Sunday, 17 September 2017

Feet and Inches

The Beautiful Montgomery

Morning All

We're almost in the same place as we were this time last week. Those of you who had sufficient leisure time to peruse our weekly rantings will realise that we are, of course, back at Ellesmere. We left this bastion of civilisation last Monday, and cruised for a little while until we spied a mooring of such splendour, such unexpected delight, that we were compelled to stop and tie up immediately. Bugger the state of charge of the batteries, for once they would have to do.

The sun was shining, the birds etc. etc. etc. so while Linda "did a few jobs around the boat" I decided to cut some wood we'd had lying on the roof for a week or so. Out came the saw, a really good one I bought recently, and out came the axe, a rather small one that I bought some years ago. Then followed a good half hour of cutting and chopping. Some walkers stopped to ask what I was doing. I wondered whether I should come clean and tell them I was researching a detailed history of Persian tomcats in Kiribati, but politeness won, so I explained what I was doing and why. I then went on to admit that we had a multi-fuel stove on board, while at the same time drawing their attention to the chimney on the roof, which can be a bit of a give away. Satisfied, they went on their way. I resumed my labours until finally the job was done, the kindling/logs were stowed away and I sat down to check how many fingers and thumbs I had left.
 Morning Mr Blue Sky

We really love this time of year. The scenery is so full of colour, the scents in the air are so evocative of childhood memories and it is such a luxury to light the stove first thing in the morning and soak up its heat. At least we would if Tricky wouldn't hog it! She'll sit with her nose an inch away from the glass, gazing in rapture at the flames, panting because she is too hot, but not smart enough to move away.

There seem to be more flies about this September; I'm forever stalking up and down the boat with the fly swatter, trying to swat the little blighters. You'd think the numbers of spiders we keep finding would play the game, but they aimlessly spin webs in secret, then continually warn the flies not to come near.

So much for Monday and flies. Linda had booked our passage down the Frankton locks and onto the Montgomery canal for Tuesday. The Canal and River Trust were very helpful, even sending us an email confirming our passage. Amongst the details included in the email was our boat length, given as fifty six feet and twelve inches. Sigh.
photo courtesy NB Spirit

The locks here are only operated between 12.00 and 2.00 p.m. each day so we made sure to arrive in plenty of time. Eventually our turn came and I was happy to take the boat down the first, staircase lock and then the next two. I chugged off round the bend to the old Weston branch. Linda had walked ahead to check the mooring situation and called out that one side was full but that the other side was empty. After weighing up the various manoeuvres available to me and checking whether there was much of an audience, I decided to head to the bridge, do a half turn, then reverse slowly back up the arm. After following this plan vaguely, with a quiet determination to look as though I knew what I was doing, I had turned the boat a bit, reversed back a bit and eventually brought the boat to rest in exactly the right spot.(note from Linda – of course, no-one was watching!)
Cruising along the Montgomery Canal

After quite a few hours it was suddenly Wednesday morning. The severe gales and heavy rain that had been forecast for Tuesday night had been and gone, so off we set along the Montgomery canal in search off fresh fields and pastures new. In three hours cruising we only met two boats. After the Llangollen canal, where we seemed to meet boats at almost every bridge or large, encroaching tree, this was wonderful. I mentioned colourful scenery at the start of this week's ravings. The Montgomery canal must rank as one of our highlights this year for spectacular views and stunning countryside. We saw several of those birds that I once promised I wouldn't mention much. You know, kingfishers. I caught a quick glimpse of a small, squirrel like animal. It was a reddy brown colour. I don't suppose for one moment that it could have been a red squirrel- maybe a pine martin? We'll never know. Early Wednesday afternoon we arrived at the village of Maesbury Marsh, where we tied up for the rest of the day.
Poor old Graham Palmer is looking a bit battered

What can I say about Oswestry? Well, it's pronounced as it's spelt (I think), it contains lots of very attractive old buildings and seems a very nice small town. What really sold Oswestry to me though was the charity shop offering for sale two books that I've been looking for for ages. What a result! Sadly, we couldn't get to Oswestry by boat. Happily (and the realisation caused much rejoicing), one can catch a bus at Maesbury Marsh and travel to Oswestry. A return journey is also possible.
Graham Palmer lock on the Montgomery

This is why we were standing at a bus stop in the rain at 09.50 a.m. on Thursday morning. Linda had done her research and, after much head scratching, gleaned that a bus ought to appear at 10.00. There was some confusion, however, as the bus timetable was in a bush around the corner from the actual bus stop. Luckily for us, a very friendly gentleman was waiting for the bus in the designated place (it was the bus stop, not the bush). Probably the bus-service planners work for The Dept. of Aggravation, or The National Office of Idiocy, or even The Think-Tank for Removing all Traces of Common Sense.
The Navigation at Maesbury Marsh

Friday morning we turned the boat and made our way back to Frankton locks, after booking passage for our 56 foot 12 inch boat. We moored again near bridge 60, and moved on Saturday back to Ellesmere, where Claire and Reece joined us for the evening. And here we sit today, enjoying some late afternoon sun.

That's it for this week, I hope the sun is shining for you too

Love as always
The Floating Chandlers

PS The engine will be due for a service soon, which will include changing the gearbox oil (gulp!). This is a really awkward job, which I don't look forward to. Still, as long as Linda keeps me stocked up with tea (she always does, she's a star!) and I can listen to Sounds of the Sixties on catch-up with Tony Blackburn (I do miss Brian Matthew) and Phil "The Collector" Swern I should be ok.

PPS Linda here – I met a fellow blogger this week, Irene and Ian on Free Spirit were coming up Frankton Locks and our two boats crossed in the middle pound. Irene recognised Tricky, who was sitting in her usual perch on the hatch, looking aloof as always. Fame at last Tricky! Have a look at for some great photos.
Winding Hole On the Montgomery

Trees on the turn

Aston No 1 Lock

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Wet and Whiffy Wales

Whitchurch Lift Bridge

Bore da Pawb (that's Welsh for Good Morning Everyone)

Today we're poised on the English border, ready to cross into Wales for the final leg of our Autumn cruise. The weather's become very Welsh since we turned down the Llangollen Canal and our waterproofs aren't keeping the rain out. Tricky shelters under the hatch and is quite cosy as the floor is warm from the heat of the engine, while Carl and I shiver under the umbrella and watch the black clouds roll across the sky. Luckily for us, the rain is intermittent, and we've had some dry, sunny spells in between the showers. The nights are turning chillier too so we were pleased to meet the fuel boat in Wrenbury. Three bags of their best 'Footwarmer' coal are tucked up on the roof and I've been doing my bit by collecting wood along the way to add to the stash in the bows - the weather can do what it wants now - we're ready for winter.
Spooky tree

Audlem was very busy on Monday morning with hire boats rushing up and down the flight. We delayed our departure until the first flurry had died down then set off with the warmth of the September sun glinting off the lakes as we crossed the Weaver Valley aqueduct. The hire boats along here are numerous and we're used to meeting people from all over the world, who've come to England to spend a fortune hiring a narrow boat thinking it will be 'fun'. It's not really much fun when you're committed to spend 8 hours on the tiller in the pouring rain and I do feel sorry for them as they flog past with their flimsy plastic macs flapping in the gale force wind with blue knees and rain running off the end of their nose. My favourites are the Americans and the Canadians - they're all so damned cheerful, whatever the weather! They love to chat at the locks but woe betide anyone who mixes up their nationalities. We did spot a flag that we didn't recognise this week, it was blue with a yellow stripe and 2 white stars. 'I don't recognise your flag - where are you from?' I called out to them as they cruised by. The reply wasn't at all what I expected - they were English but flew the Curacean flag as they'd had a holiday there once and liked the country a lot - they said it was a good talking point and, of course, they were right about that!
Weaver Valley - Audlem

Coming up the Hurlestone flight, I spied a tree laden with ripe damsons - I'm amazed that the fruit was still there as this is a busy flight with lots of boats up and down. Usually, the trees closest to the canal have been stripped bare and I've hardly found any damsons at all on the way down the Shroppie. These were just ripe for picking, sweet and juicy, even the lower branches were loaded with fruit - too nice to resist, so I filled my pockets. At Grindley Brook, there were cooking apples and marrows in a basket by the bottom lock. I helped myself to the apples but couldn't think of anything to do with a marrow - does anyone actually eat those things?
Pat on Naga Queen going into Hurlestone top lock

We've whizzed along the Llangollen Canal this week through Wrenbury and Grindley Brook to Whitchurch where we parted from our travelling companions, Pat and Malc. They turned the Naga Queen for home on Friday and we're continuing our cruise without them - we'll miss their company and so will Tricky. Whitchurch was humming with shoppers when we walked up to town with them on Friday morning. The early morning showers had cleared away and we idled away the morning poking around in the charity shops and drinking coffee in Benjamins before scooting round Tesco's where we filled the trolley full to bursting with our weekly supplies before joining the other pensioners on the local community bus back to the boat. As Pat and Malc set off back towards Grinley Brook we went under the lift bridge and chugged off towards Ellesmere in the bright afternoon sunshine. We didn't get very far before we found a peaceful spot to moor up – just us, on our own, far from the noisy Whitchurch bypass. Tidy as they say in Wales!
Tricky's already in her winter coat

Tricky rolled in something disgusting this week and even with a couple of Naga Champ joss sticks burning, I could still smell her. I had to give her a bath, but then the boat reeked of wet dog. On top of that, I made a chicken curry for tea and that perfumed my dreams with Eastern Promise and I woke up with a curry headache. I should know better than to believe the advertising hype but I succumbed to the temptation of a squirty can of fruity scented Febreze and ran through the boat, leaving a cloud of vapour that a Boeing jet would have been proud of, then left it to do its magic while we sauntered into town. We came back to an even worse niff - curry flavoured,melon scented, wet dog! Luckily for us, we've had some sunny spells so I've been able to give the boat a good airing, a real breeze is better than 10 cans of Fauxbreeze and the pongy curry/melon/dog smell has been replaced by the merest hint of cow dung. Ah well, you can't win them all - pass the Naga Champ please Carl!
The view from the top of Hurlestone flight

Tomorrow we set off with the hordes of holidaymakers heading for Llangollen. We've moored just before the busy junction in Ellesmere and there's been a constant stream of boats passing by. It's so busy that we may dive off down the Mongomery Canal, in search of the peace and quiet that we love. The Llangollen Canal goes through some of the most beautiful countryside, but with so many boats on such a narrow canal it's hard to enjoy it as you never know what's coming at you around the next bend. Yesterday, we met a day boat just where a large group of trees were hanging over the water, reducing visibility considerably. We couldn't see him but we could hear the roar of his engine and the waters boiled with a huge bow wave coming around the corner so we gave him a toot on the horn to let him know that we were just around the bend. He responded by tooting his horn in response and throwing the throttle into hard reverse. Dad and son were on the stern, female passengers looking at us from the cabin, clutching glasses of fizz and looking worried as their bows drifted across towards us. Dad knocked off the throttle and waggled the tiller till their stern swung out to meet us and we crept passed them on tick over. Then they were off again, engine at full throttle, young lad hanging dangerously over the stern without a life jacket.
Ellesmere in Bloom

The forecast is abominable for the coming week,I don't mind though, I've downloaded four new books onto my reader and I've got a stash of wool to keep me occupied. Anyone need a crocheted dishcloth or a granny square blankie?

That's all from us for this week, take care everyone

Love and Hugs as always
The Floating Chandlers

PS I was standing next to a chap who was operating the paddles on the Grindley staircase when his windlass suddenly flew up in the air and came down on the ground by my feet. Phew! – that was too close for comfort!
PPS Will add more photos when the wifi signal improves (done 11th September)

Pat and Naga Queen coming up Hurlestone flight

Sunny Ellesmere

Caught in the act Tricky

Monday, 4 September 2017

Grub Street and Caterpillars

The Shroppie Fly
First things first. After a complaint re the number of times "kingfisher" is mentioned in these pages I wish to reassure you all that, for this week at least, there will be no further mention of said fishers, be they kings, queens, jokers or merely knaves. In fact the Crown of Kingfishers we have seen this week will remain an unmentionable thing. By the way, I googled the collective noun for Kingfisher and it is actually a "Crown" of Kingfishers. Other contenders are Clique, Concentration, Rattle and Realm (the last two sound a bit like a Fats Domino record, don't they?). So there you have it. You can read on, safe in the knowledge that the following incoherent ramblings will be uncontaminated by, well, I'm sure you get the picture.

Moving on, you have probably realised that Linda is not typing the jottings. Probably the brusque, "devil may care" attitude demonstrated in the above paragraph gave the game away. Yes, it is I, Captain Carl, again. My wife has operated 12 narrow locks today, so I thought I'd take the strain, so to speak.
Latte Carl? that's not very pirate, is it!
The weather has been kind to us for most of this week. It's been warm, with plenty of sunshine and light winds. But oh dear, what a change a few hours can make. Yesterday (Saturday) was quietly pleasant; plenty of sun, a bit chilly in the shade, but on the whole a nice day. We had hoped for a similar day today and in order to check the outlook I logged onto Aromatic Anthony's amateur weather forecast and pizza delivery service site last night. According to his collection of garden ants (one of them had walked backwards and stubbed a toe), an intrigue of sky-kittens would drift aimlessly in from the Atlantic, followed by some really big clouds. Just before dawn the sun would rise in the manner of a Yorkshire pudding and smile upon the world. This was not what happened. Today was cold, cloudy, windy and, eventually, wet. The rain was argumentative and stroppy, and caused puddles to form on the tow-path.
Weaver Valley
The last week has been spent on the Shropshire Union canal. This is one of my personal favourites, except for the hidden shelf which runs below the waterline for much of the length of this waterway. This underwater obstruction can make mooring difficult; you can, perhaps, visualise the scenario: the narrowboat's engine note changes as the driver slows down from a giddy four miles per hour. The bows swing towards the bank at what looks like an idyllic mooring spot, only to be thwarted at the very last moment by the heart chilling sound of steel grinding against concrete and the boat being held back from the canal edge by the aforementioned shelf. This happened to us often during our first foray along this navigation. Sometimes we have been able to get back into open water without too much of a struggle, other times we have had to do battle with the boat pole, reverse gear, and copious amounts of strong coffee. Foul language doesn't help, I've discovered, although it does make me feel better.
Speckled Wood Butterfly
The Shroppie really is a wonderful canal. It is extremely rural, except where it isn't, and runs through, or by, some very nice villages. It can be a bit of a "testing" canal, though. There is one particularly narrow bit known as the Grub Street Cutting. Don't ask me about the name because I don't know anything about it. All I know is that it's very long and very narrow, and meeting seven boats coming the other way, one after another, when you're halfway through is a shame. Once through the tunnel we met boat number eight. This was driven by Captain Jack Sparrow, although judging by the way he steered his boat a better name would be Blind Pew.
Lock Cottage at Audlem
Changing the subject (hence the new paragraph) I found a caterpillar on the roof of our boat yesterday. It seemed to have made itself quite at home, and was sitting there with a cup of tea, reading the sports pages of the Sun newspaper. It was one of those hairy caterpillars, just like the ones a young child would draw.

Anyway, I'm running out of things to say so I'll hand over to Linda now to finish off.

It's pretty hard to follow that Carl – I sometimes wonder if we've been on the same boat! I'll stick to the facts and stay clear of the melodrama! This week we've travelled from Brewood to Audlem and added another 12 locks to this year's tally of just over 500 locks and 829 miles. I'm a fully paid up member of the Ibuprofen club!
Cute gingerbread man with our latte in Market Drayton
We're still travelling in convoy with our friends on Naga Queen and enjoying their company of an evening. Tricky is very fond of their fireside rug and is sulking tonight because they moored too far away for her to pay her usual evening call in search of 'treats'. We'll be catching them up in the morning and travelling towards Nantwich and the Llangollen Canal. I'll be back next week as normal with the Jottings, have a great week everyone.

Lots of Love
The Floating Chandlers

ps Had to light the stove a couple of times this week. I can't tell you how cosy the boat is with the kettle steaming away on the hob and Tricky steaming on the hearth mat. The duvet is back on the bed and I've dug my slippers out from under the chair – summer is slipping away and there was just a hint of frost on the grass this morning to remind us that winter is just around the corner.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Lady Karma and a Brucie Bonus

Morning All

I bet you're loving this warm, sunny Bank Holiday weekend. Was there ever such lovely weather for the August holiday in living memory? The sun is warm but not scorching, there is the merest hint of a breeze and the puffy white clouds scud through the bluest of skies - everyone should be happy and smiling on such a lovely day. Right? What could possibly go wrong on a day like this?
We shall see...
Tixall Wide

After a wonderful few weeks on the River Witham, we've been hurrying over to Shropshire for our autumn cruise and thought we could easily make it to Brewood for Bank Holiday Sunday, where I had arranged to meet my daughter, Claire. Foolishly, we lingered in Alrewas, pottered through Fradley and then found we had to step on it to get to our destination in time. All went well until we reached Penkridge, then our luck ran out. We were following our friends on the Naga Queen and arranged to tie up together at Bogg's Lock. We were just a short cruise away from a sunny mooring and a pleasant afternoon of boaty chatter with our friends, Pat and Malc when Lady Karma hove into view. Somewhere between the first two locks, a flurry of boaters finished their lunch and pulled out between Naga Queen and us. We found ourselves queueing behind several boats and arrived two cups of tea behind them - so that is my excuse for our rather urgent behaviour on Sunday morning. We heard the lock paddles being raised at the nearby Boggs Lock and set off quickly towards the next lock, nipping in front of them and awaking Lady Karma, who got straight on the blower to the Canal Gods to warn them that The Chandlers were on the move. We reached the interesting tower at Gailey and set off towards the Shroppie feeling a little smug (beware the Mountain of Smug!) to have got through the two locks so quickly. We'd left our travelling companions behind today – they were eating their breakfast on the sunny bank and waved us off with a promise to meet up after the weekend. Pat and Malc are much too wise to think about moving on a Bank Holiday Sunday and we should have know better too as it wasn't long before Lady Karma arrived to remind us that it's no earthly use being in a hurry when you're boating. We chugged along the canal, past the chemical works, to find a boat jammed solid on the offside. The father and three children were on their first narrowboat holiday and had politely pulled over to let a boat pass and then found their stern jammed solid on the silt. We took up a rope and gave our Lady full throttle, which usually has the desired affect, but nothing happened. The added thrust of the father on their barge pole produced no results - still stuck. Just when we'd run out of ideas, the rather portly father left the stern and went to the bows and jumped ashore leaving his young son on the tiller and with a little creak, the boat floated off the silt and began to chug away with the little son grinning happily to be left in charge. Dad was stranded on the bank and the two young girls in the bows are beginning to panic, but the young steerer did a great job and took the boat in to collect his father and, with all crew present, they chugged off. Well done Captain Carl - that was our good deed for the day.

But Lady Karma hadn't finished with us yet. She sent the thing that ticks us off the most - a boater that waits until he sees the whites of our eyes before pulling out in front of us and then creeping along so slowly that we're continually in danger of running into the back of him. This chap saw us coming and pulled out anyway, a cardinal sin in our book! We're not usually in a hurry so we rarely pass other boats, preferring to pull over and have a cuppa but today we did rather want to get on so I hailed him from the bows and asked him if we could come by. He waved us on and slowed to let us by but then speeded up sneakily forcing Captain Carl to throttle up to get by, but we soon left him behind and carried on enjoying the sunny day. We were happily waving to the everyone along the way, loving the sights and sounds of the canal and the countryside. I was busy clicking away with my camera trying to capture the beauty of this magical morning; the trees dappling the water with shade; the ripe barley fields stretching into the distance; a horse and rider crossing a pretty bridge. We slipped through the bridge and panicked a hire boater coming the other way. He slammed his boat into hard reverse, grounded on the silt and his bows came swinging across to meet us. Carl managed to avoid them by going hard astern and it was then we heard an ominous thud. The hire boat waved a thank you to us and went on their way, but we could only limp along with something snagged on the prop. Now we're in a quandary – if we pull in, the slow boat will overtake us again but we couldn't really carry on with the prop fouled so we switched off and drifted along while Carl got down into the weed hatch to try and clear it before he could catch us up. It took some shifting as it was a fisherman's landing net but somehow Carl managed to get it off and replace the weed hatch before the slow boater had the chance to gloat at our misfortune.

Lady Karma had one more trick up her sleeve to test our stamina - a fishing match. A long line of rods and a gauntlet of glum faces as our passage forced them to either dismantle their rods or raise them up and over the boat till we were safely clear of their paraphernalia. I went below and made the coffee and left Carl to call out a cheery greeting to each and every one of the Sunday maggot danglers. They rarely answer but we think it annoys them when we smile and wave!

I'm making humble apologies to Lady Karma tonight in the hope that she'll smile on us tomorrow - I do hope she smiles on you too

Love and hugs as always
The Floating Chandlers

Ps We reached Brewood in good time and Lady Karma was kind and saved us a mooring space.

Pps Claire took me for a spin in her VW Beetle, Bruce – I was warmer this time and rather enjoyed pulling up outside the Co-op in such grand style. It was a bit low slung though so I could have done with an ejector seat to get me out. Not so cool after all!  

Carl and blue sky

Dappled sun on the Shroppie

Naga Queen coming up Penkridge Lock

Beautiful Bridge on the Shroppie

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Drones and Drunks

Sunny walk at Stoke Lock
Morning you lovely people

Almost as soon as we set foot on the Trent and Mersey Canal on Friday, I remembered just why we scarpered off up the Witham in the first place! There are boats everywhere since we arrived back at Shardlow on Friday, hire boats, share boats, shiny boats, cruisers and canoes - you name it, everyone's out making the most of summer, in between the showers. Although we have made the trip down the Trent several times now, it's always a relief to get back on the canals. Tricky is very happy to be back on the canals too - neither of us liked the floating pontoon moorings much - they rock as you walk along them and Tricky had trouble working out which way to go to find the grass. We've resumed our morning routine of a brisk walk along the towpath while Carl chugs along behind – this makes us both very happy. Right now, we are moored by the tow-path in Burton and she just has to hop over the gunwale to find as much grass as a little dog needs - if she was any happier she might wag her tail!
Stoke Lock 

We took a marina mooring in Newark for a couple of nights last weekend and had the luxury of an electric hookup and our own water tap. It was a novelty to be able to boil the electric kettle and use the immersion heater but it soon wore off . I was soon tired of the view too - a huge red and white Dutch barge blocked all the light from our port side windows and a navy blue narrowboat moored to our starboard. It was nice walk into town from the Marina so I left Carl fitting a new kitchen tap and went shopping to avoid any chance of making a helpful suggestion that might lead to a row. When you've been married for a few years, you learn to spot the danger signs and so I took myself and my sarcasm to the 'Secret Garden' coffee shop and everyone was happy.
Floating Pontoon - Tricky's puzzled

The sun was shining as we came out of Gunthorpe Lock on Monday and we motored on under the road bridge and down the sparkling river towards Stoke Lock with our fingers crossed for a space on the floating pontoon for the night. We were chugging along, enjoying the sun and minding our own business when a couple of drones flew along the river towards us. They hovered just overhead, zooming backwards and forwards and filming us as we went along. It was very annoying, the noise and the spying eyes in the sky, the way they followed us along, circling around the boat and watching us. I bet I'm on someone's YouTube channel, scowling and frowning like Victor Meldrew - I was wishing I had a catapult so I could shoot the blasted thing down! My good humour was restored when we reached Stoke Lock to find that we had the whole place to ourselves – not a single boat anywhere.

Windy in Shardlow

It was a sharp contrast to be plunged into the heart of Nottingham city the next night – the traffic noise was interrupted by a woman continually calling her dog. I think his name was Hugo or HHHHHuuuuuugggggoooo which she yelled repeatedly right by my cabin porthole where I was deeply engrossed in the latest Scarpetta autopsy. Naughty dog Hugo didn't come in and she wandered backwards and forwards yelling his name at the top of her voice until, finally, the rain came – thank goodness.
Swarkestone Lock

When Carl and I decided to take the train from Nottingham to visit my Mum, I thought about the train being packed to the rafters with holiday makers but then how bad could it be? It's only a short trip, 20 mins or so and Tricky likes trains and sits nicely without bothering anyone which is more than could be said for the two middle aged beer swilling stinkers behind us who proceeded to gas the crowded carriage out with their bodily functions. I wasn't expecting such behaviour on the early train out of Nottingham! We were all very British about it - everyone ignored the belching and swearing and the trolley steward got on their good side by finding them the largest can of lager available for their £3.30. I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn't going all the way to Skeggy with that delightful pair! The train trip was soon forgotten - I had a lovely day with Mum, her garden is looking a treat and so is she. We sat outside watching the house martins swooping over the roof and I took a selfie of us which made us both giggle.

Mum and me

Travelling from Shardlow to our mooring tonight in Burton-upon-Trent, I'm reminded of our first boat, Moonshine. When we were both still working, and could only get away at weekends to cruise, we went up and down the Trent and Mersey - Alrewas one week end and Shardlow the next. Ten years later and we're still loving our boating life just as much now as we did then - I feel so lucky. I don't know why I'm moaning on to you about drones and drunks when I should be writing about the beauty that is all around us as we cruise along the canal. I rolled the cover up this morning and found a little newt sheltering there from the rain - he wasn't keen on moving either, but in the end we persuaded him to catch a ride on the shovel back to the safety of the long grass. We find all sorts of wildlife under the cratch cover in the mornings and caterpillars hitch a ride inside on your shoe, spiders are partying in every corner and I expect to see the Daddy Long-legs any day now. Have you noticed that the hedgerows are suddenly bursting with red berries? The hawthorn, especially, is preparing a feast for the birds as they start to gather on the wires ready for their long flight south. It's too soon for autumn, I need another burst of summer before I get my jumpers out of storage!

It's raining again folks – Carl got the paint out this afternoon but as soon as he went outside to start the sanding down, the clouds gathered and the rain began to fall. Oh well, there's always tomorrow. Have a lovely week my dear friends and I'll write again next week.

Lots of love and hugs

The Floating Chandlers

ps I've had a few enquiries about 'The bird that must not be named' - Carl was referring to the Kingfisher of course (I got it wrong too - I thought he was talking about the shag!)

Holme Pierrepont

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