals. Out here on the wide river, it's not so bad and we've had some memorable cruises through some squally conditions with our friends and family. Mostly, we go down to Boston and back, just for the pleasure of seeing the wonderful Boston Stump as we round the corner on the last stretch – it's a marvellous sight.

We've enjoyed having so many visitors and it will be very quiet without you - we're still within hailing distance if anyone missed us and can make it to Lincoln. Tomorrow we'll stop off in the city so I can get to Marks and Spencers (weather permitting - it looks like it might be a bit grim according to the forecast) and we'll moor overnight in Saxilby on route to Torksey and then long trip back to Newark. I'm hoping that there are still some warm days left for our Autumn cruise. I can see that some of you are off enjoying your summer holidays, Facebook is full of beautiful beaches and sweaty people in bars – I'm not envious of those searing temperatures, this cool weather suits me fine as long as it keeps dry.

The sun is shining into the cabin and I'm happily tapping away with the dog at my feet and Carl reading in the chair next to me. I put a load of washing through the machine as we chugged along earlier and it's pegged up in the bows, flapping nicely in the breeze. There are freshly dug new potatoes and brown eggs collected from a farm we passed along the way and a nice piece of smoked haddock for tea. Have you dropped off to sleep while I've been wittering on about the housekeeping? Sorry, I do forgot sometimes why I write this letter every week, I'm supposed to be entertaining you. I'm sorry to say that I've sent so much time this week chattering to our visitors that I'm all talked out and I've only got some aimless witterings left for you so I'll sign off with my usual reminder to have a lovely week and I'll try and get my brain into gear for next week

Love and hugs as always from
The Floating Chandlers

Ps we met a black and white cat in the woods - he was carrying something in his mouth that looked suspiciously like a snake (either that or he had a Fu Manchu moustache!) - he raced off through the trees, heading for home I suspect, and I wondered how his owner would react when Tiddles arrived home with his catch.

Happy Days with Jean, Eric, Holly and Poppy - come again soon girls 

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Put Your Pants On Romeo!

Morning All

Here I am again – did you miss me last week? I'm afraid I've turned into a gin-sodden old wrinkly since I discovered the joys of Bombay Sapphire and Fentimans Tonic. I've had some very generous donations to the grog cupboard this week(thanks Rob and Aud) and I'm only sorry that, as yet, I've not managed to find the ice cube tray.

Boating on the Witham is so peaceful and restful that I've forsaken the jottings for lazy afternoons of reading and watching the wildlife from the solitude of the isolated pontoon moorings along here. We've seen very few boats since leaving Lincoln and most of them have been little cruisers, out for a day trip. The unspoilt reaches of the river are wide and deep and the dreaded blanket weed has floated down to Boston where it lurks under the Sluice Bridge, waiting for the lock gates to open and the tide to carry it out to sea. Carl managed to slip in and out of the green soup without attracting any onto the prop, I'm still not sure how he managed that as it looked thick enough to walk over!

We've had some lovely sunny days on our journey here, right up until we turned off the Trent but since then we've been scooting between showers and wearing our coats when the brisk winds turned chilly. Carl is waiting for the weather to settle down so he can start painting, meanwhile we are keeping busy with visitors, which is much more fun. We do look forward to catching up with our friends and family while we are here - if you can spare an hour or two, please do come and find us.

We were in Farndon a week last Sunday, and the weather was forecasting thunderstorms and torrential rain for Wednesday so we decided to hurry down to Cromwell and get to the relative shelter of the Fosse Canal at Torksey before the rain set in. It was a lovely sunny morning for our trip into Newark, and it's a very attractive town, viewed from the back of a narrow-boat. The beautiful old bridge spanning the river lies in the shadow of the castle ruins and the park runs down to the river moorings. The gates of the town lock opened as we approached and, once though, we squeezed our 57 feet onto the end of the floating pontoon – the mooring fairy was with us again! It's not easy to get Tricky off the boat when we moor on the high wall by the park. Have you ever tried to climb a narrow, slippery ladder with a plump, wriggling dog tucked under your arm? It's not easy and Carl once got a nasty poke in the eye when Tricky panicked and started trying to escape. She's very good on the floating pontoons, she trots along and up the ramp until she gets to the grass and then scurries back in case we cast off and leave her behind - she's such a wimp!
Newark Town Bridge

From Newark we had a glorious sunny cruise down to Cromwell ready to catch the ebb tide to Torksey the next day. The huge weir at Cromwell sparkled in the sunshine and a pair of swans patrolled constantly up and down past our boat. The wildlife here is truly wild - the ducks and geese don't come tapping on the hatch to be fed and I think I prefer it that way. The Trent, from here to the Humber, isn't very pretty - you can't moor in the wild like you can on the Thames. There's nothing much to see, except for the occasional fisherman, but on a sunny day, it's a great place to spot cormorants and grebes, avocets and terns, dab chicks and coots and listen to the yellow hammer calling from the tree-lined banks. We had to wait until we reached Fiskerton Fen before we spotted a Kingfisher, but were rewarded by sighting one hovering over the water right in front of the boat. It hovered for an age while we watched with bated breath and then it plunged down and scooped a fish out of the water. Apparently, I do rather go on about Kingfishers but I defy anyone not to feel uplifted by the sight of that beautiful bird.
Kirkstead Bridge Mooring

We made good time down to Torksey and beat the tide coming up from Hull so had to wait outside the lock gates until the lock-keeper called us in. Entertainment was provided by the crew of a small cruiser, who flirted outrageously with me and told a sob story about running out of beer. I'm too long in the tooth to fall for any of that old patter so he transferred his affections to the boat in front and tried the same tactic with the crew of the 'Artic Skua', a sprightly, chatty lady who giggled and goggled at the shirtless Romeo but didn't fall for his charms either. He told us that he'd driven all the way from Cromwell with no pants on which probably frightened a few herons and gave the fishermen a good laugh. I think he might have regretted exposing his white bits on such a hot day unless he was very thorough with the sun cream!

The Fossdyke Navigation from Torksey to Lincoln was busy with boats so we didn't linger, preferring to get out onto the Witham and revisit a very lovely mooring at Fiskerton Fen. We arrived in the late afternoon sun and set off with Tricky down the footpath to the bird hide. We watched a Barn Owl circling around the fields, gliding silently across the reeds before perching in the bushes by the lake. He didn't stay long and neither did we, the rain clouds were rolling in and the sun set without the faintest hint of red in the sky and that was the end of the settled spell of weather. Every day since then it's been a lottery of showers and sunny spells; coats on, coats off; wet dog, dry dog; cratch covers rolled up to let the air in, but one eye on the sky for the first spot of rain.

Well, my hearties, that's all from the good ship Aberlour for another week (or two). I hope you're all happy that the gardens have had a good watering and all talk of a hose pipe ban has been forgotten. We're hoping that enough of the wet stuff has fallen to top up the canals ready for our Autumn cruise to Shropshire. Who knows, we may even make it to Llangollen again – it's been a busy year but I'm sure we can squeeze it in.

See you soon I hope

Lots of Love

The Floating Chandlers

ps I forgot to say we had a short break in Skegness this week. How very English it is to eat fish and chips in the rain and of course, we couldn't resist the slot machines. I'm not sure if the seaview has been improved by the collection of wind turbines marching across the horizon but the donkeys made up for that. Gibralter Point was at it's sunny best though and is just as charming as ever, although the tide was so high, we couldn't walk on the beach. I do love the seaside, don't you?

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Jottings from a Small Island

Turning at Sawley Services

 Morning All

I'm happy to report that the dubious spam I was battling with on my last Jotting has been erased. It's been battered, fried and served up as spam fritters by my new virus protection and I'm squeaky clean again. No-one complained about the porn-spam so I'm hoping I still have some readers left.

Did you wonder where I'd got to last week? I was luxuriating in the home comforts of Mum's B & B and tootling around the local garden centres in search of Penstemons. I'm happy to say that the search also included lots of tea stops and even the odd cream cake. The heatwave prevented us from venturing out far as my little puddle jumper gets steaming hot when it's sunny - I foolishly thought that air conditioning was a luxury when we bought the car 10 years ago. Every summer I threaten to trade her in for a newer model but every year she goes through the MOT with flying colours so I decide to keep her a bit longer. I need something that can cope with being left in a hedge for weeks on end and can be relied upon to keep me cool in summer and toasty warm in winter - all suggestions for a suitable replacement gratefully received.

So, back to boating. Since I last wrote we have travelled from our home mooring in Egginton on the Trent and Mersey in Derbyshire to this rather lovely spot, Farndon, on the River Trent. The first part of the week was hectic with lots of boats using this really popular canal. The hire boat season is in full swing and the familiar blue boats, from the hire base in Sawley, keep us entertained with their exploits. A 'NewbIe' at Weston was trying to empty the lock without closing the top paddles when we came along - this meant the water was rushing into the lock at one end and pouring out of the other - 'Mr Newbie' was wondering why the gates wouldn't open. Once we'd sorted that out, then he went off to tell his wife to bring the boat in. After a long interval the little boat came in, ramming the gates hard and leaving a fender behind. Oh dear! She slammed the engine into hard reverse, zoomed backwards and left the tiller swinging wildly while she located the boat hook. After 3 attempts, the fender was collected and the boat re-entered the lock and I closed the gate on my side and then helped 'Mr Newbie' with his side. The lock gates at Weston are extremely heavy and closing them requires a lot of huffing and puffing so I wasn't best pleased to find that while the Newbies were trying to pass a rope from the boat up to the bollard (not easy because 1- the wife couldn't throw and 2 - the husband couldn't catch) my gate had swung open again. I plodded back and huffed and puffed again and closed it, the rope was finally secured to the bollard and just as we were about to let the water in - a horn sounded. Another boat wanted to come in and share the lock. I plodded back to the other end, opened the gate and in came a hire boat with two large men aboard. hey made no effort to leave the comfort of their boat and watched as 2 old ladies (me being one of them) and 'Mr Newbie' did all the hard work. As the boat rose up the lock, I asked them if they had a windlass with an arm on it and after a while, they got the joke and went below to find one. I left them to it and went to talk to Mrs Anonymous - she was the other elderly lady and had come from the cruiser behind us which was waiting patiently to go through the lock. The couple were both wearing very heavy-duty life jackets which is unusual on the canals. The husband had his name "Dave" written in large letters across the front of his jacket but his wife said she wished to remain anonymous - she told me later she has Parkinson's and wore the life jacket in case she fell in the lock. You have to admire her determination to keep on boating as long as she possibly could. We shared a couple of locks down to Shardlow with them and I never did find out her name so Mrs Anonymous she'll remain.

The River Trent has been kind to us this trip - we've had lovely sunshine most afternoons to speed us on our journey down to Torksey. Rain was forecast for Tuesday and we got a good soaking before we reached a mooring at Stenson and the sewage works at Shardlow could hardly be called a des res and we were over whelmed with tiny white flies which I rather think might have come from that direction. We were up early next morning and danced across the deep water to Sawley, only stopping to visit the services behind the lock and then chugging along with a good current to speed us to Nottingham and the delights of an overnight mooring right by Sainsburys and a good old natter with our boating friends Terry and Liz – see you on the way back I hope.

We left the city behind and didn't even think of mooring at Holme Pierrepoint, it's looking very desolate these days. Instead we overnighted at Stoke Bardolph, squeezing onto the floating pontoon between a narrow-boat and a couple of sailing yachts. A very courteous gentleman came out and assisted me with my ropes, we discussed the weather like proper English people before he retired to his yacht and left us to enjoy the peace of this delightful mooring.

Hazelford Lock Moorings
We reached Hazelford Lock under dark stormy skies and moored on a stepped pier for our usual cheese sandwich. Tricky soon got the hang of scampering up the large concrete steps and I managed to plod up to the top too so we left Carl to arrange his fenders and went exploring. We turned away from the noisy weir by the lock and followed a path through the bushes until we came to...another weir. The river passed on both sides of the lock creating a wild island, large enough to give Tricky a bit of a walk and teaming with wild life. What an unexpected delight, and we're not the only ones who think so. By teatime, a whole flotilla of cruisers had arrived and the island was busy with people barbecuing and enjoying the lovely sunny afternoon. Definitely one of the loveliest moorings on the Trent and unlike the Thames, all free
A Flotilla arrived at Hazelford

Our mooring today is a floating pontoon in Farndon - Tricky likes this much better than the stepped wall and rasps her beard joyfully on the rough pontoon matting while I unlock the security gate leading to the nearby grassy meadow - doggy heaven. It's not quite so peaceful here, music from the nearby 'Bistro' floats over the meadow and the river is busy with boats coming and going from Farndon Marina. Tomorrow, we'll be tying up in Newark and contacting the Lock-Keeper at Cromwell to book our passage down the tidal Trent to Torksey. I hope to meet up with my Boston family and friends along the way - please do come and find us, it's been too long since I saw you all.

Lots of Love from
The Floating Chandlers

PS A big dragonfly came in through the hatch and landed on my knickers - luckily, I wasn't wearing them at the time

PPS Me to Carl as we chug up the Trent towards Gunthorpe
“We're a bit close to the bank” Carl replied - “Don't worry, this is deep water”

Two minutes later we're aground and Carl is stranded on 'I Told You So' Island !!!

Dragonfly inspecting my knickers

Captain Carl keeping us afloat

Tricky is underwhelmed by the view

I'm often on a train looking down at the river - not today!

a Clapping Gate - a very noisy design

Gunthorpe Bridge

We can't get in that gap - oh well, onward

Gunthorpe Lock
Hazelford Island
Hazelford Lock House

Hazelford Back Weir