Thursday 19 May 2022

Meeting friends on the cut; nearly losing an Elsan cassette

Oh dear - no blogging for three days. Various reasons, mostly that it got too late in the evening and I was too tired. Now we are on a lock-free stretch and Jan is happy to steer while I try to put some words to the photos I have taken.

And it's a good job I have the photos or I would struggle to remember what we did!  It seems a long time ago that we were on the River Trent, but it was only Tuesday.  I mistimed our departure from Sawley, with two boats passing before I untied.  There they are, in front of us, as we go through Sawley Flood Lock.
Sitting on a float forming part of a weir barrage was a bird.
I don't know whatr bird this is.
It posed obligingly for my camera.
I'm fairly sure this is a new sign pointing the way to the Trent and Mersey Canal. And the signage on the front of the Clock Warehouse at Shardlow has been redone too.
I spotted this tortoise (turtle?) swimming along too late to get a decent photo.
Not long after this was a field of confused-looking geese.
In a cage at the back of a boat was a pair of owls.
To my mind the cage seemed far too small.
As we approached Mercia Marina I spotted a familiar-looking boat. From reading their blog I knew that Free Spirit, with Ian and Irene, was heading our way.
We stopped mid-channel for a chat - it was good to meet up again. Incidentally, this photo clearly shows a problem which has developed with my camera. That is not a great black thundercloud in the sky, it's the lens cover not fully retracting when the camera is switched on.
So Irene and Ian were the first blogging friends we met on Tuesday; next up was Willington-based Andrew Denny of Granny Buttons fame.  We invited him for tea; he declined the food but we shared a chat and a drink.  It started to rain as he came on board.
At Horninglow Basin we stopped for water and Elsan. WeI nearly left the emptied cassette behind. When we arrived there was a boat already there, moored correctly at 90 degrees to the line of the canal. We pulled in opposite the towpath to attend to the Elsan. When the other boat had gone we pulled Jubilee round and watered up. It was only after I'd reversed round again to go that I glanced across and saw our empty cassette. Phew!

Shortly afterwards we called in to Shobnall Wharf (Marina?) for diesel.  Yes, I should have reversed in.  There is a nifty means of raising the small footbridge across the former Bond End Canal: an electric motor lifts the bridge into the ceiling.
Had I been able to buy 50 litres it would have been at the good price of £1.19 per litre. As it happened, we had done only 29 engine hours since the last fill-up at Debdale Wharf Marina and it took just 34 litres.
That's a consumption rate of less than 1.2 litres per hour. And that is due, in part, to my new practice of running at a cruising speed of 1000 rpm, in the past I used to run at 1100 rpm. Another factor, of course, is that we were coming with the flow of the Soar.
On the stretch by the noisy A38 a pair came past: the motor was towing Nebulae.
We hadn't finished with the Trent. Between Wychnor and Alrewas the river becomes the navigation. These cows came down for a paddle ...
... with their calves.
At Alrewas we tied up for the night. We went for a walk round the village, bought a reduced pizza from the Co-op and had tea. Not the pizza - that was for the next day's lunch.

Monday 16 May 2022

Cows and cooling towers

We continued our journey north on the River Soar, on our own again through Mountsorrel Lock. When we got to Barrow-upon-Soar, however, a man called out to us as we approached the Deep Lock and asked if he could share the lock with us. Of course, we said.

Peter was single handing his boat, Odyssey, and was having engine problems. He had also managed to hurt his leg and had broken a step on his boat, so things were not going well. Peter was stopping by Loughborough Station to meet someone so we went past. We stopped ourselves just after the sharp right where Loughborough Basin is just to the left - and went to Lidl and Tesco. As we were having lunch Odyssey came past, so we said we'd come down more locks with him.

This northern end of the Soar is certainly the prettiest. Here's the classic view of the church at Normanton-on-Soar.
Just beyond the church was a riverside house for sale. Hopefully the upside-down Union flag indicates nothing worse than that the owners are sad to be leaving.
At one of the locks Peter asked if he could borrow an iPhone charging cable as he had broken his. As I said, things were not going too well for him. We were able to lend him the right cable and he was able to recharge his phone. This is us in Kegworth New (Deep) Lock.
I think this is my favourite photo from today at Ratcliffe on Soar: cows and cooling towers. (Strictly speaking I think they are heiffers, but the alliteration would fail.)
At Ratcliffe Lock Peter returned my cable and we headed onto the Trent. We wanted to get water, so we squeezed in by the approach to Trent Lock and used the water point on the corner. Thanks to Waterway Routes we knew exactly where to aim for which made it easier.

While the tank was filling I recced the three-day pontoon moorings just the other side of Trent Junction: good, there was one space left. I was just disconnecting the hose when a boat went past upstream, i.e. the direction we were going. Was he heading for the pontoon mooring? Yes. Oh well. There was a space between two boats just back from the water point I thought we might just fit in. We battled the wind and tried - but we were a fender too long. More battle with the wind, and we carried on upstream towards Sawley.
With Sawley Lock negotiated we tied up finally opposite Sawley Bridge Marina and were serenaded by a song thrush.
BCF friend Angie, who lives nearby, came for a chat and some apple pie and custard. It was good to see you, Angie, and thanks for the wine and choccies!

Sunday 15 May 2022

Have you ever seen anything like this before? Fish stuck between lock gates

The forecast thunderstorms last night did not happen, neither did the rain which was supposed to be during the morning. We walked from Castle Gardens to Holy Trinity Leicester for their 1030 service, at which the preacher was an evangelist recently returned from Argentina. John someone - I didn't catch his surname.
He spoke engagingly about, well, evangelism, i.e. telling people about Jesus.

Back on the boat we had lunch, then set off just as the rain started. It didn't amount to much and soon stopped. We carried on downstream, encountering one lock in particular - North Lock 42 - whose bottom gates were almost impossible to open, such was the amount of water leaking from the top gates. Fortunately a boat was waiting to come up the lock so, with three of us heaving on the balance beam, it succumbed.

I saw two things today I had never seen before. One was this swan carrying a couple of cygnets on its back.
Once we had cleared Leicester much of the journey was through watermeadows.
The other sight not seen before - and I probably never will again - was of a fish caught between the leaky bottom gates of Sileby Lock. Jubilee was in the lock and I had raised the bottom paddles to empty the lock.
As the water drained from the lock the pressure holding the gates together reduced. The gap widened slightly and the fish fell back into the water and disappeared.
It can have been stuck like that for only 30 seconds or so, just long enough for me to take these two photos. Would it have survived? Have you ever seen anything like that?

We tied up for the night just below the lock and walked round Sileby after tea. Is it a town or a village? The cricket club thinks it's a town; Nicholson calls it a village.

Saturday 14 May 2022

Buttercups and blossom

We made an earlier start then usual, leaving our mooring at 0815. We made swift progress to Kilby Bridge, all the locks being in our favour for a change. The buttercups added extra brightness to our surroundings.
At Kilby Bridge we watered up, then moved across to the 48 hour moorings so I could cycle off to get a paper. The first newsagent up Welford Road didn't have what I wanted, so I cycled on into Wigston and ended up cramming my panier with stuff from Sainsbury's and Aldi.

The crane at Kilby Bridge is a local landmark.
Today has felt like summer. The sun shone all day and it has been warm. Here is Jubilee heading towards yet another lock, now on the River Soar. Since Kilby Bridge I had to turn nearly every lock as we were following two boats. Oh, and I cycled almost the entire distance from Newton Harcourt to Leicester, where we moored at Castle Gardens.
When I looked closely at some hawthorn blossom I saw how intricately detailed it was.
At Castle Gardens there is room for three usual-length narrowboats. When we arrived, two boats had moored in such a way as to leave no space for anyone else. Fortunately one agreed to move up a little, and we then tied up successfully.

We walked into Leicester city centre and marvelled at how busy with people it was. And how many fast food shops there were!

We did a bit more than on the schedule today as rain is forecast for tomorrow. Oh yes - hello to a blog reader on Cleddau whom we passed today.

Friday 13 May 2022

A Leicester beauty spot?

This morning we did the two swing bridges and stopped for water in Foxton. At last the boat was the right way round so I could wash off the last bits of pressure washed muck blown onto us a few days ago.

The next port of call was Debdale Wharf for diesel (£1.30 base price per litre).

Saddington Tunnel followed. No bats visible this time.
Before we reached the locks I heard swifts screeching overhead - my first of the year.
So to Kibworth Locks. It was good to be doing locks again - even though all five today were against us.
By Crane's Lock there were horses in a field of buttercups. (The other horses were off to the left.)
We stopped for the day at Newton Harcourt to get out of the wind and enjoy the sunshine.

Nicholson describes the village as a "well-known Leicester beauty spot, popular on Sunday afternoons". Well, we saw two or three interesting old houses, and the surrounding countryside is pleasant, but I really can't imagine the Leicester hordes piling in on any day of the week, let alone Sundays. From the description I expected at least a village green, perhaps with a duck pond, but we walked the main street from one end to the other and didn't see anything like it. Perhaps the good people of Leicester visit the canal here if they can't make it all the way to Foxton. I expect the swan family will still be around on Sunday for them.

Thursday 12 May 2022

Dangerous quad bike on towpath in Market Harborough

Ooh - almost a week has passed since my last post! I have some catching up to do.

I painted both tunnel bands and the red bits on the bow. It was the first time I'd used masking tape on the boat (yes, I know) and I think it was remarkably successful.
For reference, here is what the bow looked like before.
As well as wielding the blacking roller and welding sticks Ollie is the master of the boat-lifting crane.
It certainly looks like a fun toy to play with, although there is a certain amount of responsibility too!
Once we were put back in the water we set off for Foxton. We must have just missed a "down" slot as we had to wait for four boats to come up. There was a further delay as we waited for a single boat to reach the half-way pound before we could descend the second staircase.
We tied up for the night outside the Foxton Locks Inn, which was closed. I fancied a pint at the Bridge 61 pub after tea, but when we walked round the bunch of drinkers outside explained that that pub was closed as well. Difficulty in getting staff to work the evenings, apparently. They were a friendly bunch of chaps who encouraged us to get our own drinks and join them, which we did.

The next day (Tuesday 10th) we travelled to Market Harborough. You need a good run-up to close the swing footbridge. If you let the momentum drop it comes to a stop and is impossible to get going again without opening it again.

In the evening we found the Cherry Tree pub in Little Bowden and met up with two of the drinkers (Steen(?) and Mark) from the previous day. We did not join them in the Bengal Kitchen as we had already eaten.

My Railcard was finally delivered to North Kilworth Marina today, so I cycled the 7.5 miles along the A4304 to get it. And 7.5 miles back. The return journey was quicker as it seemed to be more downhill and the wind was in my favour.

An unpleasant aspect of our stay in Market Harborough was the outrageous and dangerous behaviour of youths on a quad bike on the narrow towpath both yesterday and today. They were speeding up and down, past our boat, with complete disregard for other - legitimate - users of the towpath.
Three dog walkers we spoke to said how they had been frightened as the quad bike roared past them at speed without giving way. One said the quad bike swerved round her and almost hit her dog.
Jan phoned the police, who said they would "send someone to have a look". Of course, the youths had gone and it's very unlikely anything will happen.  The police weren't interested in my photos; I can do no more.

We tied up just before Foxton.  Nice and peaceful here (although a man did ride past quite fast on an electric bike - not the normal type with pedals, more like a motorbike with electric power - at least it was quiet).

Friday 6 May 2022

Anodes and painting

Catching up with photos ... Ollie completed the blacking yesterday ...
... and today he welded on four new sacrificial anodes. I was asked if I wanted slim anodes half-way along the sides as well, but I decided against it. Yes, they would give better protection against galvanic corrosion, but they could potentially catch on an obstruction. I measured the width of the base plate as 79" or 6' 7"; the base plate protrudes from the hull sides by half an inch each side. The slim anodes are only one inch thick so the overall effect would be to increase the width at the bottom to 6' 8", so not enough to cause a problem at any lock ... but we tend to be cruising for six months of the year and the rest of the time the boat is tied up with no other boats on shoreline within the vicinity. Our isolation transformer on board provides the most effective galvanic protection when we connect up to a shoreline.
I spent the whole day preparing and painting the gunwales with some Hempel Multicoat semi-gloss black paint I bought from the marina. I was advised to thin it, which I did, but it dried almost as soon as I brushed it on. Thinking about it now, perhaps I used the wrong solvent. I had a bottle of cellulose thinners which I used, but should I have thinned with white spirit? Too late now. Annoyingly, muck from pressure washing of a neighbouring boat blew onto us and I had to wash down the gunwales and elsewhere a second time before painting.

Friends Paul and Kim from Somang came to our temporarily land-based boat for tea; it started to rain lightly as they were leaving. Perhaps it will wash off some of the muck from the boat. 

One job for tomorrow can be seen from the top photo: repainting the red tunnel band.
While the red paint is out I'll have a go at redoing the bow flashes. I think masking tape will help.

Thursday 5 May 2022

Blacking begins at North Kilworth Marina

On Tuesday 3rd May we set off for North Kilworth Marina for the booked blacking. We had been given the time of 1045 but I wanted to be early, so we left our countryside mooring two miles away at 0915. I had a vague recollection that the workshops area was on the north side of the marina close to the canal so, once I had turned left into the marina entrance, I navigated my way to the right place with the help of Waterway Routes.
We were initially directed to the bay beside the lifting bay as a boat had to be taken out of the water for a hull survey.
As we waited we had a good view of the surveyor making his measurements (presumably of hull thickness) and chalking his results on the boat. But what do the marks mean?
With Jubilee raised but still mostly over the water Ollie pressure washed the hull. Here's before and after in one shot.
When the boat needed to be moved more, Ollie drove the crane while Paul positioned the blocks onto which Jubilee was to be lowered.
Yesterday (Wednesday) was showery; Jan and I spent most of it in the Moorers' Lounge while Ollie finished pressure washing. He managed to black the underneath too. 

The facilities here at North Kilworth Marina are excellent. The Moorers' Lounge is under-floor heated and has leather settees and tables and chairs. There is a fully-kitted out kitchen with free tea and coffee (although the milk is long life), spotless loos and showers. We chatted to a couple who had had their boat in the marina for a year and were planning to use it more. 

On the hardstanding we talked to a young couple called Sam and Alice who had just blacked their boat, Harwood. They were very friendly and "lent" us some Ferrozinc rust treatment. It's a bit like Fertan, apparently, but you can apply it to dry metal and paint it directly. I made a start on attacking some of the rusty bits on our bow and gunwales.