Monday, 28 October 2013

'til next year.........

We've had a few emails asking "where are we"? "what are we up to"??
Well, truth is, we've been very busy sorting ourselves out for the winter.

Since leaving Church Lawton we stayed with Tony and Doreen (NB Sarah Olive) all the way down to Braunston where the 4 of us worked on our boats getting them ready for the winter.
Tony and Doreen then put their boat into a Marina where we then thought we'd say goodbye to them till next year......they had other idea's.....Tony had checked their flights to Spain, found that there was spare seats and they asked us to come to Spain with them for 10 days???? This threw us into a spin for a bit and didn't know what to do or say as they were leaving in 48 hours.......Erm.....ok we will! So, off to Spain we went for 10 days of sunshine!

One good idea that people may be interested is that we've fitted "celotex" insulating sheeting inside the windows, make sure it is a real tight fit and bingo! no damp smells or condensation at all in the boat. This is an idea we got from somebody who leaves their boat for 6 months and goes home to Australia to enjoy the summer there. They've done it for the last 4 years and tell us it is brilliant so we'll let you know when we get back!

I've painted the outside of the boat below the Gunnel to hide all the scratches and scrapes we got ourselves into this year. Insulated the engine bay bulkhead to deaden the sound of the engine whilst it's running (works a treat) Suzie has cleaned every inch inside the boat, sorted out all of the drawers, cupboards, shelves, storage under the bed and we have got rid of anything that we've not used

Our flights to Cyprus have been booked, overnight hotel at Gatwick booked, car hire to see everybody prior to jetting off for the winter booked, trip to the dentist booked (urgh!)

.........and that's about it peep's,

......'til next year where we will be travelling south we think for the year so we can be close to friends and family.

Since our last blog we have done 94 miles, 52 locks and Harecastle Tunnel (2919 yards long)

This gives a grand total of 497 miles 100 yards, 314 locks and 10 tunnels (tunnels over a 1000 yards only)........Not bad for our first year eh?

Please have a great Christmas and we both wish you a very happy new year
It's early but as we will not be doing the blog now till we return.

Rob and Suzie x

Thursday, 12 September 2013

It's only been and taken 6 months..........

As the title says.......
......We only really had one plan this year and that was to get as close to my Dad and his wife Diane as possible. Dad and Diane live in Lancashire not far from the Leeds and Liverpool and last year they took us to The Boatyard Inn at Riley Green and we did want to get there in Swamp Frogs. Sadly we didn't quite make that and after the hard work of the Wigan flight we decided to moor up at White Bear Marina in Adlington. As we were mooring up a woman who we had never met was frantically waving to us like we were her long lost cousins....."your here, your here" she, Heather has been following our toilet wall blog since the start and could not believe that here we were mooring up next to her and Mike, her Husband! So all moored up and we sit and have a drink with Heather and her hubby Mike, lovely couple and can't wait to meet up again in the New Year when they have their new boat.
Next morning after resting up Dad and Diane arrive for the grand tour

.....we love showing off our boat and are so proud of her and the job that Milburns did for us......(changes thread briefly) What about this then for service....I phone Milburns to say I have a leaky window, Andy tells me what to do to sort it and then goes on to say that if it still leaks they would drive up to us to sort it! Great service from a great bunch of people (I know they have a build slot in Jan 2014, if you are looking to have a boat built, look them up, you will not be disappointed)......Anyways back to Dad and Diane.....We give them the tour and they, like all others before them love Swamp Frogs and are so pleased for us and that we are following our dream.
With Swamp Frogs safely in the Marina we pack a couple of bags and go and stay with Dad and Diane for a few days coming back the following day to take them on a cruise.

This is the funny bit......we leave around 10am and cruise to The Malthouse Farm have lunch and cruise back. The Malthouse is like 10mins drive from their house but we take nearly 6 hours to get there and back plus a 2 hour lunch in the sunshine giving us a full 8 hour day!!!.....hehe such is the pace of life on the canal!
They loved it, both Dad and Diane reluctantly agreed to take a turn on the tiller and both did very well. They both couldn't believe the pace, peace and tranquillity we experience on a daily basis......This, my friends, is what our life is......Yes it's taken us 6 months to do what most people would do in a day (138miles by road) but what a great time we've had......
Sadly we leave Dad and Diane and have to make our way back down south. We moor up at the top of the Wigan flight knowing the horror of 23 locks in the one day face us in the morning when we get a knock on the door......"hi, are you doing the flight tomorrow? if so can we pair up" a couple asked......"yes we are" I reply "and yes it would be great to pair up". The couple, Tony and Doreen owners of NB Sarah Olive turn up at 7am the next morning and we have a wonderful time doing the flight. Tony and Doreen, like us, believes that narrow-boating does not have to be a contact sport as many will tell you it is but if you take things slow, all will be fine. We do the flight with a minor hiccup of a dry pound and work being done in a lock half way down by CaRT workers with no banging or scraping of either boat.
Sadly we miss my Dad and Diane who were waiting for us 4-5 locks down but they thought after an hour we must have passed.....sorry dad, Diane....such is the life on the canal, things can and do move slowly.

Tony and Doreen have become the latest in a long line of new friends and they too are making their way south and we have had many pleasant evenings together on the way, They have also taught us how to play canasta.....a great card game to play.

We've been in touch with Cheryl at Stockton Top Marina, home to Kate Boats and we will moor there for the winter, Milburns (we hope) will do a few little jobs at the same time while we jet off to Cyprus for 3 months!

We are currently moored at Church Lawton ready to do the Harecastle Tunnel tomorrow!

Since our last blog we have done 74 miles, 54 locks and Preston Brook Tunnel (1239 yards long)

This gives a grand total of 403 miles 100 yards, 262 locks and 9 tunnels (tunnels over a 1000 yards only).

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Family visit......The Anderton Lift and a game of Narrowboat pinball!

So, My son David, fiancée Anna, Grandson's Ruben and George arrived after a 4 hour journey from Southampton we all pitched (haha....joke....geddit....pitched...tents go on a pitch.....oh, ok never mind!) in and quickly got the trailer tent up and sorted.
Strict supervision required when George has a hammer!

Nice and easy Ruben.....

Trailer tent all sorted, we kitted the boys out and then we're off to  our home to go and wind (turn the boat around) Swamp Frogs ready for the next
days cruising.
2 yr old and a 4 yr old holding 16 tons!

Hmmm.....2 captains? that won't work!

The next day we were up and ready for our days cruising and a visit to The Cheshire Ice Cream Farm. If you are anywhere near and have a couple of kiddies then go, well worth a visit, free to go in, lots to see and do and a million different flavoured ice creams to try.


Next day we spent at the camp site trying to run the boys out of energy as being on the boat they ended up with tons of energy at the end of the day, not sure if it worked tho......

Suzie worked very very hard and kept them entertained but then became knackered herself! so the next day we just cruised to Tattenhall Marina to fill up with Fuel and water ready for our departure. On Sunday morning we all packed the Trailer tent up had a Sunday lunch in The Shady Oak and that was that. 5 days of great fun, a little bit of rain, a few tears and a wonderful time catching up....It's the hardest part of living on the boat is being away from all the family and we were both very sad to see them leave.

Onwards with our journey tho and we made tracks the next morning to continue northwards to Adlington on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. on the way we came across the Anderton boat lift which drops boats from the Trent and Mersey Canal down onto the River Weaver and is now a scheduled ancient monument.....we just had to do it!

......and us on our first river! (albeit for 40mins)

With the Anderton Lift done we then moved on to Preston Brook Tunnel which is 1239 yards long and opened in 1776. it's only about 10ft wide so your passage is on a timer so you don't meet another boat coming the other way!
Southern end

....and our exit at the northern end. Suzie took this picture
AND it's upside down!

We pushed on and spent a couple of days in Lymm and experienced our first game of Narrowboat pinball. Basically, there is moorings both sides of the cut in Lymm with about 18ft gap left inbetween so not bad but we were alongside a boat that was just leaving so I pushed Swamp Frogs out into the middle of the cut (normal practice) to allow the moored boat to leave. Ahead of us was a boater coming through the bridge, I signalled for him to stop as did Suzie who was on the bow. This boat took no notice and  just kept coming....."he's gonna hit" I shout to Suzie, talk about stating the obvious! so, straight into a Widebeam moored on the other side of the cut! he bounced of that and his stern then came in and hit a fibreglass cruiser then his bow came straight at us and BINGO he hit all 3 off us in the space of 10 the guy passed me he failed to acknowledge me and it fell to his wife to say sorry.....round the bend they go leaving 3 very "peed off" boaters only to smack straight into some trees ripping off his pram hood (justice).....if that wasn't enough he then ploughed straight into NB Artu, smashing crockery in their galley!!! The couple were in there 70's I guess, they belong to Lymm Cruising Club and there boat is called Hide Away which is pretty apt as there is a lot of people looking for them! have been warned! Having left Lymm we turned the corner and were greeted by a couple of Kingfishers, Suzie just managed to capture them (she is getting quite an expert now with the camera)

On the way to Horrocks flash Suzie was on the Tiller and a chappie walking the Towpath said "Hi" she turned and said hello back only to see it was Alan Hansall (Tyrone, from Corrie.....I was gutted not to see him as I am a big Corrie fan too!) We stayed at Horrocks flash for 2 nights (don't ask me why it's got the name flash? it's a man made lake created when they built the M6) we stayed here for 2 nights to get some rest as  it is just a mile away from the Wigan Flight which is a mind boggling 23 locks in the space of 2-3 miles..... Up early the next day we moved on towards the Wigan flight. we shared the locks with NB Orchid which is a shared ownership boat built by Milburns (they get everywhere) who built Swamp Frogs 3-4 hours later and 23 locks we were at the top. Suzie did all the hard work in getting us at the top.....Well done darling.

Since our last blog we have done 83 miles, 38 locks and Preston Brook Tunnel (1239 yards long)

This gives a grand total of 329 miles 100yards, 208 locks and 8 tunnels (tunnels over a 1000 yards only).

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Okay........Suzie won the bet!

More on the title later but maybe you want to skip the toilet wall drivel that I am writing and drop down a few paragraphs and read what it's all about!

We stayed at Nantwich for 6 days as it is such a lovely town with good moorings and by chance, in a couple of days it was the Nantwich Agricultural and Cheese show. We were told that it always rains during the show and although prior to the show it was sunshine all the way......they were right, it did rain but did not spoil it as we went prepared. Great show with much to see and do.....and so much cheese to eat......we left the show feeling a bit sick with all the cheese we had eaten.

3 very different birds but I am sure the 2nd one would like to
eat the last 1!

It really was a great show with plenty to see and do and Michelle (The Heart of England), it does rival the New Forest Show and remember this for next year!
The following day we pop into Nantwich Marina as for the last month or so our "poo tank" has at times been smelly and wanted to discuss possible solutions......BRILLIANT, not only did they offer a solution they had one there too! so back I go and fit a Webasto Charcoal filter also included in the price was 2 nights mooring alongside NB Emily which was excellent as Denis and Ann were came to dinner the following night.

How pleased are we with our dining table,
thank you once again Milburns
By the way....that is a T shirt and pink shorts Suzie is wearing and not a very short skirt with pink knickers!
We leave Nantwich on the Sunday to slowly (as always) make our way to Chester
What a great wooden sculpture eh?

Okay so here goes the bit you have all been waiting to read.....on the way to Chester you have to pass about a mile and half of moorings going at "tick over" this will take about 40 can be a pain but it is appreciated not to create any wash and disturb moored boats. Not everybody does this and I am sure all of us "boaters" have experienced a boat passing whilst moored only to be "bumped about a bit" what also can happen is a boat can loose it's mooring and if you look closely at the picture below this is what happened.....
That's me on the left taking a look!

So, down I go and take a look and there is nobody about at all. The boat has lost it's bow rope and has drifted across the cut. Hmmm....I could just push it back a bit and it will slowly find it's way back to allow the people 100yds further down to moor it back securley. I lean forward and push the bow and then SLOOSH! I was in, simple as that! Quite funny now but at the time I was not happy as we had just came out of Tattenhall Marina and I still had my wallet and phone in my pockets. (luckily both were fine) The water was warmer than I expected and was about 3 ft deep and easy to climb out. Now, Suzie the camera lady was busy doing what she does best......yep, talking (Suzie, I don't talk much Conroy) missed it all, I mean I even walked back to the boat soaked, embarrassed, and not very happy at all, climbed aboard and she STILL didn't realise not until I stopped her chatting to ask if she would fetch me a towel! So, I am sorry folks, there are no pictures! blame the wife!!!
(for a minimum of a £100, which I will give to charity. I am willing to recreate that special moment so Suzie can take pictures)
After my quick dip in the canal, I change my clothes, regain my dignity ignore Suzie saying "do it again so I can take a picture.....please Robbie, please...I go down and secure the drifting boat! We move on and moor up at The Cheshire Cat just outside of Chester and the next day we go into Chester by bus have a wander round and do some shopping at Tesco and get a taxi back. The next day we get a phone call from who? I don't know as all Suzie will say is "they" are coming to see us and will stay overniight on the boat? 30mins later my life long school friend Jane turns up. Jane had decided to come and find us and spend a night on the boat. It was such a lovely surprise and we managed to get Jane's car to The Shady Oak pub as Gordon (chap we met earlier) kindly followed us down to The Shady Oak and bought us back thus enabling us to treat Jane to a full days cruising. We know Jane had a great time and she went home with a sunburnt face, Thanks again Jane, isn't it great when people turn up unexpectedly!

Next up is a visit from my son, fiancée Anna and their boys Ruben and George........we can't wait!

Since the last blog we've done 23 miles, 6 locks.
This gives a grand total of 246 miles 100 yards, 170 locks and 7 tunnels (tunnels over 1000yds only).

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

oo-er...............another tunnel!

We leave Etruia on the Monday morning to put Swamp Frogs in Festival Park Marina for a few days while we go and visit family and friends in Southampton. We had a wonderful time in Southampton (albeit very rushed) catching up with everybody but it truly is a big wrench leaving Swamp Frogs and we couldn't wait to get back. We got back Thursday teatime and had a "cheerio" meal with Fred and Lisa  as they will move south and we are heading north in the morning. It was so nice spending time with them both and we will meet up again when we head south for the winter.
We left the Marina the next day and moored up at Westport lake for the weekend.

As it was so nice we thought we'd try our new purchase out......A small foldaway BBQ.......well, after burning the top of our new table and then red hot charcoal spitting out onto the tinder dry grass which started to smoulder it was decided that we'll extinguish the BBQ due to safety reasons and the fact that on lookers thought I was doing some kind of crazy rain dance when I was only stamping on the smouldering charcoal...... I can see the local headlines.....Crazy boater sets fire to the grounds around Westport Lake....ho hum!!!!

Up early and onwards to Harecastle tunnel (2926yds long) which I was not looking forward too....I really do not like the tunnels maybe it's because they are so small and I feel claustrophobic??! but in we go following 4 other boats. Going last is good because I can go at my own pace and not worry about anybody's so hard to steer the boat when you have jelly legs!!!!!

The southern end.....
Almost 3000 yards later, the northern end,
Look at the colour of the water? YUK!!
As you can see from the second picture there was 2 tunnels but the one on the right has long since closed due to subsidence. There are no ventilation shafts in the tunnel and they shut doors at the southern end and use an extraction fan to remove exhaust fumes.....was all a bit scary but ok in the end.
Out of the tunnel and we soon pass the junction of the Macclesfield canal.

The Maccy is through the narrow bridge on the right.
We make good timing with Suzie at the helm and me doing the legwork we cover 11 locks in just over 3 miles and moor up at a place called Rode Heath. We end up staying here for a couple of days due to weather (nothing to do with the hangovers we both have). We had a great time here in Rode Heath and spent a lazy afternoon at the local pub with a couple of retired Police CID inspector's and a couple of boaters and between us we put the world to right's and had a good laugh doing it!
We leave Rode Heath very early the next day to make our way to Church Minshull to meet up with Dennis and Ann (A.K.A. Lord and Lady Malakas) owners of NB Emily.
Getting to Nantwich we have to get through a heavy stretch of locks this is often called "heartbreak hill". It's at this point after 4 1/2 months Suzie decides that she will take over on the tiller and I can do the leg/lock work. I have to point out that this is pure coincidence that Suzie has come to this decision and that I do 22 locks in 1 day (this is defo our record)!!!!!!!


Going down nice and slowly

Another successful lock done,
Well done Suzie

Anyways, hard as it is to believe, it was a coincidence as Suzie was unaware of what laid ahead and to be honest it was great seeing her on the tiller going in and out of locks and her gaining more and more confidence.
On the way we pass Malkins Golf Course which advertises breakfast so we moor up in a pound (the space between locks for those that don't know) and in we go at 09:30....."are you still serving breakfast" I asked......"ummmm we start around 10:30" the blokey behind the bar says.... "hmmmm....okay no problem, we are in no rush"  so we sit on the terrace and wait and well worth the wait too....if you pass here do stop (between locks 62 and 63) as it was a scrummy breakfast set in beautiful surroundings and great value too at £7:85 for 2 breakfasts and 2 coffee's.
We make good progress and I am enjoying doing the locks although when it's raining I'm not so sure I'll feel the same.... We arrive at Middlewich and moor for the night.
I've got to turn left, very tight and with a boat coming at me 2 boats moored
on my right AND another boat coming out from the left!!!
From here we continue down the Middlewich branch of The Shroppie and moor at Church Minshull (Thank you Fred Webster for the mooring advice, you were 100% correct, I expected nothing less)
This branch is reknowned for it's wildlife and we were very fortunate to see a river dolphin.....very very rare and known only to exist on this stretch of canal.
A bit blurry as I had to be quick!
The next day we were joined with Denis and Ann (AKA Lord and Lady Malakas) owners of NB Emily
After a few drinks we walk to the Badger Inn for a meal...."lets do a short cut" I say. "I have a new phone with maps and all, we can follow the map".......what the phone didn't show is an overgrown footpath covered with thorns and nettles and said footpath meanders (is this the right word?) at the edge of a 100ft sheer drop......The girls were not impressed with me!!! needless to say we walked back via the road!
Our view overlooking Church Minshull....stunning!

More or less the same view the next morning

Lord and Lady Malakas with Suzie aboard NB Emily

We both left the next day, Denis and Ann back to Nantwich and us to moor up at Barbridge Junction where we meet up with Suzie's Brother-in-law Steve. It's a flying visit as Steve is on his way to Germany to see Kiri his wife.

Steve with Suzie and a spider crab!

As you can see, Steve loves his dogs Phyllis and Karla

I've just told Steve I will be watching the Grand Prix
and does he want to watch it too?

It was great seeing Steve and after a few beers we visit the pub.....again (It does seem that our lives revolve round visits to the pub......maybe it's true?)
Next day Steve and I watch the F1 Grand Prix (well done Lewis) and then we say our goodbyes and Steve makes his way to Dover and we make our way to the pub.......again!!!
We leave Barbridge Junction and make our way into Nantwich where we meet up with Denis and Ann again. This time we have a Indian curry as they read about our sorry tale in Stoke. I wasn't disappointed this time! The Red Melon......lovely Indian restaurant, lovely food....10 out of 10! Then next door to The Black Lion for the pub quiz. Denis and Ann's "team name" in the quiz is The Malakas' and they are fondly known as Lord and Lady's a Greek word which roughly translates into English as "a nice person, a friend, a mate"....where we would say "hi mate" when meeting someone we know, the Greeks would say "malakas"....that's what they told us anyway (I must Google it)!  We do the quiz and come a respectable 4-5th out of 9+ teams. At this point I must add that had I'd been lisened to, we would have got 2 more points and come 3rd!.....tis only a game and was a great night, brilliant fun as Suzie grabbed the mike and gave us a burst of something she called singing during the quiz.......we are now barred from The Black Lion!!!

What will happen next..........???

Since the last blog we've done 31 miles, 35 locks.
This gives a grand total of 223 miles 100 yards, 164 locks and 7 tunnels (tunnels over 1000yds only).