Monday, 31 August 2009

Weekend off and no delay at Fradley

Friday was windy, very windy. As it was blowing onto the towpath I had a bit of fun getting off the side at the start of the day. At times it was getting close to being a bit too much to continue but as I could still manage to steer a straight course at tickover past moored boats I carried on. Stopping at Pooley Fields for an early lunch proved to be a good move as it meant I was indoors when the heaviest  rain of the day appeared. Glascote locks tend to have queues of boats waiting, but apart from the ones coming through each of the locks there was no one about. The rain reappeared after Fazeley and continued until I found a mooring on the way out of Hopwas.

There was good dog walking at Hopwas, but a lousy TV signal and I wanted to watch the F1 so moved on a bit on Saturday morning. There was already someone moored at the spot I was thinking of using so eventually ended up outside Whittington. I stayed where I was for Sunday as I didn’t want to find myself committed to getting through Fradley and missing the Grand Prix. Staying in one place meant I had plenty of time to look around but Whittington didn’t really have much to offer, mainly fairly uninteresting modern housing, but the Co-Op was useful. it is also the location of what must be one of the most unassuming junctions on the whole canal system, no bridge, no stop lock, not even any gauging narrows, just a marker stone that is a recent addition.

29082009636 Junction of the Birmingham & Fazeley and Coventry Canals.

Left this morning prepared for the inevitable queues and general chaos that can be expected at Fradley at this time of year. It was a pretty slow trip up as there seemed to be a moored boat round every bend and the packed visitor moorings on my arrival suggested that it would be as busy as expected. As I approached the swing bridge a boater using the water point very kindly offered to work it for me so I went straight through to the junction and could turn left onto the Trent & Mersey without having to negotiate other boats making their way trough the junction. The boat leaving Junction Lock even turned down the Coventry after I was through so I didn’t even have a boat following me. No other boats were waiting to go up so I had a good run up the two locks and there was even space to moor up above the locks.

After the obligatory dog walking and early lunch I set off again. I’d slotted in after an ascending boat, which was waiting it’s turn to go into Woodend Lock, so didn’t even have a queue there. Not so the boats coming the other way as there were about 6 of them waiting.

I don’t know this bit of the network as I’ve only been this way once before which means I don’t know what’s coming up. The run through Handsacre, Armitage and Rugeley was a bit tedious, again seemingly at tickover the whole way. Luckily there was a boat waiting it’s turn to go through the old tunnel as I don’t think that sending my crew ahead to warn oncoming boats, as suggested by the sign, would be much use.

Moored near bridge 70 this evening, and Lyra has been able to find spots that she is happy to use to get into the river for a paddle.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Down (most of) Atherstone

Mush more pleasant weather today, almost summery at times. I actually remembered to check how much diesel I had left and found that it was getting a bit low so refuelled at Springwood Haven on my way past and then continued to Atherstone for lunch.

I was able to hover for a short while at the top lock until the ascending boat came out, and then could leave the gates for the boat waiting below when I was done. Didn’t meet another boat at any of the next four locks and they were all against me. I was hoping that Lock 6 would be similarly deserted as I want to have a go at using the only working side pond  on the flight, but would prefer to do it without an audience, but the gate was open for me with the crew of a hire boat waiting. Perhaps next time. Met boats at the next three locks, with the GUCC Royalty Class boat “George” being the most interesting.

Moored just below Lock 9 which is one of my usual spots. I’ve always liked this flight of locks and used to sometimes have a trip out just to do the flight. Part of the appeal is the way it starts in the town and with little warning emerges into the countryside.


Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Lyra’s Birthday, and other excitement

Maybe it was me that was excited about today being Lyra’s birthday as I slept really badly last night, she as usual slept like a log. The rain subsided for a while at the right time for her first walk, so she got her first birthday present which is a soft floating ring which she really enjoyed playing with on the towpath. I don’t think that it will last too long as she’s already split some of the stitching. Finding good hard wearing and buoyant toys isn’t that easy.

IMG_8764 As the weather was still undecided as to how much rain it was planning to provide today I kept putting off leaving, which proved quite useful mid morning. The towpath where we were moored was being cut today. After the first guy, with the large powered mower, went past Lyra wanted to see what all the noise was about so I let her out onto the well deck. Moments later the mower slipped into one of the washouts that this bit of towpath suffers from. The second grass cutter was some way behind and concentrating on the trimming, so I quickly put Lyra back inside the boat and rushed down to help stop the mower making it’s way further into the canal and to drag it back onto dry land. Nothing more serious than a wet leg was suffered but when he came back up the towpath later he was far more cautious.

Eventually we did leave and nothing much happened until we got to Sutton Stop where one of the boats on the long term moorings was across the canal as it’s mooring rope was no longer attached to the bank. There was room for me to pass and by the time I had tied on the lock mooring someone was retying the boat so I didn’t need to go back as I had intended. There were a few boats coming the other way at the junction but even with the strong wind it all worked, probably because there wasn’t a huge crowd at the pub.

As I passed under the bridge at Marston Junction a couple of young lads on bicycles warned me that there were a couple of loose boats just after the junction. I was expecting more of the same and passing would be easy but one of the boats, a short cruiser, was completely free and broadside across the cut alongside a moored boat with no room to get past. I had to stop next to it and make my way to the front of my boat to direct the errant craft across to a couple of people who had stationed themselves on the moored boat. I then had to move forwards to allow a waiting hire boat to vacate the logical space to remoor the escapee, which didn’t pass without problems as I managed to go aground just to add to the fun. Meanwhile an oncoming private boat had stopped to secure the other loose boat. I stopped to make sure that the cruiser was tied up properly, which was fortunate as one of it’s lines had been snapped, which suggests that the problems were caused by someone who interprets the term slow fairly loosely, and a bit of my blue string was needed to make it secure. Once all was sorted the two rescuers continued on their way, I had assumed that they were boaters but they must have just been out for a walk.

I’ve been wondering  recently whether it is me becoming more intolerant or if fewer boaters are slowing down for moored boats. I haven’t come across situations like today before so am tending more towards thinking that it is inconsiderate behaviour.

We moved on a bit further and moored just before bridge 17 for a late lunch just as the weather got really bad, with Lyra getting her other new toy, which is a soft, but fairly tough tug toy for her afternoon walk in a break in the rain.

26082009602 Again she really enjoyed her new toy, but I can’t claim any credit for making good choices as she had joined me in the shop yesterday and had chosen her presents. I find it better to let her choose as I had got a selection of toys for her before she arrived and although they all seemed fine to me, a couple of them haven’t been touched at all.

The weather showed no sign of improving so we didn’t move any further today.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

I hope that they do it sympathetically

We did end up turning round, below Hillmorton locks, this morning. We stopped to do some shopping at Tesco, plus some more important stuff that I needed to get for tomorrow. Lyra also now has a new tag with the boat’s new details on, I think that identifying which boat she belongs to is more important than having my postal address (although she has a second disc with that as required by law). We eventually passed the marina entrance at about 1.30, which kind of means that it took a full 24 hours to go and buy dog food.

Met loads of boats coming towards me, usually in little groups close together with huge gaps between the groups. I can’t really understand the attraction of following another boat only a couple of lengths in front, and if I do end up in a queue I tend to find somewhere to let following boats pass as soon as possible so that I can get back to cruising at my own pace.

After passing through Ansty, the weather looked as if it was going to break with those large drops of rain that tend to proceed a downpour. The sound of thunder suggested an early stop just as I reached the bit of piling that I moored at a while back so I decided to call it a day. In the end the rain didn’t appear. Lyra had a good play on the towpath but eventually we lost her ball as she had chewed too many holes in it and it sank when it bounced into the canal. Luckily she has plenty of other toys.


I got this stoppage email today:

“All Oaks Wood Bank

Monday 21 September 2009 - Tuesday 24 November 2009

All Oaks Wood Bank protection and towpath works – North Oxford Canal

From the 21st September the towpath and car park at All Oaks Wood will be closed to facilitate extensive bank protection and towpath repair works.  The works will last approximately 10 weeks with a towpath diversion in place, unfortunately there will be no alternative car parking available.  Navigation will not be affected by these works.”

It is definitely necessary as in places the towpath is nonexistent and walking down it can be interesting.

25082009588 Although I accept that something needs to be done, I like this section as it is at the moment and hope that the repair doesn’t spoil the character of this section of the canal, which is my favourite bit of the North Oxford. The overhanging trees (which aren’t all oaks) and the “natural” edge makes it such a pretty place. I like piling for the ease of mooring, but this is one place that I’d prefer not to see it.


Monday, 24 August 2009

Lyra needed dog food

As she was close to running out of food, we needed to get her some more so I had to decide whether to spend about 15 minutes in the car or an hour or so on the boat. I wanted to go boating anyway but in the opposite direction to Clifton Cruisers. Eventually going shopping by boat won as a pump out was also about due and heading towards the Coventry wouldn’t have been a good idea today as there was an emergency stoppage at Sutton Stop.

Lyra was really well behaved when I was getting her food. Heidi had come over to see her and although she really wanted to get off and play she stayed on the boat as she’d been told, even when I went indoors to pay. not getting off the boat unless she has her lead on was the first thing that I taught her as it means that when we’re moored she can be free to sit out in the well deck. It does mean that when she decides to get on someone else's boat, I can’t get her off until I put her lead on.

Didn’t get much further up the canal after buying her food, mooring just round the corner next to the old railway bridge across what is now a golf course, it’s nice and quiet here with a good wide towpath for Lyra to have a run. I think I’ll be turning below Hillmorton Locks tomorrow and heading back the other way, unless I change my mind and decide to head somewhere different.

24082009579 Stopping early also meant that I had time to do the overdue oil change on the boat, it always seems to take a lot longer to get to the engine than it does to actually change the oil. One day I’ll get round to rebuilding the engine room to make it easier to get to it.

Lyra had her first taste of Adult Arden Grange food this evening, in a mixture with some of her remaining puppy food, and by the way she devoured it I think that she likes it. When she first arrived she was a bit of a fussy eater so it is really pleasing to see how much she enjoys it now.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Clean bill of health

Lyra had her latest of many visits to the Vet this afternoon. When we first went, just to introduce her, her Vet was a bit concerned that she was underweight and wanted to monitor her progress so we have been visiting monthly since then. Lyra is now up to the weight she should be, and her ribs are no longer visible so we don’t have to go back for 3 months. She is also going to move onto big dog food shortly.

This also means that we’re no longer tied to the local area as we have been and so a longer trip out should happen soon.

The trip back from the top of the Ashby passed with little of note, so there didn’t seem any point in posting about it.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Ashby Canal Extension in water

Had a very pleasant run up to the terminus yesterday, pausing for a while at Market Bosworth so I could wander up to the shops in the village. Whilst moored a BW person walked past the boat, stopped and walked back a bit. My first thought was that he was licence checking and was about to comment on my now modified disc, but no, he was walking the towpath noting work that needs doing.

Paused again for a chat with one of the many ACA members who I met when I had my enforced stay at the top of the canal a while ago, and a look at his very nice boat that he’s almost finished fitting out.

Last time I was here the canal was blocked and the extension works were ongoing, but these are now in water, the enlarged winding hole making it possible even for me to perform a clean turn.

11082009507 It all still looks a little untidy but once the vegetation recovers it’ll be nice.

It used to be possible to walk the old line of the canal towards Measham but this isn’t possible at the moment. 12082009520 All the spoil from the excavation of the nature reserve has been piled on the old line, which wasn’t too much of a problem yesterday as it was dry and firm, but having crossed this the line is fenced off. The old line used to be owned by ACA, but under the extension order this has been compulsorily purchased by Leicestershire County Council and closed off as there is no Right of Way. The next stage of the restoration should start later in the year, further details are available in the Business Plan Summary (1MB pdf).

I have also been able to catch up wit Terry & Linda who look after the ACA shop here at the end and who were so supportive when I was stuck here with a failed engine in 2007, and meet their 2 new puppies and introduce Lyra. I’m moored where I was stuck, managing to tie up so the bit of piling that removed much of my old blacking can’t do the same to the new coat.


Monday, 10 August 2009

My boat has a name

Well, to be honest it has always had a name, but as I mentioned the name that it had up until this morning wasn’t one that I liked.

I’m not particularly superstitious but having looked around a bit I felt that I should do the renaming whilst out of the water, and perform a bit of a ceremony. There are a huge number of different ceremonies discussed on the net, but the one I liked the idea of, when I first thought about renaming soon after I had got the boat, involved surrendering a boat with the old name to Neptune.

So yesterday I became a boat builder and created a fine craft that was duly named and launched onto the Ashby.

09082009482 The boat carried a cargo in the form of one of Lyra’s dog tags – she had two, the one required by law and the one with useful information as to which is her boat. A few words were said and the boat was consigned to the deep.


This morning, having settled my bill with the Ashby Canal Centre, the boat was relaunched, slipping gently into the marina.

The name of the boat now is “Khe Ry”, which despite appearances isn’t just a random collection of letters. In 1997 I had the opportunity to join a caving expedition to Vietnam, exploring in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. One of the many caves that we explored was Hang Khe Ry, although I wasn’t in the team which found it the whole expedition concentrated on this cave due to it’s potential. I am partly responsible for the name of one of the entrances to the cave, and for a tenuous waterways connection, it is from this entrance to the exit that forms the longest known underground river in the world that can be followed without diving. I don’t know what TÍNH ĐỘC ĐÁO CỦA HANG ĐỘNG, or indeed any of the text on that page, means but i have had a print of picture 5.9 on the wall since I got the boat, it’s one of a very small number of pictures of me that exist.

I’m privileged to have been able to have seen that part of the world, though I’m not sure if I would want to do expedition caving in the jungle again as it’s not the most pleasant environment, and being there is certainly one of the high points of my life.

Today’s boating was limited again as there seemed little point in being out in the rain. I stopped at the offside moorings at Stoke Golding as I needed to post some letters and get some milk, and of course touched the still fairly soft paint against the edge, which is old rails there, and so put the first scratches on the new paint. Moved a bit further up during a break in the weather and decided to stop on the plastic at Sutton Cheyney for lunch as it would be more gentle on the paint, and have ended up staying here for the night.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Finishing Touches

I think I'm finished now. I don’t know quite how I’ve managed to fill the last couple of days as it has only really been doing the little detail parts of the job. I now have tunnel bands that look reasonable, though close inspection does show that I didn’t do nearly enough preparation. I left the blacking short so that I could apply the gloss and then overpaint with the last bit of black. This has proved to be a bit of a mistake as the paint has reacted a bit, I guess because the gloss hadn’t fully dried.

I’ve added a central hanger for the rear fenders which means that they no longer droop, so that’s a good improvement.


Keith of nb Hadar left a detailed comment about front fender hanging which made me rethink what I was planning. It has gone back on largely as was but rather than just a loop of chain, I have used a shackle around the T-stud which should reduce that possible sideways movement of the fender. I’ve also done away with the seized tensioners which were in the lower chains as there wasn’t any point in keeping them. The fender is mounted higher than it used to be and looks a lot better for it, it should also lift up if it ever gets caught up when descending a lock. I have weak links again now, but in the absence of thin cord I used cable ties.

I really should have remembered to jet wash the fenders when I had the opportunity, and I’m regretting not having sorted out some paint for the front end.


Much of the rest of the time was spent playing with Lyra, she liked being outside all day and having somewhere to run about just next to the boat, but she didn’t like the gravel path and jumps over it every time. We’ve also been working on a new work and so she now understands “heel” but prefers to be at my right heel. She’ll even walk to heel off the lead on the towpath, but finds ducks a temptation that is very hard to resist.09082009479

All that time out in the open and getting so many walks and plats does make for a tired little dog though, but I’m not sure why she found sleeping like that comfortable with so much grass available.


There was one other job that needed to be done today, but the details of that need to wait until a future post.

Back into the water tomorrow morning, and then the decision as to whether to turn left or right.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Fender hanging advice and spiders

Good weather made for good progress today and now my mind is turning to little improvements that I can make to the boat which are easier to do before we are back in the water. The way that my front fender is mounted is far from ideal and I think I know how to change it, but would appreciate any suggestions, or even being told not to be so stupid.
As the picture shows the top chains are simply connected together and the loop hangs over the T-stud, meaning that the fender can move about and the chains rub on the metal. I also can't see any real advantage of having such long lower chains.
So I'm thinking of using a pair od rings as pictured below, mounted about where the red cross is in the picture above, the rings being about 1.5 inch outside diameter. For the lower mounts I am thinking of just drilling the top rubbing strake about where the green cross is, the strake being well clear of the hull at this point, and just using a shackle to attach the chains.
I think that this will provide a much better arrangement and can't think of any situation which will become a problem.
Whether I continue with the very useful roll of tyre tread that protects the stem post from lock cills, or get a suitable fender to hang down there is still something I am thinking about.

Whilst poking about at the front I ended up disturbing this bunch

It seems that the front of my boat is a good place to bring up your family. I'm quite happy for spiders to share my living space as long as they contribute something, keeping nasty biting insects in check is preferred.
For some reason, Windows Live Writer didn't like the edited picture so I've had to use Bloggers online editor for this post, and I must say I'm not a great fan of it.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

And then it started to rain (again)

There was actually sunshine this morning when I took Lyra for her morning walk. When we got back we had a play on the grass next to the slipway and then she settled down with her toy.

06082009417 To see how she would behave without me giving her my full attention , hoping that she would be able to stay out with me rather than having to be lifted back onto the boat, I got on with stripping the paint off the tunnel bands which wasn’t too difficult as it virtually fell off in sheets. I thing the last coat they had had was done with minimal preparation, possibly just to tidy it up for sale.

06082009421Soon the boatyard was open and my blacking arrived, but I then realised that there was an important job to do before I could start. I had been a very bad person and had forgotten to feed Lyra. Normally she gets fed as soon as we come in from her first walk of the day, but she hadn’t come in this morning. It wasn’t too late and she enjoyed eating al fresco.

Blacking the hull is a tedious and messy job but by lunchtime I had worked my way round and everything was looking a lot better. I then set about rubbing down the tunnel bands and treating the rust patches. As I was about to give them a coat of primer it started to rain, so that was it for the day.


If the forecast as it now stands is anything like the truth, tomorrow looks as if it should be a good day for getting stuff done, and the weekend also looks as if it will be reasonable so there shouldn’t be a problem getting everything done before we get put back in the water.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Slipped up

I’m now out of the water for a few days with the boat up on the slipway at Ashby Canal Centre. Getting here wasn’t the most pleasant boating ever due to the weather. I left Brinklow Marina yesterday morning with the prospect of the odd light shower  according to the Met Office, no mention in the forecast of the torrential downpour that I endured for a significant part of the journey to bridge 3 on the Ashby. The forecast for today looked better.

weather blog Having taken Lyra for a swim up the towpath this morning, I was sufficiently drenched to justify leaving in the rain which was supposed to stop soon after. No such luck, it continued until we arrived here and well into the afternoon.

Normally boats are brought out on Thursday mornings but as that wouldn’t be possible tomorrow I needed to be here for this afternoon and was dragged onto land about 4pm.

05082009400 This has the advantage that I could get on with pressure washing the hull so just as I had begun to dry out it was time to get soaked again to remove the accumulated weed and rust together with the odd mussel. I’ve got through this unpleasant task but as I’m now well ahead I will be able to have a good look tomorrow morning and see if I have missed bits. I should also have time to repaint he tunnel bands which desperately needs doing.

05082009409 My one worry about getting the boat onto the slip was how Lyra would react to being up in the air and having to be lifted off the boat. As expected she is pretty unimpressed with the concept but was happy enough sleeping inside whilst I was washing the hull off. She is a little scared with being carried but should get used to it. Finn, one of her best friends from Brinklow, is moored just up the canal so she had a really good ply this evening.


Monday, 3 August 2009


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