Saturday 30 March 2019

Nomad Rush; too cheap a mattress?

We passed this boat at Shirley Drawbridge a few days ago; yesterday it passed us..I was in no mad rush to photograph it.

What would make the pun really clever is if the surname of the owner is Rush.

We're still here at Bridge 5 on the north Stratford Canal - we've bought a new mattress which will be delivered tomorrow afternoon. I hope we've done the right thing. £100 doesn't sound a lot for something we spend a sixth of our lives on. (1/3 of every day but only 1/2 of every year.) And there's no going back: the old mattress will be taken away.

Friday 29 March 2019

Kingswood Junction

We've been doing a bit of work on a house we let near here so we've remained tied up by Bridge 5. We'll move on tomorrow into Birmingham. Meanwhile here's a photo of Kingswood Junction as approached from the south on the GU.

Thursday 28 March 2019

Knowle Hall Wharf dry dock

Near the top of Hatton Locks there was something else I couldn't remember from the last time.

Knowle Hall Wharf Dry Dock. Perhaps it has always been here and there hasn't been a boat in it when we've been past. Or else my memory really is going.

We stayed at Bridge 5 today.

Wednesday 27 March 2019

Finding Shirley Drawbridge control panel

Not quite as dramatic as Hatton or Caen Hill, but this section of the Lapworth flight forms a fine series of closely-spaced locks, nevertheless.

They don't take long, especially if - as here - they are all in your favour. I took great care to keep hold of my trusty one-eye windlass. This, like the double-eye windlass I lost at Radford Bottom Lock two days ago, is cast iron and has a highly polished handle having worked thousands of locks.

It's been another quiet day boating-wise. We met just one boat doing the locks; another two passed us while we were having lunch west of Hockley Heath.

This is the scene at the top of Lock 8.

And here is Bridge 21.

The control panel for Shirley Drawbridge has been changed since the last time we were here. It took me a while to find it. I should have taken a photo. It's no longer a stainless steel cabinet but a slender black pillar with the key switch and two enormous buttons: OPEN and CLOSE.

We're now at Bridge 5 (Yardley Wood Road), very convenient for The Sweet Chillies restaurant where we went this evening.

Tuesday 26 March 2019

Hatton Locks; keys lost and found

We had a good road all the way up the Hatton flight this morning, with all the locks being empty or very nearly so.

We quickly settled into a routine whereby Margaret and Jan steered Blue Iris and Jubilee in synchronism into the locks while Robert and I worked the locks. I cycled on ahead each time to set the next lock.

About half way up a CRT chap approached us and said he would set ahead for us, so that made things even easier.

In the remains of the original narrow lock at Lock 38 I saw this old sunk wooden boat.

I don't recall seeing this before - perhaps the pound was lower than usual.

It took us 2 hours 35 mins to do the 21 locks. At the top we tied up for coffee, then went to the Top Lock Café for lunch. I had a good mega all day breakfast with excellent bacon.

As Blue Iris was about to set off there was a bit of commotion - Robert had dropped his keys into the cut. He tried to fish them out with his round magnet but couldn't find them, so I used my Sea Searcher and got them on the second sweep. His keys had one of those devices which are supposed to inflate when they get wet ... only it didn't work. We gave them a spare float. Old technology, but reliable!

On the stretch heading for Kingswood Junction there are two more virtually derelict boats.

Ah! Back to narrow locks again.

Tomorrow we'll be back in Brum. I think a meal at Sweet Chillies calls.

Monday 25 March 2019

Lost: my favourite windlass

Not long after we set off this morning we passed nb Chuffed. Debby (I assume) popped out of the hatch to call out that she read this blog. Sorry I didn't stop - we were doing all the locks today with Blue Iris and I thought I'd better keep up ... what a rotten excuse!

Here is my hurried snap of Chuffed.

It was another beautifully sunny day. I cycled ahead to set locks; there was real warmth from the sun in the shelter of the trees.

We stopped at the Lidl moorings in Leamington Spa and did a big shop. It's very handy being able to wheel the trolley right to the boat, but we did wonder how many trolleys end up in the cut.

It was only as we approached Cape Bottom Lock that I realised that a favourite windlass was missing. I must have left it at the last lock, Radford Bottom. We ascended the two Cape locks and then I cycled back in the slim hope that I might be able to find my prized double eye iron windlass, with its handle polished smooth by countless paddle windings ...

I recalled that, as we were just about to leave the Lidl mooring, a boat was pulling in behind us. One of the crew was locking up a couple of bikes as I returned - no, she hadn't seen it.

I carried on and asked at another boat facing the right way. This time there was news of the windlass! A cyclist had asked them if they were the owners of a windlass he had just found. Of course they denied it, but now I had someone to look for. The information was that the cyclist may have been a boater himself, he was about my age and wore cycling shorts.

I carried on. I asked at another boat near Radford Bottom Lock - he didn't know about my windlass but suggested a boat with a cyclist I might try. He also asked if it was my only windlass, giving the impression that if I had said it was, he would have given me one of his. Top boater.

There was no-one in at the cyclist's boat. By this time I had cycled up past the lock in question, so I decided it was time to turn back. Here is the lock ...

... and this the balance beam I probably left it on.

I have plenty of other windlasses, but none quite so lovely. Apart from my single eye one, that is. But that's no good for Hatton, which we go up tomorrow.

Oh yes, Robert and Margaret from Blue Iris joined us for drinks this evening.

Sunday 24 March 2019

Sharing locks and mending punctures

After church we set off towards Birmingham at about 1245. Our friends Robert and Margaret on Blue Iris were also heading our way so we agreed to stick together and share locks: this is Calcutt Bottom Lock.

The entrance of Ventnor Marina is very daffodilly.

We stopped at Itchington Bottom by The Two Boats but decided against eating out again. After tea on board, then, I repaired three punctures in the back wheel of my bike, all collected on one section of towpath by Atherstone Locks. All hawthorn, er, thorns. I found that my tinnitus really got in the way of locating the punctures by ear - everything seemed to be hissing. Back to the usual method: detecting the leaks by upper lip.

Tomorrow we shall pair up again as far as Leamington Spa, where we will stop for provisions.

Saturday 23 March 2019

BCF Spring Conference; The Boathouse review

Today the Boaters' Christian Fellowship held a Spring Conference in All Saints' Church, Braunston.

46 members of the BCF and one guest listened to fellow member Rev Stephen Gardner share his thoughts on how, as Christians, we could respond to the difficult questions people ask us as we travel the waterways. And, no, these aren't the questions on pumpout v cassette or gas v gas-free. The sort of difficult questions people sometimes ask BCFers can be more along the lines of "Is my mother with Aunty Betty in heaven?" or "Why does God allow suffering?"

Stephen was difficult to photograph as he was constantly on the move as he guided us enthusiastically through his topic.

Afterwards 13 of us went to the Boathouse pub for a meal.

As I wrote yesterday, the Boathouse has changed, no longer offering "two for one" deals. The food was generally good: I had an excellent gammon steak with very good chips. Roasted tomatoes on the vine formed part of the garnish. Jan had the lasagne with vegetables instead of ciabatta, but she wasn't hugely impressed with the veg. The others on the table all seemed to enjoy their food. The service was good in that we didn't have to wait too long for the food to arrive, nor for puddings for those who ordered them. Overall I would say that it is an improvement on the pub's previous incarnation, even though it was a bit more expensive. The Hobgoblin was rather too cold, though (and pulled through the inevitable sparkler).

Friday 22 March 2019

Braunston Boathouse pub has changed

We tied up in Braunston opposite the Boathouse pub at about 1100 this morning having watered and winded.

The Boathouse has changed! No more "Two for One" deals. It's still a Marstons outfit, but the menu is much reduced. We shall be eating there tomorrow evening, so I shall be able to report on the quality of the food. It's standard pub grub now, with no specials board. The prices are perhaps a little higher than usual for this sort of thing - but I might be out of touch.

We walked up to the church for a recce for tomorrow, then called in at the butcher's for a gammon joint and walked to the canal by the bottom lock. We were on our way to accept the offer of afternoon tea on Faithful; on the way we passed Melaleuca. If you're still there on Sunday we'll call in and say hello.

Dutch Courage tied up in front of us this afternoon; in the evening Richard and Elizabeth came for drinks and a chat.

Tomorrow is the BCF Spring Conference in the church, so we'll be busy.

Thursday 21 March 2019

Whether you lichen it or not ...

As we progressed along the Oxford Canal this morning Bridge 42 looked as though chewing gum had been stuck all over it.

It's actually hundreds of patches of lichen.

We stopped at Brownsover for lunch; no sooner had we tied up than Maffi turned up on Milly M. We invited him to join us for lunch but all he would accept was a cup of tea.

While we were chatting Tim and Tracey also turned up on Sola Gratia, with Tracey's new guide dog, Teddy.

It was good to see you all.

A little further on we came to where the new bridge is being built over the canal. Cast into the concrete deck (not visible on my photo), in huge letters, is what looks like "Houlton Bridge". Which would make sense, as the new development it connects to is called Houlton.

Hillmorton Locks were a breeze; flowers by the old paddle gear linking the parallel locks added colour.

At Barby we passed a boat with one of the most unusual cratch covers I have seen.

Tamsin had a sign in the window proclaiming "The Stage Boat". Which would explain it. A bit.

As is often the way, I have noticed something unusual when reviewing the photo. Interesting rear fender arrangement on Tamsin.

We stopped for the evening outside Dunchurch Pools Marina; John and Gill joined us for tea.

Perhaps I should have removed the wine glasses. Ah well.

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Spider in the shadows

I can't resist taking photos of backlit bulrushes. These were about an hour after we set off from Atherstone Top.

Arachnophobe alert! (next photo)

We stopped at Nuneaton for Lidl. We spent rather more than we had intended, but came away with a pair of safety shoes for me and a pair of headphones for Jan. The shoes are comfortable and seem reasonably heavy duty; the headphones are very light and sound good.

We enjoyed almost continuous sunshine today, the first day of spring according to some. As we continued past Bedworth I noticed the shadow of a large spider on the cabin slide.

Then I realised it was actually cast by the knot in the string holding the can to the aerial.

Sutton Stop was quiet as we entered the Oxford Canal.

The Volvo P1800 is still by Bridge 4 ...

... and is still gently rusting away. Such a sad waste of a lovely car.

A plan was hatched during the day for a meal at the Lime Kilns pub in Hinckley (where the A5 crosses the Ashby Canal. We could have gone by boat but wanted to be in Braunston in good time for the BCF spring conference this weekend, so we were picked up from Ansty by Stephen and Gwyneth.

A guinea fowl was patrolling the car park, but seemed more interested in the car than us.

There were nine of us for the meal: Andy, Sue, Jan, Christine, Terry, Gwyneth, Stephen, Morgan (Andy and Sue's niece) and myself behind the lens.

Tomorrow we carry on up the Oxford Canal towards Braunston.

Tuesday 19 March 2019

First boating of 2019 and replacing an iPhone battery

Yes, after a break of many months we are back on board Jubilee. Hooray! We drove to Fazeley yesterday, emptied the Volvo into the boat and prepared for a three week trip. I managed to remember all the things I'd switched off or closed, so I opened the gate valve from the domestic water tank, opened the diesel valve, switched on the gas, closed the water taps and switched on the water pump. Pleasingly, everything seemed to come back to life in the manner intended. The engine fired up first go too.

This morning we reversed to Fazeley Junction and set off for Glascote. David L came with us to help us through the locks before cycling to Tamworth Market.

Half an hour later (Amington?) we passed a house we hadn't seen before.

Bill and Ben seem to have had an update.

A plaque gave details of a royal nurse maid we hadn't heard of: Charlotte Bill "Lala".

We stopped for lunch at Polesworth and had a phone call from David to say that a package had arrived for me. This was the replacement battery for my iPhone which had almost died. I cycled back to Fazeley, brought it back to the boat and immediately got to work.

I was only just in time. The phone was being forced apart by the old battery, which was expanding as it died. I wasn't in time to stop the case splitting.

I hadn't started opening it in these two photos: this is the phone gently exploding all by itself.

The replacement battery came with the tools for undoing four tiny screws. The first two were of the "pentalobe" type with, as the name suggests, five lobes, which your common or garden pozidrive wouldn't come anywhere near.

Those screws were small, but the two I had to unscrew next were the most microscopic I had encountered. The divisions on my tape measure are millimetres. I hadn't known the tape measure was magnetic! The head is not much more than 1mm across; the length was about 1mm.

Here are the old and new batteries together. The side view shows how the dead battery is expanding.

I am very pleased to report that I managed to get it all back together again and, so far, it seems to be working. Thanks eBay. All for less than a fiver including tools and delivery.

Back to the boating. We thought about stopping half way up the Atherstone flight but decided to crack on and finish the locks.

It's good to be on board again - tomorrow we're aiming for Stretton Stop on the Oxford Canal. Braunston by Thursday, ready for the Boaters' Christian Fellowship Spring Conference on Saturday.