Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Yelvertoft Marina

Yesterday after what was supposedly the coldest night of the year so far, we awoke to frost on the ground, and mist rising from the surface of the canal. After breakfast we gave the starboard side of the boat its winter coat of wax, then got underway heading for Yelvertoft. The sky was clear blue and we had uninterrupted sunshine, but it was cold. We had a very pleasant four hour cruise through the Leicestershire countryside, with a brief lunch stop near bridge 27. On arrival at the Marina we slipped into our berth just as cloud started to cover and the temperature began to drop. We have a few things planned over the next couple of weeks but if the weather is fine in early December then hopefully we will get out on the cut again before Christmas, otherwise it will be in the New Year.
Sunset at Yelvertoft
Just looking back through our previous logs there seems to be an emerging trend in our boating activities.
  • Year 2015 - We did 652 Miles 327 Locks and 23 Tunnels 
  • Year 2016 - We did 424 Miles 241 Locks and 17 Tunnels 
  • Year 2017 - So far  274 Miles   60 Locks and 14 Tunnels 

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Welford Junction

Nearly a month has passed since our last post, so here is a bit of a catch up. Monday 9/10, we set off from Norton Junction heading for the staircase locks at Watford. On arrival we were first in the queue, so began our ascent almost immediately. We also had the assistance of not one, but two volunteers. Our transit of Crick tunnel was unopposed, although we did receive our customary drenching at the northern end, due to the leaky roof. We know we are close to our winter mooring spot, when the Yelvertoft Marina wind turbine comes into view.
Being not quite ready to give up cruising just yet, at the entrance to the Marina we carried on. On arrival at bridge 21, we found a favoured spot of ours vacant, so stopped for the day. The next day we set about a few maintenance tasks. The hull of the boat is coated in a two pack epoxy paint, which is significantly better and harder wearing, than the more traditional bitumen. However even with the most expert helmsmanship skills, scratches and scrapes do occur and these need attention to prevent rusting. The product we have chosen to use is Hempel Multicoat, and its application by roller was very straightforward. With the port side of the boat completed, the following day we travelled to bridge 28 and the winding hole. There were plenty of spaces available, so once the boat was secured it was time to tackle the starboard side. We had been fortunate with the weather, but the forecast was changing, so on Thursday 12/10, we headed back to Yelvertoft, and after visiting the services dock we berthed in our usual spot. Friday 13/10 was gloriously sunny, but the wind was very strong. We were so glad we hadn't put off entering the Marina, as manoeuvring in these conditions would be next to impossible. It did not however prevent the next pre winter task, which was to wash the boat, and get a coat of protective wax applied. We now had a few days to kill before heading to Palma Mallorca for a long weekend.
 
 
 
 
All too soon our time in Palma visiting our son was over, and it was back to a dreary and increasingly colder UK. Back on the boat we were still not quite ready to stay put in the Marina, so on Wednesday 25/10, we headed out onto the cut once more. Our destination was back to bridge 21 a whole mile away, where I would stay whilst the crew popped home for a few days.
Mooring by bridge 21
  Me and the furry crew member enjoyed our respite, and also undertook a few more maintenance tasks. We also benefited from the clocks going back, enjoying an uninterrupted extra hour of sleep. The crew returned on Monday 30/10, then on Halloween we headed off for Welford Junction, a location sufficiently rural to avoid trick or treaters. On arrival we found a spot on the long straight section with mooring rings, and after securing the boat we went for a walk along the canal, to have a look at the progress of the still under construction North Kilworth Marina. The latest estimate for opening is Spring 2018. They still have a lot to do to meet that date. Wednesday 1/11, we moved off after breakfast, and at Welford Junction turned left heading towards Foxton. Soon we were entering Husband Bosworth tunnel, aware that CRT were conducting a tunnel inspection. We encountered the working boat in the middle of the tunnel and it bounced us hard into the tunnel wall. I was expecting to see damaged paintwork, when we emerged into the daylight, but fortunately we had escaped unscathed. The remainder of the cruise to Foxton Locks was pleasant, and after filling the water tank, we walked down the flight to the Foxton Locks Inn for lunch.
Taking on water at Foxton Locks
  Thursday 2/11, we took four legs for a walk down the flight of locks, turning around at Debdale Wharf a trip of about four miles. Back at the boat with the weather fine and dry, it was time to wash and wax the starboard side. This was the last of the exterior, winter maintenance tasks completed. Friday 3/11, we travelled back towards Welford. Our transit of Husband Bosworth tunnel was unopposed, and once through, we stopped at North Kilworth Wharf to obtain diesel and coal. We hope this small business survives the new Marina, when it eventually opens. Continuing on to the junction we turned left, and travelled the short arm, to the solitary lock and Welford. After winding at the end of the arm, we popped into the Wharf Inn for lunch. We also booked in for a Sunday roast.  Saturday 4/11, we took the furry crew for his daily walk, and opted to have a look at the nearby reservoir. whilst we don't like wet weather it certainly needs a prolonged period of rain the replenish these levels.
Low water at Welford
  Over the past few days the weather has become distinctly colder and this morning was no exception. Up until now we have in the main relied on our diesel heater to warm up the boat but now the solid fuel stove has been put into use.
At lunchtime we wandered off to the Wharf Inn for our roast dinner. I opted for the pheasant and would thoroughly recommend it. Back at the boat we decided to move back to the junction in readiness for our return to Yelvertoft tomorrow.
Mooring at Welford Junction
   
  • Totals Monday.      9/10.         7 Miles 7 Locks 1 Tunnel
  •          Wednesday 11/10.        2 Miles
  •          Thursday.   12/10.        3 Miles
  •          Wednesday 25/10.        1 Mile
  •          Tuesday.     31/10.        7 Miles
  •          Wednesday.  1/11.        7 Miles 1 Tunnel
  •          Friday.         3/11.         8 Miles 1 Lock 1 Tunnel
  •          Sunday.       5/11.         1 Mile 1 Lock
  • Running total 266 Miles 60 Locks 14 Tunnels 
   

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Norton Junction Update

I just knew even entering the canalware shop by lock 8 would be a mistake, as I would be bound to see something I wanted, and so it was. Yesterday during our walk with four legs down the Buckby Lock flight, I was drawn in and purchased a brass oil lamp we had seen the previous day. I even knew where on the boat it was going to be installed. We arranged to collect it on the way back from our walk, once we had visited the garden centre at the bottom of the flight. Back at the boat armed with a bradawl and a screwdriver, the lamp was fixed in our back cabin.
Brass Oil Lamp
Today as planned we wandered off to the New Inn P.H. to reacquaint ourselves with their roast dinners. We were not disappointed. The afternoon will be spent relaxing, in readiness for the ascent of Watford Locks tomorrow morning. We expect to continue past our winter mooring at Yelvertoft, and end up somewhere near bridge 28, as we are not quite ready to stop cruising just yet.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Norton Junction

After a pleasant night just outside Braunston, this morning we woke to bright strong sunshine, and a crystal clear blue sky. The temperature reading on the cabin thermostat read 10 degrees, so still a degree or two above a morning frost, but you could feel the nip in the air. We set off around 9.30am, and soon we reached the water point by the 'gongoozerlers rest' cafe. Needing a top up we pulled in, and began filling the water tank. This also gave us time to see if any other boats would turn up, so we would have a locking partner for the ascent of the Braunston lock flight. No such luck, we would have to proceed alone. However all was not lost, as we began ascending, we were fortunate to meet boats descending at all six locks. On arrival at the top lock, we were even assisted by the grass cutting team. Next was Braunston Tunnel, all 2042 yards of it. As we entered, we could see the telltale light of a tunnel lamp ahead, indicating at least one opposing boat. Fortunately we passed in the middle of the tunnel, and not near the southern end, where there is an 's' shaped kink, caused by a directional mistake made during construction. We cruised for a further two miles, before reaching Norton Junction where the Leicester Arm branches off to the left, and away from the Grand Union main line. We made the left turn towards our usual mooring spot, and found it jammed solid with boats. Lady Luck smiled on us again, as we spotted a boat just preparing to depart. We had timed it to perfection. We secured the boat and had lunch on board, then took four legs for a walk. Heading off down the Buckby flight, we popped into the canalware shop by Lock 8, to see what new items had been stocked since our last visit. Rather like a chandlers, this shop could easily tempt you into emptying your wallet. In fact, currently for sale is a water can which possibly dates to the late 1800s, and the art work on it is amazing. I would love to own it just for its history, now, how to justify the expense.
  • Totals 6 Miles 6 Locks 1 Tunnel 
  • Running total 231 Miles 51 Locks 11 Tunnels 

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Braunston

Last nights forecast of high wind and heavy rain, proved to be a bit of a damp squib. Apparently it happened, but I slept right through it. After breakfast we got underway and were soon passing Barby Moorings, a Marina which seems to be still unfinished, many years after it was started. Once we had navigated the Barby Straight, we identified a couple of alternative mooring spots for future reference, that would meet our criteria. Next to pass was the brand new Marina at Dunchurch Pools. This Marina looks vast, and now has a good few boats in it, despite being unfinished. I suspect very favourable introductory rates have been offered, to encourage boat owners to move in. The entrance which was closed when we passed by earlier in the year, is now open, and the bridge almost complete.
   
Dunchurch Pools Marina
It was not much further to our intended mooring spot, a favourite of ours located just outside the village of Braunston. The first clue you are getting close, is when the unique spire of Braunston church comes into view.
   
Braunston Church Spire
Passing under bridge 87, we rounded a final bend towards our mooring and it was empty. This allowed us to choose our spot, lining up the side hatch with a convenient hole in the hedgerow, granting us views over open countryside. The field opposite contained a herd of brown cows, that appeared interested in our arrival. 
  
Mooring Spot
  
The gathering herd
After securing the boat we walked into Braunston, a distance of about one mile and had lunch in the Boathouse P.H. The crew then popped up to the convenience store in the village, whilst I paid a visit to Midland Chandlers. My wallet stayed firmly in my pocket, this must be a first in a chandlery. Early evening, the view from the side hatch through the hole in the hedge paid dividends. We were treated to a stunning sunset.
Sunset at Braunston
Tomorrow we have a flight of wide locks to navigate and a fairly long tunnel. We could quite easily stay put but we have an appointment with a roast dinner on Sunday at the New Inn, Long Buckby.
  • Totals 4 Miles
  • Running total 225 Miles 45 Locks 10 Tunnels 

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Barby

During yesterday evening the mooring at All Oak Wood slowly filled, all the way back to the Easenhall Lane bridge. This morning before getting out of bed we were aware of a constant stream of boats passing by, although with the porthole bungs still in we were unsure which way the traffic was heading. At nine o'clock the furry crew had his breakfast and stepping off the boat to allow him to stretch his legs we saw that barring a few long stayers we were alone. The boat traffic had all been heading towards Hillmorton, and we would shortly be following. The weather was fairly chilly but fortunately the wind speed had dropped substantially. We got underway around 9.30 and almost immediately began to encounter oncoming boat traffic. At Hillmorton there is a flight of three locks and we had decided to ascend the flight then stop for lunch. The plan was after lunch to head for a nice mooring just outside Braunston. First we had Newbold Tunnel and Rugby to navigate. On exiting the tunnel the canal is narrowed by overgrown bushes on the offside and with mooring and a water point on the towpath side, the bend is blind and ripe for chaos if boats meet head on. This time we were lucky. At Brownsover it appears that lots of new mooring rings have been installed, but again this short stretch of canal is overgrown and bendy, so not an ideal location for a line of moored boats, although handy for the shops and retail park. Safely through we arrived at Hillmorton to find two boats waiting in the queue for the locks. However, we were told by several people that our arrival was perfect timing as earlier the area had been chaotic with waiting times of two and a half hours. I felt smug taking that extra half hour in bed now. The only slight issue was the two boats ahead of us were hire boats, the crews of which did not seem to want to work other boats up and down the flight. This slowed our progress a little.
Hillmorton bottom lock
Hillmorton locks are set in pairs so working through them should be quick. Sadly the middle lock on one side has been out of action due to a broken balance beam, I believe for some time now. It seems as though for some reason the navigation authority are taking their time in repairing it.
The problem middle lock
If anyone is wondering where all the boats are, we have found them. Rugby, Brownsover was full up and so was the entire stretch above Hillmorton Locks. We have not seen so many boats here previously. This put paid to our planned lunch stop and we now had the prospect of getting to Braunston without a break. As we left Hillmorton behind and just prior to joining the Barby Straight we saw a single boat length of pilling. This is nice a rural spot by bridge 75, and opposite a Christmas Tree Farm. This will be our stop for the night and has been recorded in our guide book. The mooring is nice and deep, we have a sky satellite signal and 4G.
   
Mooring at Barby by the Xmas Trees
We plan to travel to Braunston tomorrow and maybe visit the chandlers. We won't be making any purchases though as Midland Chandlers are holding a Freaky Friday event next week when we will get 20% off.
  • Totals 9 Miles 3 Locks 1 Tunnel 
  • Running total 221 Miles 45 Locks 10 Tunnels 

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

All Oak Wood

Following our night at Hawkesbury, this morning we woke to a less windy, but slightly chillier day. After breakfast and disposing of some rubbish, we set about our departure. There had been a steady stream of boat movement, and just as we untied the boat another one appeared through the stop lock. We waited for it to pass. Once underway, we were soon travelling parallel to the noisy M6, and ahead of us the equally noisy M69. It seems so long ago since we left the peaceful tranquility of the Ashby Canal. It was about an hour before the drone of the motorways could no longer be heard, but just as we escaped their noise, so we began merging with West Coast Main Line, and its diesel trains thundering past. Rose Narrowboats was the next hurdle, here the canal is narrowed by the long lines of moored boats, and some triple parking of the hire fleet. There is a small footbridge to move, so the crew jumped off the boat, to facilitate our passage through a narrow channel. It was at this point we passed a boat on the water point that had been ahead of us leaving Hawkesbury. This was to prove to be very fortuitous for us a short while later. We travelled the final mile to our intended mooring spot just prior to All Oak Wood, and on arrival found it to be very busy. There was however one solitary gap in the line of moored boats, and as we slowed down it was just big enough to shoehorn ourselves into. We had the last spot. 
  • Totals 8 Miles
  • Running total 212 Miles 42 Locks 9 Tunnels