Sunday, 26 June 2016

Carl's in Charge. Blue Ropes

Morning all.  Linda has charged me with this week's jottings, so I'll crack on.

Monday was a sort of a “come on, let's get a move on” type of a day.  The first water-point we came to was bereft of boats, so we moored and refilled our tanks.  I really should get a tap fitted to the end of the hose that goes into the water tank.  While the water tank is filling I always find myself perched like a hawk in the cratch, staring at the hole that the hose disappears into, in order that I can guess when the tank is almost full.  On recognising the signs (actually there are no signs; the tank is either nearly empty, or it's suddenly full, overflowing and flooding the cratch) I leap off the boat and dash to the main tap to frantically turn it off.  On this occasion I made it to the tap on time and disaster was averted.

As the rain had almost stopped, and things were going well, we decided to continue up the next set of broad locks.  Once again, the passage was quick and problem free.  Our car was parked on a bridge not far away, so Linda left the boat at this point and went off to drive the car to Braunston, leaving me to carry on along the canal and through Braunston tunnel.  It sounded a good idea at the time, but I hadn't taken into account that Lady Luck, that fickle entity, had left with Linda.  Of course, I didn't immediately realise this, what with Lady Luck being invisible etc.  So I set off.

Then the rain started.  It was really quite biblical in intensity, so I reached over to the hook and put my coat on.  This was the signal the clouds had been waiting for and immediately the rain stopped and the bright June sun came out.  Within seconds I was too hot, so, although I had my suspicions, I took my coat off again and put it back on the hook.  I was right to be suspicious, as the rain started again.  After a cursory look around to see if Noah was in the house, I put on my coat again.  You can probably guess what happened then, and you'd be right.  Eventually, I thought “sod it” (I apologise for the bad language) and kept my coat on.  The weather gods weren't happy to see that I'd not only come up with a cunning plan, but that the said plan had thwarted them.  They promptly had a quick chin wag with the gods of rope and rubbish.  Sure enough, after a couple of hundred yards, the prop picked something up and my progress slowed down to a crawl, with an accompanying and extremely annoying vibration of the tiller.  Once again, various thoughts tripped the light fantastic inside my head, which I dare not put into print.  I think I'll start a new paragraph now, whether I need to or not.

I managed to bring the boat into the side and tie her up.  Then it was off with my coat, up with the stern deck-plate, and time to open the weed hatch.  Right on cue Noah's rain started, but I was determined to proceed.  With the weed hatch out of the way I gingerly put my hand and arm into the murky water and felt around for the prop.  These moments always remind me of Jaws, and I had visions of a monster pike sneaking up and biting a few man-fingers off to have with his chips.  I'm pleased to report that I still have the same number of digits as I was born with, so there's no need for any of you dear readers to worry.  Back to the prop.  There was a length of rope (a particularly nice shade of blue) tangled hopelessly around it.  As well as the rope there was a rag-tag assortment of fishing line (with no hooks), a Tescos plastic shopping bag (with no shopping in it – a pity as we needed some bread), and canal/river weed.  Within minutes I'd cleared all this mess and replaced the weed hatch and stern deck-plate.

After checking  that there were no boats approaching I slipped the lines and headed for the tunnel.  Compared to some canal tunnels, this particular trip through the Braunston one wasn't too bad.  There weren't too many waterfalls.  The tunnel isn't entirely straight, though; there are some slight bends which can make steering tricky if you don't pay attention.  I almost got through without meeting any other boats, but one pulled into the other end while I was just a few hundred yards from the exit, but we passed without incident. The weather was better on the other side of the tunnel, and Linda was waiting there with Tricky.  We moored at the top of the locks and called it a day.

We passed through the Braunston locks the next day without incident, although there were plenty of other boats around, and found a quiet mooring a few miles further on, where we tied up.  On waking early the next day, I steeled myself and opened the side-hatch to check the weather.  We had intended to have a quiet morning on the boat and thought we'd maybe set off early afternoon, but as I looked out of the hatch I saw a strange object moving through the water near our boat.  I didn't have a clue what it was, but it was big.  As big as a cow.  In fact it was a cow.  It had fallen in and was swimming up and down, desperately trying to find a way out.  Soon the rest of the herd in the field opposite had congregated to the water's edge and were mooing encouragement to the poor creature.  I called to Linda to see if she could find out which farm we were near and see if there was a phone number we could call.  Then I quickly got dressed and ventured outside.  I looked up and down the canal but there was nothing.  Not a sound, not a ripple.  The herd opposite looked at me as if it was all my fault.  I started walking along the tow-path towards the place I'd last seen it but there was nothing.

Eventually I went back to the boat.  Linda was dressed and Tricky was examining her breakfast, in case there was anything she felt was edible in it (she is so fussy).  Linda had had no luck finding a phone number, so I started the boat and cast off, hoping that we might find the cow again.  As we came round a bend we saw it.  It had managed to clamber out and was standing in the next field, dripping wet and looking very sorry for itself, but it seemed none the worse for its morning dip.

Today we came through the three Hillmorton locks.  These were very busy, there seemed to be boats everywhere, but we managed to make it through without too much of a wait.  I am now moored up just a couple of miles further along.  Linda has taken the car back and will be catching various trains tomorrow in order to join me at Rugby.  So that's about the size of it for this week.

Love as Always
The Floating Chandlers

PS Last time I did the jottings I added a PS but had nothing to say.  Sadly, I can't think of anything to add this time either.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

One Step Beyond

The Chandlers have at last cast off and are chugging back along the Grand Union, heading for pastures new, on their 'Summer Cruise'. The weather forecast is not looking great and I suspect I will be wielding my windlass tomorrow in the pouring rain. For once, I'm so happy to be on the move that I won't mind in the least.
The long awaited band reunion took place at the Northampton Picturedrome on Saturday – it was a reunion of bands who used to play together in the 80's, and some of the musicians hadn't played together for 30 years. I'm sorry to say that most of them must have suffered permanent hearing damage back in the day so, consequently, the volume was turned up to 11 again and for the second week running, my ears were ringing from the onslaught. Last week, I used tissue to plug my ears, this week I used blobs of Bluetack – very effective. It was a long wait for Carl's fan club even though we were sitting in the posh seats reserved for the WAG's (Wives and Girlfriends for those of you who don't read the sports section). The three of us, myself being number 1 fan, my sister Jean and her husband, Eric the outlaw, were there from the start as moral support. As the time ticked down and the Picturedrome filled up, I began to feel nervous – I've don't know why but I'm always more worried than Carl. Finally, it was their turn, and the set started with 'One Step Beyond' and then, before we knew it, they'd played the last number and it was over. A bit like Xmas really, months of preparation and then its gone in a flash. Whoops, did I mention the Christmas word? Well, its only 189 days to go so better get the sprouts on.
We've had a holiday from boating this week and taken up rambling instead. Tricky has been in her element, visiting a new sniffing spot every day and has found new smelly things to roll in which has required a tow-path bucket wash before we could let her aboard. On Monday we went to Salcey Forest and had a ramble through the woods, until we came across a sign for the 'Treetop Walk' – I suppose the clue was in the title really. When we found the entrance, it was a nice gentle slope, winding and climbing through the trees, to a spectacular viewing point over the surrounding countryside – well worth a visit if you're in the area. We called into the dog-friendly cafe for elevenses and found a corner table where Tricky could hide from any over-friendly four-legged customers. I went inside to order and had to edge around a huge Newfoundland dog that sprawled across the gangway. He opened one eye as I passed but went on with his snooze. I saw him later with his nose glued to the back of a lady Labrador who looked at me with beseeching eyes as if to say 'Help me'. The owner was doing his best to distract the Newfoundland away from the poor dogs nether regions by calling him off (Tiny!!! - you couldn't really call such a large dog anything else could you!) When Tiny refused to be diverted then the owner tried tugging on Tiny's collar – he couldn't move him an inch. I left them to it and sneaked Tricky off to the safety of the car – I didn't want her to be traumatised!
We rambled into Daventry for a walk round the Country Park the next day and were rewarded with a lovely sunny morning. The footpath circles the reservoir although you can't really see much until, at last, the footpath crosses the dam and you finally get to see the wildlife including an armada of coots, ive never seen so many in one place! On the other side, through the hedge, the sun glinted on a field of poppies, reminding us of just how beautiful the English countryside can be in the warmth of the summer sun. Of course, it didn't last and almost every afternoon we've had varying degrees of rain from drizzle to downpour with accompanying thunder clouds and rainbows to make up for the leaden skies. I do hope we get a proper summer – my sandals are out of the cupboard but I've hardly had a chance to wear them.
The mowers came along the tow-path while we were out on Wednesday - every morning since then I have had to start the day by clearing the hay which has attached itself to the dog and covered every mat and rug from stem to stern.
This week we will be nipping back home to vote and pick up the post – I'm not going to debate the referendum here as we are all good friends and I want it to stay that way, but I'm determined to cast my vote so that I'm entitled to have a good moan about the result – whichever way it goes!
So, after all the excitement of 'Carl's Gig', we woke late this morning to find that Jean and Eric were already up and dressed and had put their bed away while we snoozed. We love visitors who bring cake and learn how to put up and take down their bed. We were sorry to see them go as we waved them off this morning but I was soon happily trotting off down the tow-path with Tricky at my side and Carl chugging along behind. Back in the boating routine and happy to be doing the thing that we love most. Boating.
Love as Always
The Floating Chandlers

PS I almost forgot to say that the band were brilliant and Carl, who is always so very humble, admitted that 'it went alright'. I have a video clip but so far I haven't been able to share it – is there any techy person out there who can sort me out?


Sunday, 12 June 2016

A Whole Lot of Rosie

Morning all
The May blossom was really wonderful this year and I was sad to watch the glorious blossom fade and disappear, to be replaced by the shy dog rose and honeysuckle. Splashes of vivid yellow flags glow by the murky water as we chug along and the elder flowers are a creamy white contrast to the vivid greenness that is everywhere. We've had a gentle week since I last wrote, doing nothing more strenuous than a chug up to Weedon and back, making the journey last for several days. We returned to bridge 45 and the farm mooring in time for band practice on Thursday.
On Monday, we called in at Nether Hayford and walked up to the village for some local new potatoes, always a treat at this time of year. As we left the boat, we found 2 black bin bags of rubbish dumped on the tow-path, together with several large pizza boxes and empty beer cans. I'm afraid to say that it was boaters who had left their mess to be cleared up by others. We saw the offending party boat, covered in balloons and streamers, returning to the hire base on Sunday evening – if I'd know I was going to be clearing up their mess the next day, I wouldn't have smiled and waved and called 'Happy Birthday' to the captain.
It was hot and sunny on Monday afternoon and we tied up in Flore opposite a rather beautiful house with gardens that run down to the canal. I sat out in the shade, listening to the birds and catching up on my e-mails and watching the comings and goings of the gardener across the water. I was envious of his ride-on mower and trailer, which was humming busily to and fro while I lazed in my deckchair. I could hear Carl strumming on his guitar through the open hatch and the warmth of summer soaked into my bones – what a wondrous thing is a warm summers day. Then the gardener lit a stinking bonfire and clouds of smoke rolled along the canal, polluting the sweetly scented air and that was the end of that. What is it with men and bonfires?
Next day, we pottered off to Weedon and moored by the very attractive Wharf House. The tow-paths are very overgrown along here which makes getting off the boat hazardous. Every time you step off with the rope you're knee deep in grass and cow parsley which looks very pretty, but you can't see where you're putting your feet. Carl grumbles about stepping in doggie-do but I worry more about the hidden holes waiting to trip you up. I'm looking for a post box again so we set off towards the village down some very steep steps. I clip Tricky on the lead in case she does that thing where you start running downhill and can't stop. Tricky and I make a slow and stately descent, as befits our age and weight handicap while Carl leaps down like a mountain goat – honestly, given that he consumes his own weight in chocolate most weeks, I wonder how he stays so nimble and trim! We wandered along in the shade, past the lovely old church, now overshadowed by the extremely close proximity of the viaduct – Sunday sermons must be a challenge for that vicar! The old part of Weedon is very pretty - there's a cafe, post office, Spar, chemist and an olde worlde shop selling the kind of goodies that hungry boaters like. Fresh bread, vegetables and gourmet pies and lasagne. The young girl in the shop very kindly helps me sort out the ton of change in my purse and I tried not to feel like a pensioner as she helped me count the change out to cover the bill. I suppose I must have seemed positively ancient to her and so, I let her do the counting and thanked her for her help. Will boy scouts be helping me over the road next?
No jotting would be complete without a weather report and as I type this on Sunday afternoon, it's hailing, thundering and lightening. Tricky is looking for somewhere to hide and to be honest, I feel like joining her. The noise of the hail beating on the roof drowns out the music playing on the Ipod (Savage Garden if anyone's interested) and I worry about the holiday boats that are still chugging along through the elements – I bet those hailstones sting on their bare legs!
I'm definitely feeling my age today, I think that may be partly due to the late night we had last night. We staggered down the tow-path in the early hours after a night out with our friends Richard and Mel to hear a rock band playing at a pub on the other side of Northampton. It was a great evening - we left Tricky with her friend Mr Tush (there's a good reason for his name but I'll spare your blushes and just say that he's a Yorkshire terrier, with impeccable manners nowadays). We all squashed into the little blue car which has such a weeny engine that I wondered if it would be up to the challenge of getting all 4 of us there. I was urged on by my co-pilot to try to get the rev counter round to 6000 rpm but I resisted the challenge – sometimes being older does mean being wiser! It wasn't very rock and roll to arrive at the venue and park the puddle jumper next to the most beautiful Harley Davidson but hey! My usual form of transport is 57 feet long – so there! The band were playing to a select audience and the volume was turned way up high. My old eardrums couldn't take it and I had to make some earplugs out of a paper hanky to prevent my eyeballs from vibrating. It was a great night and eventually, some of the locals got up to dance which is when I realised just how ancient I have become as I could only watch, when once I would have been out there rocking with the best of them. Three ladies stood in a group with their feet glued to the floor and flung there hair about, another lady came onto the floor and jumped around regardless of anyone who might be in the way which totally perplexed a group of young men playing air guitar. These youths were fairly normal looking until you saw that their trousers were hanging right off their bottoms and looked in danger of falling down as they flung their pretend guitars about. The highlight of the night for me was the grand finale when the band played 'Whole Lot of Rosie' and a couple in the corner got so into it that I gave up watching the band to watch them instead. It was a complete body workout for them and I felt like applauding when with a last flourish of the cymbals, the couple fell back against the bar and carried on drinking as if nothing had happened.
That's all for this week – more ramblings as usual next week
Love as Always
The Floating Chandlers


Sunday, 5 June 2016

Fat Bottomed Boats

Hello again 
There's not a lot of boating to report this week. The Lady Aberlour has been tucked up safe and sound in Blisworth Marina while Carl and I swapped tiller for steering wheel and whizzed home to collect prescriptions and post and to inspect the wilderness that is our garden. I swear our gardener has a crystal ball – we arrived home to find the front lawn wild and overgrown but as soon as Carl struck up the mower, Allan's van appeared, as if by magic. I think Carl was pleased to put our pathetic, orange, wimpy thing back in the shed and let Alan strike up the 'Beast' – it made short work of both lawns. After he'd gone, we went out to inspect the nicely shorn green patch at the front but somehow it just made the wild borders look worse – everything has gone mad. Someday we're going to have to devote some of our boating year to gardening, but now we're back on the boat and the sun is shining, I'm afraid it doesn't seem like a very attractive prospect.
There was some boating at the beginning of the week - when I last wrote, we were shivering at the bottom of the Stoke Bruerne flight wishing that the sun would come out. The weather hadn't improved much overnight as Tricky and I set off towards the first lock with Carl chugging along behind. There were two boats already moored on the lock landings, they were hanging around waiting for the lock-keepers to send some water down. A boat had gone up the flight late on Sunday evening and left the paddles open, draining the pound. As usual, I struck up a conversation with the crew of the two boats ahead of us and discovered that their boats were small enough to fit in the locks one behind each other, leaving room for us to come in alongside. Three boats in a lock equals three crew to do the work – now that's a result on a chilly Bank Holiday Monday! When we got the signal to say that the water shortage had been resolved, we raced up the 7 locks in double quick time and chugged through the bustling boating village looking for a place to moor to enjoy the festivities. Stoke Bruerne is a busy place on any day of the week but the bank holiday had attracted several boat traders selling there wares from converted working boats or from stands attached to their more modern boats. There was a good selection of crafts to choose from - paintings, jewellery, rag rugs and painted canalware. It was a real carnival atmosphere and the tow-path was busy with families and gongoozlers. Two trip boats were running, one from the Museum and the other from the pub, taking people to the tunnel and back and every now and then, a wide-beamed boat came along causing chaos through the narrow bit, which was where we had chosen to moor. I was amazed how close some boats could get without actually hitting us! The tourists on the tow-path were a constant stream all afternoon and in the end we had to hang the privacy scarf up as Carl got tired of people staring in to watch him reading his book! It's only a scarf pegged to the curtain rail but its very effective – I don't mind people looking in, as long as we're tidy but Carl says it puts him off and I must admit I'm always worried about dropping off in my chair and finding a crowd of people looking in and laughing at me dribbling and snoring.
As I walked Tricky later, I noticed a wide-beamed boat moored up by the tunnel entrance and I wondered if he was booked to go through first thing in the morning. The tunnel is wide enough for two narrow boats to pass but larger craft have to book with the tunnel keepers, who stop oncoming traffic to prevent a collision. Tricky and I really hate meeting boats in a tunnel so we thought we would get up early in the morning and try to tag on behind him. We were up with the larks and went chugging off at just gone half past seven but we were just too late. The widebeam had gone and the tunnel keeper was flagging us down – we would have to wait for one each way, which would be at least an hour. 'Can you make good speed' said the tunnel keeper as he saw the disappointment on our faces. 'We'll give it full throttle' said Carl. And he waved us through – what a bit of luck. We could see the lights of the boat in front of us and we went full steam ahead to catch up with him. It was pretty cold and damp in the tunnel, I could see my breath when I ventured up top, I soon hunkered down under the hatch with Tricky when we got to the first wet bit – it was streaming down from the ventilation shaft like Niagara Falls. We came roaring out of the tunnel and waved our thanks to the fat bottomed boat that was waiting to waddle through – what a good start to the day.
Later that morning we turned into Blisworth Marina and I hopped off at the entrance to find out where to go. The marina manager and I walked round to the pontoon and I stood at the end so that Carl could see me and know where to head for. It was a grey, windy day and I felt a bit worried as I saw Carl steaming towards me at a fair pace and then heaving on the tiller to reverse the boat into our space. I was surprised as he normally goes in bows first, if given the choice. 'Have you got bow thrusters?' asked the marina man. 'Oh no' I replied and he frowned as if it might be a problem. Carl swung the tiller and the bows shot round and he lined the stern up to reverse into the space and very nearly made a perfect manoeuvre except for a gust of wind that swung the stern and rested our fender very gently under the pontoon, where it jammed. I took over on the tiller while Carl stepped off with the rope and after a bit of heaving, the stern slid backwards into the space – amazing! I gave Carl 9 out of 10 for attempting a reverse park on such a windy day and without a cross word we settled our 'Lady' for a well earned rest while we tootled off in the car. It was still in the hedge where I left it, a little dusty and covered in hawthorn blossom and for once, I was happy when it rained on the way home - it sluiced the worst of it off.
We're back on the boat now and we'd seen the forecast for wall-to-wall sunshine today – we moored in a pretty spot so that we could make the most of the heatwave. How disappointed were we to get up to grey skies yet again. It was gone 11 before the promised sunshine arrived but it was everything they said it would be and I've had the most glorious day. I was sitting out in my chair with book and hook watching the boats go by and chatting to walkers and boaters - now, did I hear someone say they were too hot? It's only a matter of time!
That's all for this week – more ramblings as usual next week
Love as Always
The Floating Chandlers