Its a Blue Sky Sunday here at the quaintly named Bogg's Lock – we often moor here as its the first quiet spot away from the roar of the M6. There's no peace for me today though as Carl is on the roof with his latest gadget from Aldi's – a cordless sander. I have to admire their marketing strategy - placing tools in amongst the cheese and toilet rolls is a great way of making sure that any money you save on groceries never leaves the shop. The task for Carl today is to find out why there is water coming in through one of the ventilation grills. We found out we had a leak during the last heavy rainstorm when I spotted a wet patch on the mat below the vent and blamed Tricky – she didn't deny it when I asked her and no doubt she would still be getting the blame if I hadn't caught a drip down the back of my neck! Carl found rust under the mushroom vent (its another one of those pesky boating terms, it's hard to describe but I'll do my best. It's a round brass thing shaped like a mushroom that's fits over a hole in the roof to allow air to circulate. If I talk about 'polishing my mushrooms', you'll know that I haven't suddenly started Mr Sheening the vegetable basket) The offending mushroom will be removed and the rusty bits sanded and treated with some expensive gunk that's supposed to stop rust and prevent further deterioration. Carl's very good at treating rust, which is a handy skill to have if you own a 57ft steel boat which is doing its very best to break out in rust 'measles'. According to Carl, he acquired his rust curing skills in his youth when cars often needed filler and fibre glass to get them through the MOT. Another useful skill that Carl has is being agile as he needs to get up and down from the roof several times a day – putting up the aerial, tinkering with the solar panels and rearranging the roof ornaments (bags of coal, mooring tyres, ladders, barge poles). Today, there was a bit of a clatter and I looked up to see a pair of feet coming in through the sidehatch, followed by a rather sheepish Carl, who ended up standing by the cooker. I asked him why he'd come in that way (or words to that effect) and he had to own up and say he'd been coming down from the roof and forgotten the hatch was open and accidentally swung into the galley. Living with Carl is never boring!
When Carl wrote to you last Sunday, he was home alone while I returned the car to the safety of Mum's drive. I caught the train back to Rugby on Monday morning and by early afternoon we were chugging along in the sunshine, heading for Fradley and hurrying to meet up with Naga Queen and our friends Pat and Malc for our 'Summer Cruise'. It's been a fairly soggy week, although we've managed to keep dry by getting up early (5.30am) and getting through the locks before the rain came. On Wednesday, we were so cold that I came below for gloves and a thick cardi and I was still shivering under the brolly as we chugged along through Polesworth and Hopwas. The cabin felt chilly and gloomy and the heavy showers showed no sign of letting up, so we lit the stove when we got to Whittington. I know some hardy boaters would throw their hands up in horror - they wouldn't dream of lighting the stove after April but I've got firelighters and I'm not afraid to use them!
Fradley Junction was busy and we found ourselves in a queue as we turned left towards Middle Lock. The Naga Queen went chugging by as we came through the swing bridge and we slotted in one boat behind them and hovered until the 5 boats in front of us had gone through and Carl could finally get in the lock – if we'd got up early like we normally do then we'd have been through Fradley and moored up in time for elevenses. It was nice to chat to the other boaters in the queue and we waved them off like old friends as one by one they chugged off towards the bright lights of Rugeley and the canal-side Tesco's. We tied up alongside the Naga Queen and we shared a bottle of fizz and some of Pat's French Nibbles – very ooh-lala . And so the 'Summer Cruise' has begun. I expect there will be much laughter and a fair bit of red wine and lots of boating tales to tell for the next few weeks and I shall be able to chatter away to Pat and give Captain Carl's ears a rest.
Later that day I was down in the galley making a cuppa, when I heard a terrible squealing noise and stuck my head out of the hatch to see what on earth was making such an awful racket. I could see something swimming in the water but couldn't make out what it was until we got closer. There were three mink kittens swimming around and yowling and screeching for their Mum to rescue them. I saw another adult mink the next day by Colwich Lock, it swam across the canal almost under our bows and disappeared into the undergrowth. Those mink will make short work of the new summer babies that are just hatching. I counted 6 bundles of black fluff in one brood of moor hen chicks. Nature can be very cruel.
This week we shall be turning up the Shroppie and we're looking forward to the delights of Nantwich and Audlem on the way to Chester and onward to Ellesmere Port. I wonder how far we'll get this week? The Countryfile forecast was encouraging so I've raked out the sunscreen which was lurking at the back of the cupboard and dusted off my sun hat, just in case we finally get some summer. We've had two days without rain so I'm hoping that there's more dry weather to come. I must hurry up and finish now as the sun is going down and I want to be up early to try and creep past Naga Queen to beat them to the locks in the morning – we do like a bit of friendly rivalry!
I hope you have a good week with wall-to-wall sunshine and gentle breezes and I'll be back next week with more tales from the tow path.
Love as Always
The Floating Chandlers
ps We've covered a fair distance since last Sunday – 69miles, 7 furlongs and 28 locks if anyone is interested.