Monday, 29 April 2013

Robbie tells me I can do the blog this week????  I thought I was helping by downloading the photo's....apparently not?

Here goes then......

Thankfully Robbie's back is better and we were able to set off from Braunston where we had been for over 2 weeks.....lovely place but I have seen it all.....festival included.  I must say George from the Canal and River Trust was brilliant in my hour of need and issued a permit for us to overstay in the 48 hour mooring for 2 taking the pressure off and allowing Robbie to recover.

Loads of pic's for you to look at......I love them and assume everyone is like me......okay maybe not?

Hi Duck!
 Well what a time we have we are cruising, albeit not far but truly lovely even so.  We have done loads.....when did we do them? I don't know....everyday is

On Sunday our friends Karen and David (Wessex Rose Hotel Boat) picked us up from where we were moored at Flecknoe and we visited Stoke Bruene Museum which was all about the canals and very interesting....especially the delicious ice-cream we had to have........then we hunted down a meal....back at Braunston in The Plough which was nice enough....even though I didn't get my Stilton and Peppercorn sauce until I had nearly finished my meal.....hey, needless to say I din't pay for it even though I ate lady was quite miffed.

Surrounded by beauty....Napton-on-the-Hill
We have managed to moor in some really lovely spots
(getting the mooring up thing down to a fine art now)
.....nice and peaceful....just how we like it.

On Sunday we went for a walk.....500 yards....or so the sign the village store at Napton-on-the-Hill.....roughly 6 miles or was a lovely sunny day so we didn't mind too much....stopped at The Folly on the way back for lunch which was delicious....sat in our garden in the sunshine feeling like we were on holiday.....heavenly.

On Sunday we spent the day in glorious the chrome on the outside of the boat (stupidly I thought this was a chore we wouldn't have since we didn't choose brass.....all that rubbing.....can't be doing with it) truth it was very in one hand cloth in other.

I am working.....honestly

Oppps! "Contact Sport" that's what it's called isn't it?

On Sunday Robbie went into Daventry on the bus to get some bits and pieces.....bus was 30 minutes late but hey he got there and came home with some pressies.....lettuce and the like.....simple life it is.

On Sunday morning....bright and early.... we went outside to discover we had visitors.....some showing off was definitely in order for this little lot.

Come on hold you heads up

Moored next to just one of the many old abandoned boats.
Even ugly things can look good in a certain light......
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Sitting on the bow seat....waiting for my coffee?

View from our bed....depending on conditions

I'm the daddy
Gypty Brendeb Fish

Dyer Dish

Our Christmas Rehearsal on Swamp Frogs

Follow the leader

Then on Sunday we went for an Indian at Omar's in Dunchurch with David and Karen......a great time was had by least....I had a great time and I trust they all did too.  The waiter was trying to help me steal a really georgous little vase.....needless to say I was having none of it.....truly!

Robbie darling....I know your back is hurting......but your right leg looks a bit swollen?

You'll never guess what.....
Do you know what it is yet?

Seven Buzzards in one shot
On the next day....Sunday we had a creative craft attack.....I needed to do something with the towels.....Robbie needed to sort that rope into some sort of order.....we were equally appreciative of each other's efforts
What will I do with this towel?

No white towels?????

Sumo Swamp Frog

Fendering Fun
Watch what I can do with this

Daadahaa.....only another twenty twelve  to go

Robbie where are you? Stick Like?

On Sunday Robbie finished fitting the non slip matting on the decks....looking very smart they are too....fitted to perfection....I would expect no less from him.....very well done darling!

Non Slip Matting

Canal Caridious

On Sunday we did a 6 mile walk.....we spotted this very rare Canal Caridious butterfly.....apparently there are only 666 in the whole of the UK....lucky or what.
Come on......just like this

What a lot of nonsense!!!!!!........I have had such a laugh doing this....but then again I always make myself laugh.....surely a blog is for other's to enjoy?  I do hope something has brought a smile to your face whilst reading this.....even if it is "Silly Woman"....

Life is good and we are really enjoying our adventures.

Take great care xxxxxxx

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Where is my back?.......It's gone AGAIN!

Okay, so we have been "live-aboards" now for almost 6 weeks. I can't say we are continuous cruisers because that part just has not happened!
Following our launch party we cruised back up the Grand Union to Whilton Marina (at the bottom of the Buckby Flight) where we moored for the night as on Monday we were having our Helmsman's course with Douglas a chap recommended to us from Calcutt Marina.
The helmsman's course was brilliant fun, we really enjoyed the day and felt we had demonstrated our abilities with much confidence! We passed with flying colours having done all the tests put in front of us and also picked up quite a few interesting tips. We also were full of confidence that should either 1 of us fall ill we could "helm" the boat single handed.......and moor the boat single handed.....
......Two things then happened in very quick succession to squash those two previous statements!

1...... Having left Douglas with just the top lock to go at Buckby, Suzie went to get the lock ready, so in I go......There I was, 20 ft down in the lock and shouting to Suzie...."put all your weight into it girl" wondering why she is just leaning on the gate and not closing it....." I'm trying.....I could stay here for a week putting all my weight into it and it just aint gonna move" Suzie screamed back at me! So that was that, I had to climb up out of the lock to move the gate (and yes it was very stiff) so, first one...if I am ill we don't move through locks......

2...... We get through the lock (eventually) with our confidence level dropped somewhat little did we know that ALL of our confidence would now disappear within the next 5 mins....we decided to moor at the top of Buckby ready to make our way to Abingdon so my brother Graham could come and see the would have thought we had never moored a boat before......all that Douglas had told us both vanished from our heads and we were stuck in the middle of the canal really unsure of what to was hilarious and what people must have thought......1 second I had the bow on the tow path then 30 secs later we were at right angles across the cut...."gimmie the Tiller" says Suzie, Suzie then spends 5 mins trying to moor also with no luck and also with plenty of people looking on.....I have to say it was made funnier as not 20 mins ago we completed our "Helmsman's course".....!! So secondly, passing a helmsman's course does not make you an expert straight away.... Anyways with no confidence (but we did leave a lot of smiling people) we went round the corner where there was much more space and a lot less people to watch two complete amateurs making a pigs ear of mooring a Narrow Boat! which we did with great finesse and no shouting.


Nothing to do with the boat I was stood on the Tow Path and just went into a spasm and I was back (scuse the pun) to the start again with my back!
So, there we the middle of nowhere, very little water and probably 3-4 days till we needed to pump out (emptying our poo tank for the "non boaters who read this)

We stayed there overnight then managed to get hold of our knights in shinning armour.......David and Karen. They parked there car at Braunston and walked the 3-4 miles to us.....seeing them walking towards us made us realise how vulnerable we could be and we were so pleased when they arrived. Suzie, David and Karen moved the boat through Braunston Tunnel and the Braunston locks while I led on the bed reading my book. The only thing I was missing was room service, you'd think as David and Karen have a  5 star Hotel Boat being built they'd provide some sort of service to me........ (only joking)....I digress!

We ( I mean they) moor us just outside Braunston Marina where all the facilities are there for us.....all that needs to happen is for Suzie to pop in explain our plight and we'd have an army of people willing to help as this is what we've seen so far on the cut........
So, bright and early next morning up Suzie gets to walk all of 25 yards, over the bridge and into Braunston Marina and in she goes to the shop/office.....poor Suzie, she is feeling totally useless, unprepared, unequipped, miserable and helpless and throws herself on the floor (well, not quite.....but you get the picture) "I wonder if someone could kindly help me please?" says Suzie. She tells them of our predicament.........access to the the diesel, pump out and water point is limited by other boats and she's not feeling too confident to say the least "I need a tank of diesel, a pump out, water and 2 bags of coal, my husband is stuck on the boat and can't move because of his back" (this all means she is about to spend something in the region of £150 so please help) .......Sadly Suzie was made to feel like some sort of idiot?  We understand it's a business and were willing to pay for help in our hour of need! "I understand I would have to pay" said Suzie.....just wanting to make things clear.....he pipes up "£42 per hour and it will take a couple of hours so that's £ would be better off asking this gent to help you"  pointing to another customer in the shop......Suzie felt like shit, and who could blame her!
The gentleman did help Suzie....Alan who owns the Narrowboat named Fluke....he truly was a gentleman and Suzie could not have survived the whole ordeal without him..........Once Alan had moved our boat and we were now empty of poo and full of diesel Suzie then went into the marina to pay them and the chap just said "CARD" She was beside herself with this chaps attitude....."HOW MUCH IS IT?" she asked (talk about rude!)...."£153 and that's it....there you go and you're all sorted out now"  He was making it sound as if he had helped her??????? Suzie then turned to Alan (and in doing so made the chap wait for our card) "Thanks to you Alan for coming to my aid when I was in such great need....Thank's your £153" said Suzie handing the chap our card.
Suzie then treated Alan to lunch and a pint to thank him for his kindness.....The moral here is don't expect any help at Braunston Marina unless you want to pay £42 hr!

We've been here now for over 2 weeks and my back is slowly returning to normal and hope to move at the week end heading to wherever The Wessex Rose will be launched. 
I must also add our thanks to George the local CaRT officer who was a great help to us by getting us permission to stay 2 weeks on a 48 hr mooring.

The best thing whilst being here is that Canal Boat magazine came on Monday to do a feature on our home....which was nice. Swamp Frogs will feature in the June edition of Canal Boat which comes out in May????? Lets hope for a favourable review eh? 

How can there be so many words from somebody who has done nothing for 2 weeks!
We will get going soon..................!

Since our last blog we've done 3 miles 7 locks and a tunnel.
Since continuous cruisers (I use the term very loosely here) we've done 20 miles 100yds 23 locks and 1 tunnel (twice)

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.