Saturday, 21 October 2017

the lonely cottage

Without a boat we were now free to spend more time in Cornwall, the most south westerly tip of England. Lottie had always found our trips enjoyable but Steve (the grumpy ex-captain) couldn’t face a week on a blow up bed in the lounge of a hectic family home. However the nearest cottage we had managed to rent for a week was an hour’s drive away from my daughter’s house.
After packing frantically with Lottie parked in the hall way we left home at 10:20, a bit later than intended.
our acess track
The traffic was heavy all the time I drove, but kept moving until Stonehenge. We made our first stop at Solstice services. Having used the facilities Steve took over the driving taking a detour to miss the slow traffic by Stonehenge.
Once back on the A303 we stopped for lunch at the large lay-by after Cricklade. fortunately it was a dry day, and warm enough to stand outside. It was rather primitive after having a boat kitchen to enjoy. We stood by the car eating sandwiches and cake and washed down with apple juice.
The parking space behind the cottage
view from the lounge
After lunch Steve drove on until after Exeter. I took over for last 30-40 minutes to the cottage while Steve studied the directions to Trefrize. To get to the cottage we’ve rented we had to leave the dual carriageway onto a narrow road. This led to a narrower lane with passing places. Next we turned onto a Cornish road just wide enough for a vehicle to pass along. Finally I turned up a steep drive (marked public footpath). the car crawled up it in 1st gear, and rounded a rough 90 degree left hand turn near the top. Lottie as usual, was well behaved on the drive to Cornwall, but she burst into song as we neared our goal along the ever narrowing lanes.
The cottage, a converted stable, is everything we expected from the details and photos on the website. It’s in the middle of nowhere, very quiet and peaceful.
The amiable owner soon popped in to welcome us which was lovely. By the time we’d unpacked there was time to visit Chelle (our daughter) and family. Having checked the routes, distance and timing at home we expect to have an hours drive to Chelle’s. However, it averaged out at 45 minutes each way.
the only buildings in sight
It was good to visit them and Chelle cooked us roast lamb for dinner. That cheered Steve considerably he was still positive when we set off back to the cottage. It was dark when we got back and apart from the stars there were no other lights around.

Lottie seemed to like the cottage and settled down for the night quickly in the small bedroom, even though there was not much spare room around the bed.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

the final farewell

Our boat in final paint scheme
Lisa phoned to confirm the survey was fine. The buyer was going ahead with the purchase and was leaving the boat out of the water until it could be blacked up. The Captain agreed to meet her in the office at 1.00 to sign all the paperwork.
It was 10.00 when we left Mum’s heading northwest. There were problems on the M6. We diverted around it but still reached King’s Bromley Marina just after 12.00. We picked up the spare keys and said goodbye to the staff who were there.
Then we set off for Great Hayward Marina, arriving just after 1.00. We completed the paperwork, handed over the keys and checked they had the boat’s logbook and other documents.
As the boat was out of the water we had a good look at her hull. The steel work was as good as when we had her surveyed prior to buying 10 years ago. Amazing that the survey said she had not lost any thickness to the steel.
Then we strolled over to the neighbouring farm cafe for a celebratory lunch.
our boat at its survey before we bought it
Our drive back home started later than the Captain intended. He had a fairly untroubled drive down to Cherwell services on the M40 even though the traffic was heavy at times.
rear of boat
However there were problems being reported ahead both on the M40 and on the M25 which was reported as having heavy congestion from the junction with the M40 all the way round to Reigate.
We decided to leave the motorways and reached home via Oxford, Reading, Bracknell, Guildford and Dorking.
After Guildford we stopped at a park on the top of the Surrey hills to take a break from driving, give Lottie a walk and give her dinner.

Normally the drive home takes 3 ½ hours. Today it took over 6 only partly because Great Hayward Marina was an extra ½ hour away. The Captain was philosophical; “we won’t have to do that journey again”, he said.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Left high and dry?

After an early breakfast we moved the boat round to Great Hayward Marina. It only took a few minutes. Boats were moored alongside engineering so we headed for the service pontoon.
We started unloading but moved to a brokerage mooring when a member of the marina’s staff gave us the code to use the security gate. After moving our stuff to the car hampered by an unhappy Lurcher who wanted to cruise on, we checked out with the sales staff, giving them my mother’s phone number to contact us on as we were spending the rest of the day with her.
We had a good drive over to Mum’s. In the afternoon the Captain phoned the sales people to see if the boat had passed her survey. No one in the office knew what was happening. Was our boat waiting out of the water to be blacked or did we have to take her back to Kings Bromley Marina?

Lisa our sales rep promised to call in the morning so we had a take-away with Mum and stayed the night with her.

Friday, 25 August 2017

my first time as a single hander

first obstacle of the day
After breakfast we all cruised to Colwich Lock as the gates are heavy and it can take two crew members to open them. The lock was deserted so the Captain worked the lock for me opened the top gate then closed up behind me.
“What will you do if you get to Great Hayward lock before me?” he asked.
“Join the end of the queue,” I replied as it is usually busy there. 
After fighting to get Lottie to leave the boat the Captain walked her along the towpath back to the car. Meanwhile I enjoyed the adventure of steering alone.
peaceful cruising
Although his walk took half an hour it didn’t take the Captain long to drive to Great Hayward. Finding parking proved to be more difficult as everywhere close to the lock was full. He eventually found a place ten minutes walk from the lock.
After a too short cruise I arrived at the lock to find it empty with no boats around. I tied up to the lock bollards and went up to the lock and opened the gates passing a lady painting on my way. As this meant crossing over the far gate to open the far gate it took several minutes. However I was surprised to find that Fine Chance now featured in the foreground of the lady’s art.
Great Hayward lock ready to enter
I pushed the bow out,stepped aboard and steered under the bridge into the lock. As the front of the boat slid slowly past the gate I reversed the engine to virtually stop the forward motion. Then I stepped off the rear deck holding the centre rope as I had seen single hander’s do at this type of lock. I walked up the steps guiding the rope past the gate and pulled the boat forward. Once clear of the gate I wound the rope round a bollard to keep the boat still while I closed both gates.
Boat moored just before the junction 
I opened the paddles slowly so that the water didn’t shove the boat around and proudly watched her rise. This was my first solo lock and probably my last. A lady with a windlass walked up as a boat rounded the corner but by the time he reached me I had opened the gate.
As I walked back to board the boat the Captain arrived with Lottie who barked s if cross she had missed her cruise.
“Moor just before the junction," he called out as he waited to help the lady close the gate after her boat was in place.
I had stepped off and was just pulling the boat over when Lottie arrived at our new mooring dragging the Captain behind her.
Lottie cooling off in the pond
After a cup of tea the Captain suggested we have lunch at the farm cafe then go for a walk on Cannock Chase.
Having reclaimed the car we drove round to the farm cafe which had a terrace overlooking the canal. We had seen the land before the cafe was built and passed by several times during its construction, but never eaten there. 
We had an excellent lunch which included fresh farm eggs, mushrooms and bacon. Lottie waited patiently for her scraps of bacon at the end of the meal.

After a bit of trial and error we managed to find a quiet car park on Cannock Chase for Lottie’s afternoon walk. Lottie got hot but found a pond to cool off in. We parked at the marina where our boat would be surveyed tomorrow and bought cold pie and salads from the nearby farm shop for our evening meal. We bought ice creams to eat as we walked back to the car but I was startled to see a lady giving her two terriers an ice-cream each. All Lottie gets is a scrap of ice-cream on the very end of the cone!

Thursday, 24 August 2017

The final cruise

Roofless Armitage tunnel
After breakfast we prepared to move off. Concerned about the boat alarm the Captain took the helm. As usual when moving the boat to a new location I saw him out of the marina. As he was about to turn onto the cut a narrowboat appeared through the overgrown foliage. I signalled halt. By the time our boat had drifted to a stop the boat on the cut emerged from the Captain’s blind spot and chugged by.
Collision avoided I waved him on and walked to the car with the dog. I took my time driving to Armitage as the boat would take much longer. I parked by the 7 foot wide tunnel in a handy canal side car park and walked through the tunnel to meet our boat at the other side. Boaters are asked to send a crew member on ahead to make sure no boat is in the tunnel to avoid an impasse in the middle as the bend makes it hard to see through.
Our boat approached as another narrow boat entered the tunnel. I signalled the Captain to stop. A red faced woman ran along the tunnel towpath waving her arms frantically.
half way to Wolsley Bridge
“Stop!” she yelled “boat coming!” the Captain nodded. “My wife did tell me,” he remarked as he stepped off onto the towpath.
The woman seemed confused as I had strolled through from her side.
After her boat had cleared the tunnel our boat passed though and moored just beyond the car park.
“Every thing okay?” I asked.
“Fine he replied “no problems, the alarm didn’t go off.”
She wants you to change your mind about selling her,” I replied.
Over a leisurely lunch the Captain decided to head to Wolsley Bridge to moor for the night.
“There’s plenty of mooring there but where will we park the car?” the Captain asked.
“Perhaps the pub will let us park overnight there if we eat there,” I replied.
close to the night's mooring
“Good idea, I’ll meet you there.”
You take the car; I’ll drive the boat,” I replied. “I’m going to enjoy my last cruise.”
“Will you be all right through the narrow bit?”
“I’ll be fine,” I replied.
The Captain cast off and walked with Lottie to the next bridge to see me through that one as it was on a sharp bend. I would have to negotiate a worse one alone. Lottie was reluctant to return to the car. The Captain would take about 20 minutes to drive to Wolsley Bridge whereas it would take me an hour and a half to meet him.
I enjoyed being alone at the helm. I met another boat in the narrow stretch near the town centre as we passed moored boats but slid Fine Chance between the moored boats and on coming boat with a couple of inches each side.

moored up
Shortly after the aqueduct I spotted one Lurcher leading the Captain towards me. The Lurcher had clearly been taking a dip in the canal to cool off as she was very wet. I shut the boat’s door to stop the soggy Lurcher drying herself on the future owner’s sofa.
They boarded eagerly.
“I should have brought shorts with me,” the Captain complained. “I got hot walking along the towpath. I looked around but the only parking was at the pub,” the Captain said. “But the pub landlord was happy for me to leave the car in his car park over night. I’ve reserved a table in the bar for dinner tonight as dogs are allowed in there.”

By the time we cruised to Wolsley Bridge the soggy Lurcher was dry. We moored before the bridge and relaxed before having an excellent meal at the pub. The Lurcher waited patiently for us to finish our meal before being rewarded with left overs. The Captain mellowed over to pints of draft Doom bar. I haven’t seen him so happy on a cruise for ages.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Boat for sale

The almost clean boat

The captain has had enough. He decided it was time to sell the boat and do something else.
First we had to clean and paint it which we did over the winter months taking advantage of the mild winter. It was sad work making her pretty when we were not going to enjoy using her any more. You can’t use the boat once it is at brokerage
The boat was put on the market. I was sad, the Captain was determined. To leave the bathroom sweet smelling he headed for the service pontoon for the final pump out of the holding tank.
Boat dog relaxing while we paint
The Captain struggled to reverse our boat into its berth. He tried twice but the wind pushed her around. Then the boat showed her displeasure at being put up for sale by sulkily sounded an alarm. Its shrill beep startled us, in nine years we had never heard it go off. The Captain headed back to the easier mooring on the service pontoon to find out what was wrong.
small but cosy
The temperature warning light was flashing as well but the engine had not been running long enough to reach its normal operating temperature. The Captain was baffled but decided to let everything cool down before he tried to return to our berth just in case it was serious.
I made a cup of tea to soothe him while he called RCR (River and Canal Rescue). They couldn’t help or advise him on what to do as they had never heard of an alarm going off when the temperature was only 60 degrees instead of the usual 80 degrees.
lurcher occupying half the seating!
Have you checked the coolant level? The RCR man suggested.
The Captain checked the header tank and all the electrical connections and then headed back to the berth. He abandoned any attempt at reversing in and nosed into the berth.
We walked back to the car on the rain.

Goodbye boat. Will we see you again?

The engine alarm

Six weeks after putting the boat up for sale the Captain received an offer on the boat, conditional on it passing its survey, which he accepted.
moored on the pontoon
Three weeks later we headed back to the marina to take the boat to Great Hayward for its survey as the local facility had shut down. It was a two day journey at walking pace or just over half an hour in the car! The Captain allowed an extra day to repair the faulty alarm or temperature control or engine coolant system even though he had reported the fault to the sales team.

One complication was that the new owner had said if the boat passed he would leave it out of the water to have its hull blacked up. We decided one of us would drive the car around while the other cruised the boat to the survey. Once the boat was delivered to the dry dock we could empty our last possessions out and head for home.

We had a reasonable journey to Kings Bromley Marina but it still took over three and a half hours in heavy traffic. The Captain decided to run the engine while de-wintering the boat so that he could check the temperature switch and decide what action to take.

stretching her legs
I took our Lurcher on a long walk while the Captain switched on the water pump and checked for leaks as this can be a tense time for him. As I arrived back the engine alarm beeped twice then stopped as the Captain charged from the far end of the narrowboat.
“Did you touch it?” he asked. I shook my head. “Strange it seems to have switched itself off,” he murmured. He poked around the engine bay to see if the engine coolant system was working.

Baffled he came back. “Perhaps the temperature switch was sticking. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens tomorrow when the engine gets up to cruising temperature,” he said.