Monday, 1 April 2013

What a week that was!

Where to start eh?
Lets start with with the weather.......12 months ago to the day we were having the hottest March on record note the blue sky below!

The above pictures were taken on 27/3/2012.......the pictures below were taken on 27/03/2013 what a difference 12 months make!

Can anybody spot the difference between the 2 sets of pics?

Anyways, back to Sunday, I cricked my back real bad and sadly we had to cancel Sunday lunch with David and Karen who in a very short space of time have become good friends. David and Karen are having their boat built by Milburn Boats right now, It's called the Wessex Rose and once complete it will be a 5 star luxury hotel boat.
Back to the, I am panicking about our launch party and that we and our home is in Stockon and that it has to be in Weedon by Friday. Suzie is panicking about whether to call an ambulance as I am in so much pain! Needless to say no ambulance was called and within a couple of hours I was led out in bed still in agony.
Monday we were due to have our helmsman's course but due to the weather Douglas cancelled it not knowing there was no way I could do anything because of my back....another day of resting but we made the decision that we'll go for it on Tuesday and just see how we get on.....
So Tuesday after little sleep and with much trepidation we cast off and that's it Swamp Frogs was on the move with it's owners feeling very nervous, very excited, very scared of what might lay ahead.....I mean we don't even know if you "drive" a boat....but that's what we did around 9AM we left Stockton Top Marina, home of Kate Boats where Nick, Cheryl and their team really looked after us for the last 2 weeks...Thank you so much everybody.
Just look at that concentration.....nobody would think  I'm travelling at 2 mph

Suzie moving her first gate as a continuous cruiser

Me and Tim (with 2 m's)

One very happy bunny....albeit very cold.

Let's not look up as we pass under these icicles!

So on towards Braunston having managed to depart the Marina without touching another boat even with everybody watching....Both Suzie and I felt so elated that we were on our way and all thoughts of the pain in my back were gone as we slowly made our way down the Warwick and Napton Canal which opened in 1799 and is now part of the Grand Union. AAArgghhhhh.......very quickly in front of us our first lock and what a daunting task it was to be faced with this, not really remembering what to do and more importantly how to do it...."hey, what's the worst that can happen" said Suzie.....lets just do it! and we did! our first lock as Continuous Cruisers was done, with no screaming and shouting at each the time we approached the next lock we were joined by another boater called Tim (with 2 m's), sorry the next 2 locks were done very quickly although I did say to Timm (with 2 m's) should we not close the lock gates? Nah, said Timm (with 2 m's) it's ok to leave 1 lock gate open.....little did I know what lay ahead! We left Tim (with 2 m's) at Napton Junction where he turned off to head for Oxford and we cruised on looking for a place to stop for a spot of lunch. Shortly after stopping for lunch a coal, diesel and gas boat came along   and stopped so, feeling really good about our new life I stroll up to him to buy a bag of coal only to be met with alot of abuse about effing newbys with their glossy new boats not giving a thought to others by leaving effing lock gates open and why should he sell me anything when I made it harder for him as he had to shut the gate we had left open before he could prep the lock for his passage! Hmmmmm.....I explained that we were new to all this and that I did ask Timm (with 2 m's) should we not shut the lock? after hearing this Mick, the coalman  did apologise for the tirade of abuse he had subjected me to and was then happy to sell me a bag of coal.....phew!
Not feeling very hungry after my spat with Mick the coalman,
I allowed Suzie to finish of the road kill from yesterday!
We Moored just outside Braunston Marina for the night and 2 very happy bunnies were snug in their nice warm home but absolutely whacked out. We paid a quick visit to Mike and Marion Kelly who own The Old Workshop B & B (whom we stayed with last year) to purchase e-canalmapp which is a computer based form of the nicholson's guide but with tons more info in it AND takes up no room, unlike the guides. It's all working a treat Mike. So it was very quickly back home, shower and off to bed at 7:30PM.
Up bright and early Wednesday ready for the next stage and today we were being joined by Karen who was coming along whilst David continues to help Milburn Boats finish off The Wessex Rose So off we set and round the next bend we were faced with The Braunston Flight which is 6 locks close together....Off Suzie and Karen (who was such a great help) go with windlass in hand ready for the simple task ahead where as I stay on the boat and have the hard work of steering Swamp Frogs into each lock and keeping her steady.... Fortunately for all concerned while we were in the first lock the owner of the boat ahead of us came to our rescue and said they would wait for us so we can pair up in the following 5 locks (many hands make light work) Andrew (part owner of NB Warwick and his friend Kevin were travelling to Weedon too so we'd decided to join them all the way as we had another flight of locks at Buckby to do and with the pub at Buckby closed there was no reason not to! The pair of them were a great help and we so enjoyed their company. Soon after the Braunston Flight Andrew went ahead and we followed them through the next obstacle in our way namely Braunston Tunnel. The tunnel is 2042 yards long and was built in 1793 and opened in 1796 during the build there was soil movement leading the the tunnel having an "S" bend in it which added to my horror! Having banished the girls to the front of the boat this allowed me to put all my concentration into getting through the tunnel unscathed. 20mins in I had a massive panic attack as what I thought was the light at the end of the tunnel was in fact a boat coming the opposite way.....I did it! I past the oncoming boat without hitting it head on (another big sigh or relief) my confidence in handling Swamp Frogs is growing by the hour now......
We've really got to study how to use this new camera me thinks!

We paired up again with Andrew and Kevin (NB Warwick) this is done by tying both boats together at the front and back (fore and aft or bow and stern to us boaters) and moving through the locks like a widebeam his was fine all the time Andrew was at the tiller of his boat but then he had jumped off to give Kev and the girls a hand and then whistled me to bring both the boats in.....all I am thinking is I've only had this boat for 2 days on the cut and I have now got another boat tied to me and I've got to take them both into the lock! Again, I passed with flying colours (another confidence boost).....The mile or so down to Weedon was fairly straight forward with no more locks or tunnels I could start to relax.
David, Karen's hubby joined us at  The Heart of England as did Andrew and Kevin for a few beers and tea. Having left the pub around 11pm it was back to home to allow Andrew and Kevin a look over our home (nothing to do with the the bottle of Malt I had to share). Andrew, Kevin, David and Karen left us around 12:30ish so we could go to bed, again absolutely wacked out but so happy with the decision to live aboard Swamp Frogs. We had such a brilliant day even more enjoyable because of the lovely company we had to share it all with, thank you all so much for everything.
From L to R.. Karen, Kev, Andrew, David and myself enjoying a night cap
Okay so onto Saturday.....People started to arrive for the launch party from lunchtime onwards and by 4pm all the family (yes Jane, we consider you as part of our family) were here, all had looked over our new home and now fully understand our dream....We all had a great night at the Heart of England and the family was joined by Nick and Cheryl from Kate Boats, David and Karen from The Wessex Rose, the team from Milburn Boats, Peter and  Anne the sign writer. Oh and here is a spooky one........over a year ago we met a couple (Ted and Stella) and went through the Watford Flight with them only never to see them since. Stella presented Suzie with a windlass as the first part of our boat. The day before the party Suzie saw Stella walking down the towpath...a real shock for both, luckily they stayed and they also joined us Sat night. We had a total of 42 friends and family there to enjoy the night and a good time was had by all.
The family stayed over having booked the whole Hotel and on Sunday morning after emotional goodbyes and loads of tears they waved us off.

I think we'll have them 2 at a time (MAX)
With all the emotion we forgot to take any pics of our family

Just going under Bridge 24 on the Grand Union
with our family above.
That's it, with family behind us now.....It's just Suzie and I......
 our dream starts here.....what a journey it has been so far. x

Since our last blog we have done 17 miles, 16 locks and 1 tunnel.
Since continuous Cruisers we have done 17 miles 100 yards, 16 locks and 1 tunnel.

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