Friday, 28 June 2013

Nearly a proper boater?

We have not done much since the last blog just the simple task of having to call out RCR (the canal equivalent to the AA) after I did the 250hr service. You see, I inadvertently left the "old" oil seal from the oil filter stuck on the engine block so after putting the new one on and topping up with oil, I then started the engine and of course oil spewed out between the 2 rubber gaskets all over my nice clean engine bay floor!.......what a dope! A phone call to RCR at 18:00 made me feel better, they'd come out now but could it wait till the morning?........of course, I say.
So early the next morning the 2 guys from RCR turned up. I tell them what happened and they both looked to each other and said "bet he's got a Beta 43 down there"?... yep, I have said me!.... they then said "it's a common fault that the oil seal sticks to the block and not to worry" (did they say that just to make me feel better?) they had it sorted in 10 mins. So, a big thank you RCR, if you are not a member and have a boat JOIN! great value and great service. I mean, Charlotte from their office even dropped us some oil mats on her way home a few days later!
Should I really be down here?
 After the trauma of me doing our first service we slowly continued north but then at Great Haywood Junction we turned off the Trent and Mersey and went down the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal so we could go to Tesco. It was here that I felt I'm getting there as another boater was getting into all sorts of problems and asked me, yes me for help. I got him sorted and tied up and he was very grateful, he was a hirer and it was his first time.
It's only 5 mls down the canal from Great Haywood but then we had to go another 3 mls through a lock to a winding hole, to turn the boat around. Back at the lock after winding Swamp Frogs 2 working boats arrived just after as we had a bit of a wait.....we said that they could go through before us as we were in no rush at all. Lorna, one of the 2 working women was telling us that her family have been on the cut since 1795 WOW!! and that she has records going back that far to prove it! She also said that she was the first generation in her family to be born "on the bank" (This is the term that us boaters use for you guys that live in houses)

They showed their thanks by chucking a bag of coal on the ground and wished us well on or travels how nice was that eh? So, so different than being in a car!

We moored up just after Deptmore lock and stayed here a couple of days as it was such a beautiful spot. Lovely garden and loads of animals to see.

What a bunch of posers eh?

The posing cows!
Sparrow Hawk flying around all the time...... was this Buzzard!
Suzie captured this........
.....what a great photo!
CaRT mending some fencing
Poor guys from CaRT couldn't get back on hehe....
Talk about protecting the young!
Patiently waiting for his tea!

Lonely horse on a hill.
As you can see from the pictures above it truly was a lovely spot to moor.

We left Stafford and while cruising back to Great Haywood we passed NB Herbie We don't know them but seem nice people.

We also passed this........all a bit sad.......

Another one bites the dust!

We stopped at the junction for fuel and to visit the farm shop across the road. Fuelled and stocked up we carried on and are currently moored just outside of Stone where we passed NB Shoehorn which we've seen many times but yet to stop and have a drink will come. Within 15 mins of mooring Suzie tells me to come out as a bloke was in a right pickle, so out I go.....he is trying to moor a 70' Trad and having all sorts of problems and ended up at one stage 90 degrees to the canal......(hmmmm......been there and done it myself) 30mins later he is all moored up and very grateful..........I've helped 2 boaters in 2 days.......So am I nearly a proper boater?......No by a long way! I have many years to go yet and so much more to learn!

We are still hoping to catch up with Fred and Lisa owners of  NB Chyandour for a drink after the week-end, it may mean us deviating up the Caldon Canal but hey........what's the rush?

Take care people.....

Since the last blog we've done 26 miles, 10 locks.
This gives a grand total of 172 miles 100 yards, 104 locks and 6 tunnels (tunnels over 1000yds only).

Friday, 21 June 2013

In search of the lost Penguins!

We left Polesworth after a great night with Roger and Pat (The Cat's Whiskers) and continued on towards Tamworth where Suzie got all excited as we come across our first swing bridge........hehe

Not what we expected but it's still the first!
As we continued on our way we were met with calls from boaters coming in the opposite direction shouting "watch the boat round the bend" and "stay left round the bend" so, cautiously around the bend we went now, on "The Cut" we generally cruise down the centre but pass boats coming the opposite way on the right so staying left round a bend could prove that Narrow Boating is truly a contact sport.....slowly we go only to be faced with this.......

Couldn't spot a notice on the boat?
We got to Tamworth and moored up just outside the town. Suzie and I are not Town/City people and much prefer mooring in isolated spots but hey, sometimes need's better to pay £16 for 30 cans of Carlsberg than £7:50 for 8! So, off I go to Tesco with my sack truck. I do get some funny looks but it just makes sense......get the bargains when you can (I've just counted our beer stock, we've over 280 cans of assorted beers and ciders....happy days)

Whilst moored up at Tamworth I hear this Swan going nuts first thing in the morning.......luckily it was just having a wash and preening itself and nothing more!

With Swamp Frogs re-stocked with the essentials we head of early the next morning and take a slow cruise to a place called Hopwas and moor between 2 Canal side pubs.....The Tame Otter and The Red Lion. We take a walk through the village (10mins) and just enjoy the rest of the day sat on the boat chatting to passers is so nice that people seem to have the time to stop and chat whilst walking the towpath, so different from any High Street in any Town. I mean, one woamn even said "if you need anything, a shower, need the washing machine, anything at all  just come and knock my back door".....we could tell that she was sincere in the nice eh? can you imagine saying that to a stranger parked outside your front door????.....No, it just wouldn't happen!
Early next morning we are up and ready to set off. It would appear we are not the only ones to make early starts. Graham and Liz from NB Down to Earth slowly make there way past us around 06:00 whist we have a cuppa before setting off around 06:30 ish. It is the best time to travel as we are both early riser's and it just makes sense to us, it's quieter for a start and wherever you are heading for, people have left so it's easier to find a mooring in popular places.
We arrive at Fradley Junction and moor up and spend the day/night here....we had planned to carry on but it was so nice we called it a day so we could explore.

The Swan Inn as it is today
The Swan Inn from over 50yrs ago
It's not just roads that need
Fradley Junction map.
While here we visit Fradley Pool now a Nature Reserve but it's original purpose was a reservoir as constant water supplies are essential for canals and the Trent & Mersey Canal Company didn't want to lose any to their rivals, the Coventry Canal Company. So they built an ingenious overflow weir and channel which carried the main flow of water from above Middle Lock, around the Junction, under The Swan and behind the cottages at Junction Row, to Fradley Pool, where it was stored. When water was needed for their canal, they released it into the canal near Keeper’s Lock.

Suzie is looking for the alleged penguins
Well spotted......these are RARE!
You have to see these to believe it!

Hmmm.......not sure what to say?

Who is following who?
Not a lot of room

Our first "proper" aqueduct.
A Buzzard just taking off!
We leave Fradley Junction having spotted the Penguins and pop into Kings Bromley Marina where I hoped to get the oil and filter ready for me doing my first service.....I got the filter but no oil! I now had to reverse Swamp Frogs out of the Marina.......easy, although I've not done this before but we managed it ok (with a little help from the bow thruster) and on to Rugeley to get some oil. Having got the oil we are currently moored 2 mls from Great Heywood.

Our garden for today.

Fred and Lisa, who we met over a year ago and own NB Chyandour are not too far away and we hope to meet up with them before we both take different routes off the Trent and Mersey.........

.......Till next time!

Since the last blog we've done 26 miles, 7 locks.
This gives a grand total of 146 miles 100 yards, 94 locks and 6 tunnels (tunnels over 1000yds only).

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Going south to go north????

Life is simple in a get in it and basically just head in the direction you wish to go and you'll get there......simple! On a narrow boat it's so different. We left Crick and had to go south to head north....for instance to get to Rugby by road from Crick is 9 mls but to get to Rugby by canal it is 19 mls including 16 locks and 2 tunnels (both over a mile long) by road it takes 15 mins to do the 9 mls. By canal it took us 4 days.......big difference eh?

Anyway.....we leave Crick after spending a pleasant evening with Kate owner of NB Priscilla and head south through Crick tunnel and head for Braunston (via the kinky tunnel) and then branch off the GU and up the Oxford north heading for Rugby where luckily there is a large Tesco 200 yds away from The Cut. We stay there overnight and meet up with a nasty man.....we do seem to attract them! Because we are new to this life we are cautious more often than not. We go real slow around other boaters, round blind bends and through bridges so when there are moored boats either side of The Cut I go real slow as chances are another boat will come along in the opposite direction.....sure enough along he comes...he stops to allow me through and then because I am so slow (the only reason I can think of) he decides to come through too smacking straight into the side of us!!!! "I thought you were letting me through" I say......"Nah, that's what happens when you've got a shiny new boat mate" he said laughingly. Now, we know our boat is new but we do understand that it will get "knocked about" and that's fine but me thinks he was in a bit of a rush and just barged his way bit was that Suzie heard the sound of breaking glass.....but not on our boat...hehe!

We get back out into the countryside which we both love and Suzie managed to capture this....
click on the picture and you'll see the little fellow!
Onwards in a kind of northerly direction we moor overnight in a place called Ansty....there is not a lot there but it does get mentioned in the doomsday book of 1086 and it's main land owner was once Lady Godiva.

We leave Ansty nice and early and head for Hawkesbury Junction where the Oxford and Coventry canals meet.
On the right is the Oxford canal and the left is the
Coventry canal
Hawkesbury pumping station built in 1821 and housed a steam engine
that was built in 1720. This was used to pump water from local coal mines
into the canal.
So up the Coventry we go past Bedford, Nuneaton and moor up at a village called Hartshill between Nuneaton and Atherstone.....erm.....not a lot to say apart from as the weather was glorious we stayed here for 4 nights just enjoying the sunshine and our freedom. We did speak to David and Karen owners of The Wessex Rose who are now on the K and A canal waiting for channel 4 to complete the filming.......Suzie emailed them a picture that Channel 4 might use......I think they will decline but we think it's a good one!
I felt it would be a better shot if Suzie was canal side
and not towpath side but she was too scared of
falling in! (it's gonna happen one day darling)
Whilst here a couple of things happened.......a couple came and knocked the door (sadly we didn't catch their names) they had just moored next to us and they own NB Cherry which was built by Milburn's 7 years ago.....they are so happy with their boat and we hope we will be as happy in 7 years time.
Shortly after that along came a boat and stopped along side.......It was Paul and Elaine from NB The Manly Ferry aka Caxton. If you have read the blog you will know that we met Paul's sister in Weedon back in April......we very quickly grabbed some cash, locked the boat and hopped aboard their home (including 2 dogs and 3 cats) and cruised down to the pub where we sampled the local beer for the evening. We also met Dave and Debbie who own NB Chuffed, lovely couple and we will sure to bump into them again as they are heading north.........we did however after a few beers have a 1.5 ml walk back but it was fine, albeit a little wobbly. Thank you guys for a great evening!
We were in a position where we needed a pumpout within the next few days and as we plan to stop at Polesworth there doesn't appear to be anything in between so we had no choice but to turn the boat around and travel back 2-3 mls to Springwood Haven Marina to do the pumpout and fill up with diesel at the same time.....faced with the choice of reversing the boat 200 yds or travel a mile up The Cut to the next winding hole we took the easy option and chose not to reverse! oo-er.....the winding hole was rather tight, on a bend and very shallow.......yep we got the boat stuck across the canal and it was funny watching Suzie try and lift our pole off the roof to try and push the boat off the mud.....NO CHANCE!
Eventually we get the boat unstuck and turned round which was quite stressful......luckily we met no other traffic in our hour of tribulation the only thing was it appeared the rudder had jumped out of it's location on the skeg and it's the same feeling you get whilst driving a car when a wheel bearing has gone.....we slowly make our way to Springwood Haven where they kindly sort the problem out for us....If you ever need diesel, gas, pumpout or chandlery items stop there.....they are lovely people and very very helpful. Cor blimey!!! about this one then.....whilst there I go and chat to the owners (Mike and Heather) of NB Burlisa moored behind us. Very quickly Heather looks up and says....."I know you........your name is Robert and you have a brother called Graham"........stunned by Heather's statement I say "yes, but how do you know"? Heather and Mike were my neighbours where I lived up to the age of 17!!!! I am 55 now but apparently not changed much!!!

All sorted we say goodbye to mike and Heather and to the guys at Springwood and make our way to Polesworth where we are planning to meet up with some friends we haven't seen for over a year....
We come down the flight of 11 locks at Atherstone and carry on and moor up....Roger and Pat owners of NB The cats Whiskers arrive with Paul a friend of theirs they are taking to Coventry. We give them a tour of Swamp Frogs and decide to have a few beers in The Red Lion in the High Street, back to The Cats Whiskers for a good old sing song with Roger playing anything from "Somewhere over the rainbow" to "when I'm cleaning windows"

Great fun......with some lovely friends.

We have to say goodbye to Roger and Pat as they have to get to Coventry to drop Paul there. I am sure we'll meet up again sometime as Roger and pat are looking for a winter mooring down south as we are and who knows.......we could end up as neighbours????
Roger and Pat with Hmmmmm.......
....who else is that in the picture???
No sooner had Roger and Pat left Brian and Irene who own NB Rangitoto moored up wanting lunch. Rather than feed them I direct them to The Red Lion. We were chatting to Brian and Irene a few days ago and I'm sure we'll bump into them again as they, like us are heading north.

So.......onwards north....with a bit of south, east and west chucked in!

Since the last blog we've done 48 miles, 28 locks and 2 tunnels!
This gives a grand total of 120 miles 100 yards, 87 locks and 6 tunnels (tunnels over 1000yds only).

Monday, 10 June 2013

The REAL Journey begins.....

Since the last blog we moved slowly towards Crick for the boat show and arrived nice and early and found a half empty marina. Following a pump-out (you all must know by now that we carry our poo around in a tank and every 4 weeks get it "pumped-out") We moored in the spot allocated to Milburns and then gave the boat a bit of a clean. On Sunday Morning we were all excited as we were going back to Southampton to see family and friends. While waiting for the lovely Kelly Moksa to turn up look below at what we spotted........

This is what the fishermen are fishing for......
Big eh? I think it's a Carp??
oh, and that is a ginger biscuit it is nibbling on!
So, it's off to Southampton we go to see family and friends.....the journey in the car was not good as our life on the boat moves around 2 mph and in the car it changed to 50-70mph.....quite scary!
Anyways it was worth it to see most of the family again including my brother Graham who we couldn't get down to see with Swamp Frogs due to my bad back. Graham came with a bag of goodies for us all we need to do now is find homes for them......we have "homed" one at the moment and thank you Graham as it looks perfect on the top of Swamp Frogs.
Our frog we have named Graham
After spending 2 days wizzing around Southampton we got back home after doing a BIG shop as we had the use of a car and then set about getting our home ready for the show not that much needed doing......Steve and Andy both came to complete the very small snagging list whilst we cleaned the boat inside and out and we're now ready......
.....Sandie, Steve and the kiddies turned up late Thursday and found the camp-site closed until the morning so parked their caravan next to the crane for the night.....a couple of beers later all is ok and no problem!

Big surprise was on Sunday the phone rang.....
oooooh it's my Daughter Claire!
"Hi Dad", says Claire, "hows it going"?
"Yep, really well thanks, very busy but good. Hows you all"?
"Yeah we are all fine, what's the weather like at Crick"?
"The weather is lovely and warm with a clear blue sky"
"Great says Claire we are about 10mins away and didn't bring our coats"
So the day was made better as we got to see Claire, Jacob and Ellie May. No Dan though as he took the opportunity to do some more work on their house. (you work too hard Dan)

Over the course of our travels we are going to try and find boats with our Grandchildren's names
here is the first.....
We have seen a Kayliegh but didn't have the
camera to hand!
The show itself was very busy and although we didn't win best boat in show Swamp Frogs was very busy with a constant flow of people all three days...John, Patsy, Andy, Emma and Pete, you guys worked so hard and deserve success from the show. We know you have 1 confirmed order and we hope you get many more!
I'm not sure what Suzie is saying to the Milburn's but
they are all listening!

ok, win....very scary!
How Suzie and Sandie got right into
the spirit of the show and greeted
potential customers.
Jacob......looking very scary and Terminator like!!! 
All the fun of the FREE funfair!
Far too many rides were had.....they can't stand up!!!
Just such a lovely picture!
OK.......The show is over and it's time to move on. We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Crick and met some lovely people and made many new friends.....Adam and Adrian owners of NB Briar Rose, great hospitality, thank you.....Paul and Elaine who own NB The Manly Ferry aka Caxton we got to meet at last.....Stuart and Tracey NB Midnight Trace, who were our neighbours throughout the show, Kate, owner of NB Priscilla (you'll love it Kate, we hope you got home safe and sound) and Dennis and Ann owner of NB Emily (very worthy winners of best boat in show. We looking forward to our drink in The Romping Donkey next month. Oh and Dennis, have you changed those screws yet?)

We delayed our departure from Crick as the weather change but from here on our lives change again. Since moving onto Swamp Frogs on March 5th we have had some sort of plan.....up until now!
Our time now is our own with no real plan apart from going north to see my Dad and Stepmum but when we get there we don't it's time to sit back and relax and enjoy what we have.

We both know how lucky we are to be able to eat when we are hungry, drink when we are thirsty, sleep whenever we are tired and get up whenever we want to!
We get to see Mother Nature at her glorious best as the seasons change, we get to see an abundance of wildlife and see animals that some people didn't know existed here in England.
The stunning scenery from our windows change daily......

So, it's up north we go.........

Since the last blog we've done 23 miles, 13 locks and 1 tunnel!
This gives a grand total of 72 miles 100 yards, 59 locks and 4 tunnels (tunnels over 1000yds only).