Summer Cruise#1-Day45/46

It must be age cos we’ve done this journey before, years before on a hire boat and then two years ago when we had the solar panels fitted, but then it was all calm and serene; the river gauges were off the bottom of the green and it was hot & sunny! It all changes when you get a bit of rain and anxiety begins! Friday saw us settled at Watermead and it was still drizzling.  I cycled with my new Bickerton down to the first lock at Thurmaston – all OK. Amber I think. Then on to Birstall – hmm, just on the red but the flow was fairly serene. We got a bit downhearted with this drizzle so popped over the road to the Hope & Anchor for lunch – sorry no dogs – so put Toby back on the boat and returned to the pub. Only Abbot as the real ale, hmm, items also not available from the menu. And what we did have was poor to be honest! It looked tired and a bit, well, grubby. So bad move. We skedaddled back to the boat. Then a boat went passed us – some Kiwis on a hire boat – they confirmed that all was OK further upstream, so we decided to go. It should take us about 4 hours – we often use http://canalplan.org.uk/ to plan our route as it does give you a good idea of how long a section should take. Going upstream with a bit of fresh on (as they say) means you go slower, although our boat did well  – Axiom prop and all – steering the twisty, windy river was tricky but we encountered no problems at all and got to Leicester early – six miles and five big locks. We just managed to squeeze in behind Bibendum (Nunc est bibendum = now is the time for drinking!), fellow boaters from Crick.

Here’s Birstall lock – just off the red

And here’s why it’s dangerous to go sailing on rivers in flood – if you didn’t know the exact course of the river, you could end up in a field, with these swans & geese!

Often tricky to know which arch to head for but the rule is . . . the towpath one and/or the biggest one!

The final lock (No 42) with some graffiti and murals

The river gauge here is well into the green, so a sigh of relief from all.

Here’s the new visitor moorings at Friar’s Mill – we are at the end, behind Bibendum, Cumbrian Lass and Swansong.

This was a derelict area that has been smartened up. The moorings have water (and eventually electricity) plus a refuse area and a secure padlocked entrance (at night & weekends).

Leicester even has its own Stargate:

And still it rained but we gave the dog a good walk then headed to the Criterion pub

They had an underground type map of all the pubs in Leicester!

They wouldn’t let Toby in 2 yrs ago (new carpets) but this time they did! A good range of beers (Spitting Feather’s – RSI and Market Harborough Brewery’s Whirlpool No.2  – excellent) and a food menu of just pizza – all handmade too – brilliant. One Diablo and one Gondolier please!

A soggy end to the day but at least we were wet on the inside too! Sorry, a rather fuzzy one of Viv but a happy, smiley face . . . must be the Whirlpool No 2 !

Summer Cruise#1-Day 44

 

Well, we got the all clear from CRT early in the morning – the Soar was no longer in flood. So we pushed off around eleven. I chatted to some continuous cruisers on a green boat, who were seriously thinking of giving up. They love the boat, living on the boat and the waterways but had had enough of the “scrotes” on the canals. It was the people they met that left them fed up! I understand what they mean but it’s a shame.

Today was a weird mix of The Serene, The Hot and The Scary! Yes, the river was now no longer in flood but it still had a flow and there were some strong streams here and there. The Serene:

Just after Loughborough, we entered a very serene stretch.

Lots of greenery – well, it did rain a lot!

Nearing Mountsorrel we encounter that conveyor bridge of 1860

And now for the scary bit – the lock keeper chap at Barrow Deep lock, said we shouldn’t have gone thru the right hand bridge as it’s shallow but not so with all this rain. There was a strong flow pushing the boat back and to the left – full revs & that told it what to do. He also said there’s no trouble with the Soar but . . . the weir at Sileby will push you over . . . here’s the still, showing the strong flow from the weir (it’s always a bit strong, to be honest) but the only way to do this was again, full revs and aim for the lock. Otherwise it would push us onto the concrete bank and we’d be pinned there. Entry to the lock would’ve been a nail screeching crawl along the wall. Not elegant.

Note Skipper has two ropes to secure the boat! And here’s a short video too:

Coming “downhill” is no problem – again a rapid burst will do, just as long as there’s no waiting boats (esp. plastic ones!!) in your way.

Oh, and is this gauge red or amber? Academic really.

A fine day – in fact it got rather hot! Here’s Viv driving! She did very well and ALL the locks too.

Continuing the scary theme  – we met “Caroline”, a Napton hire boat at Cossington lock (hate this one!). They had a very scary experience last night. The hire company made them go round the Leicester ring anti-clockwise, to avoid running into the waterways festival in Leicester in June. But when they did get to Leicester, all the moorings were 4 deep in boats (maybe holing up because of the expected flood?). So they pressed on. They got to Birstall  – they saw the gauge was in the green but in a matter of an hour it had crept up into the red; it had gone up four feet and he’d never been so scared in his life. They were surfing down the river! Which is why we’ve stopped in the canalised bits – just in case.

I’m always shouting “Crocodiles!” to Viv. What I mean is floating logs . .  and there were a lot of them plus tons and tons of rubbish – a consequence of the flooding river, I guess:

Ooh, this one looks red-ish? No, it’s amber – proceed with caution

By now we had done the 10 miles and this was the last lock (no 6) before we moor up outside Watermead Park. The Soar having left us and we were on a bit of canal.

Quite a long day (for us) – over four hours! But we filled up with water (few and far between on this stretch) with one of the slowest taps we know (outside the Hope & Anchor Hungry Horse pub)! But we had arrived – one of our, well, Toby’s favourite spots. We even drive up here from Yelvertoft (about an hour!) for a day trip, just so we can walk around the park and give Toby his beloved swim.

5 more locks and 5 more miles to get to Leicester – let’s hope for not much in the way of rain.

 

Summer Cruise#1-Days 40-43

 

Oooh – let a few days slip by! Last post was Saturday, tis a very wet Wednesday and so we must be in Loughborough! Third visit here and we always plan to be here in the rain! One reason is to avoid being caught on the river Soar which can rise in level & flow pdq. The town is on a canalised section and is a lot safer and quite a decent place for shopping, beer, facilities and beer!

That blasted toilet hinge didn’t arrive at the marina, when kind Kate tried to phone LeeSan, they informed us, rather belatedly that it was being shipped from the States and would take another week (or two) What?? If I’d ordered it from Jabsco it could have been here the next day, doh! Still, not the marina’s fault – they have been very good. So let’s slip and move on with our tour!

Viv takes some nature shots straight from our side hatch at Sawley Cut

It’s through the locks and down the last bit of Trent and up the Soar!

We’ve covered this stretch before (see blog passim – 2015) but here’s a rear view of the very deep Kegworth lock.

Cruising the Cut, vlogger, David often takes videos of the nice houses (hi-ziz?) one comes across on the network – so here’s a gorgeous one at Kegworth.

We reached Zouch and decided that was enough – it was very windy and so called it a day. Nice spot to walk the dog too. Tuesday we headed off early towards Loughborough – passing the Zouch weir:  All calm now.

We moored up outside what was, the Albion. Shame it has now past into history.  Yes, it was an old-fashioned pub, out on a limb but it shut down in Nov 2015. Still, it’s a quiet mooring spot and a gorgeous sunset.

We spent lunch & evening at the Swan in the Rushes – a Castle Rock pub which had a wonderful selection of real ales and on Tuesdays as it happened, was 2 4 1 on food, so we had a Spinach, chick pea & sweet potato curry plus a beef madras curry for just £7.95. Not bad either. We also played dominoes – these had up to 9 pips on! Hmm. It passed the time. (Beers were Lagunitas, Saltaire’s Sir Titus, Charnwood IPA,  Charnwood Charmer and Titanic’s Plum Porter)

Wednesday was forecast to be wet and then some. 0900 to 2100, continuous wet. And lo, it came to pass. Viv went out shopping (and got wet). I cycled out to see the Grand Central Railway station and the Taylors bell foundry (still making bells). We then walked down to the end of the canalised bit we came thru to see the state of the river and yes, the red light was on! The level scale was only on the amber but I guess the levels would continue to rise.

A very different day – wet!

All togged up for the dog walk. Down at the second lock (Meadow Lane), the red light was on!!

I’m guessing that CRT are being cautious but the level can only continue to rise, below the lock it was only registering just on the amber but it would be unwise to venture downstream.

One animal was enjoying it all – Toby! Just after this bridge the Soar joins the canal exit and didn’t seem too much in a hurry. Just hope it subsides by tomorrow lunchtime when we plan to carry on up the Soar!

Summer Cruise#1-Day39

 

Today was the main event day of the Nottingham Yacht Club’s Summer “Do”. It’s about 40 minutes walk away, past Trent Lock and round to the end of Cranfleet Cut. They had quite a lot of stalls (welly wanging, plate smashing, toy goldfish in bags(?!) ), a brass band, beer and a Spitfire fly-past!

I managed to capture some of it plus a dreadful video of the Spitfire not helped by the band, bless em!

Here’s those iconic towers again

Quite a busy place

Lots of boats both narrow and not so narrow, turned up plus 100’s of pedestrians

A view down the lock to the Trent

The bar was so busy we didn’t stop plus Toby is not too keen on crowds so we bimbled back, via the Steamboat Inn where we were pleased to discover a revival of an old brand – Shipstones! Viv had a pint of Shipstone’s Gold, Steve had a pint of “Good, the Bad and the Drunk” by Falstaff (6.2%?) see Falstaff brewery

 

Summer Cruise#1-Day38 – Tech Stuff

 

For those vaguely interested in techie stuff and possibly those curious about living on a narrowboat :

What do we do for power?

In the marina or with shore power supplied we basically have one power socket – imagine a home with one socket. Yep. Just one. We can draw 16 amps but you have to be careful what you plug in. Fortunately, most appliances are low power. I changed all the 31 light bulbs from halogens at 10 or 20 watts to LEDs at around 1 watt. The TV, laptops etc don’t consume much. The fridge is mains powered and at worst draws 8 amps but then not all the time, so let’s say 4 amps continuously.

We have 600 ampere-hours of energy in the 3 AGM batteries and not wishing to go beyond 50% of their capacity, to prolong their life, we have 300 Ah to use.

We usually get through 10% overnight or 20% if we watch lots of TV, DVDs etc. I don’t think it’s gone down below 60% ever.

Once the engine is started, the a.c. alternator can give 3,500 watts back, so the battery charger, set to 90 amps makes short work of replacing any usage.

However, if we stop for a few days or even a week . . . ? What then?

We have a solar array of 4 x 100 watt panels and these at their very best will give about 25 amps. So they still will not recharge a heavy usage – imagine you need a 33% recharge – 33% of 600Ah is 200Ah, so with a reasonable 20 amps coming in it will take 10 hours. Possible but unlikely in our climate. All the panels do is keep us topped up enough to not have to start the engine, even after a week of sitting still. Luckily at this time of the year, the juice starts flowing quite early as the sun comes up.

Higher powered appliances? Cookers, washing machines, toasters etc?

On shore power no problem – as long as we remember to count up our total power (washing machine on heat, takes 1.8kW etc). With the engine running and at a fairly high revs, we can do the same, which is why we usually save up our washing, bread making, slo-pot cooking etc for when we’re underway.

Washing: our slimline washing machine only uses kilowatt power for the heating stage, so we have taken to turning the heater off (a useful facility on the Ariston), just setting it to a cold wash but adding 10 litres of hot water from the tap. So we get a 40 degree wash but don’t use any kilowatts to heat the water. The few 100’s of watts the machine uses for turning the drum etc are easily supplied by solar and/or batteries. Neat tip there for liveaboards!

Cooking: we use the gas hob for 99% of all cooking, using a big ceramic coated frying pan with a lid to do almost everything. A 13kg bottle of gas seems to last 6 months or more. If we run the central heating and we do in these not-quite-Summer mornings, it will eat up about 0.5 kg a day. So then a bottle will last for a month. Not bad and no need to service it (ever) and no nasty pollutants either plus it’s so quiet. We do use a bread machine and again this only takes power when heating up at the end, the last 52 minutes and then only 600 watts, so we plan for the engine to be on then. Ditto with the slo-pot, this uses up to 800 watts but only in an on/off cycle. Again a vital piece of cookware as we can do whole joints in 6 to 8 hours and they are so tender.

I borrowed the power meter from our old house and clamped it to the a.c. output of the Victron. So we now have a display in the main cabin of how much a.c. power we are consuming – just a check to make sure nothing has been left on.

 

Summer Cruise#1-Day 37

 

Still moored at Sawley Cut – we were planning to move on today but someone sat on the toilet seat & broke it! So a new hinge ordered (for yes, we are now officially unhinged!) from Sawley Marina Chandlers – opposite. I phoned CRT to let them know and they were happy for us to stay a few more days. There’s enough space here for 20 boats, so we’re not hogging any spaces but they are labelled as 48 hr moorings. We walked to the Steamboat Inn yesterday – a great pub at Trent Lock – all their real ales (and they had 3) are £3 and the food is very good too. Despite our diet, we opted for their “Chip Cob” with extra bacon, cheese & coleslaw! Oink, indeed. Toby took up his usual position but was fed copious quantities of dog biscuits by the bar person.

Is Toby enjoying the trip? Only when we stop . . .

The Steamboat has lots of “sayings” written on the walls . . .

Bit of a wait for the food so we had a pint or two of Lancer and a new Wheat beer, here’s their famous chip cobs, 1 of our five a day, if you include the pot of coleslaw!!

Toby knows the routine now . . . .

It’s a pleasant 20 minute walk back to Sawley Cut – passing a golf course and this lovely Ceanothus and look, Steven in shorts!!

On the opposite bank of the Trent we saw two gentlemen not walking a dog but their drone lawnmower – neat!

Viv had the camera, so more nature pix: a posing robin

David (of Cruising the Cut fame) found these industrial landmarks quite charming. I guess they do have a presence. (Spot the Steve).

Back at the Sawley locks. The building on the left is to be the Lock keeper’s rest, micro pub . .  opening . . . later in May.

Some local drama that evening as a guy (so I’m told the next day) jumped off the bridge into the Trent. Police, ambulances, fire engines and the air ambulance helicopter turned up!

He was successfully revived I’m glad to report.  Meanwhile, next morning and it’s drizzling – a quite different picture from the earlier post but it does show that we’re not hogging any moorings!

What to do with a day that rains later . . .  make more trifle, yea! This time Viv has excelled herself – proper sherry trifle with sponges soaked, nay inundated with sherry then two jellies (pineapple and blackcurrant) plus custard and toasted almonds on top. Steve also had a go at making more pickled eggs.  

And now as Spike Milligan might have said, for the exploding toilet . . . .

We just need parts (2).

Summer Cruise#1-Day 33

 

Despite inching our way into Summer, it is only May and it has been decidedly nippy. The gas central heating has come on each morning (it has a set back temperature of about 14 degrees!) but it was time to leave Nottingham. I must also leave my Victor Meldrew hat behind as I keep on ranting about the state of the network/permie boaters stuck on visitor moorings/poor facilities etc “don’t get me started!”. Nottingham City Council could also “do better” as it is not very welcoming to boaters. There are no water points between the start and finish of the canal, no refuse points, toilets or showers.  The one at the ends are also out of use. And as Viv’s just reminded me, no poo bins for the dogs!! Time to move on. Here’s one of Viv’s nature pix – coot and baby coot!

An old boat yard with the same boat that’s being fitted out (for years) – would suit my brother Chris?

Not a particularly nice stretch, going past the Boots factory plus some graffiti

Ah, those facilities at Beeston . . .

CRT seem to want to spend £1,000’s on banners rather than keeping the system working!

This is Beeston lock – out on to the Trent – levels are very low. The drop here is only a foot – can be five feet!

As you can see all very tranquil, hardly any sign of a flow and no wind thank goodness.

Rather than re-join the Leicester Ring loop, we’re now at the top, map-wise, we backtracked to Sawley Cut – a nice mooring, hopefully to visit the new micro-pub right by the lock but alas, Dave the owner is still waiting for racking kit to arrive and it looks like a week’s delay. Oh, well we’re only an hour away by car from our marina so we’ll be back. Meanwhile here’s a “View From” photo looking back towards the lock, with the Derby Motor Boat Club on the right.

And from the bow at sunset . . .

 

Summer Cruise#1 – Days 29-35

 

We hung around Newark for some post to be forwarded, visited the Blue Monkey brewery pub, the Organ Grinder and also the Just Beer place (again) as well as several trips to Waitrose, darling. We left on Friday and sailed against the flow of the mighty Trent (all of a 1 knot flow I reckon), through town lock, Hazleford lock and made Gunthorpe lock just before the lockie clocked off at 1730. Back to the lovely visitor moorings, almost to ourselves. Here for a few days R&R then on to Nottingham, to begin the last segment of the Leicester Ring.

Here’s crewman, quartermaster, lock wheeler .. . .  . Viv at the helm – with a big following wind causing quite large and scary waves. Engine revs were increased to counteract the “uphill” journey.  Engine temp increased but became steady.

Hazleford lock keeper said we were spot on time, as each lock radios ahead to tell them who’s coming up.  Our  SOG (speed over ground) was 4 mph. The boat did well (Isuzu 42 and Axiom prop).

Back to the Gunthorpe moorings and the next morning, wall to wall blue skies and sunshine. Dog liked it too.

The mighty Trent – a lot calmer now.

We treated ourselves to an Indian takeaway from the nearby Bridge & Bayleaf – one of six eateries within walking distance. Highly recommended.

Saturday (Day 32?) we left and did the last bit of main Trent, thru Stoke Bardolph lock and Holme lock and into the Nottingham canal beside Trent bridge and on to the visitor mooring near Sainbury’s and Castle marina (again) busy but fairly secure . . .

Firstly, with a few days to spare what is one to do but make a trifle – no sherry but two jellies and custard and toasted almonds! Should last a week??

We passed the outfall at Burton Joyce where the swans seem to love the water

Round past the signs of ancient landing stages where barges used to load/unload. Now occupied by a solitary heron.

And back to usual spot just before the marina

And not too far to walk to the Crafty Crow – a new set of beers on this time, we tried the Black Jesus (black IPA, nice but powerful) and the American Pale (Backyard Brewhouse), even better!

Viv enjoyed it too!

Talking of security, our friends on Narrow Minded, caught us up and managed to squeeze in behind. They were leaving their boat to pop home (electric bikes/train).  They told us they’d left it before and it had been broken into – kids probably, who nicked everything and threw most of it in the field nearby. They also let off all three extinguishers leaving a heavy coating of dust everywhere. Nice. So they now leave their boat in this rather armoured condition. Hoping any deviants would pass their boat and go nextdoor, nice!  

 

Summer Cruise#1 – Day 28

 

Well, to be honest we are a bit bored with rivers and long for the canal system – didn’t think I’d say that but there it is. Plus on arrival in Newark, our neighbours said that they’d found out it was only a short walk to Newark Castle railway station and then a £6 return, 18 minute journey direct service to Lincoln! So, no-brainer really. Neither of us feel particularly motivated to move on any further down the Trent, having visited both Lincoln & Boston when we lived up by here years ago. So, off we went to Lincoln – Toby comes too!

Quite a pleasant & rapid trip

Toby was completely unfazed by it all.

We walked about 17,000 steps by the end of the day – around the Brayford pool

Looked at all the boats and wondered why local councils are so poor at welcoming boaters – not a great deal here for narrowboats

This is a view looking back west to the Fossdyke

And Steven with his new FatFace top, with the famous Glory Hole behind.  This is now the river Witham and the low height prevents bigger boast from cruising down this stretch, which ultimately leads to Boston.

Beyond the Hole there are supposedly moorings – you can see a few rings & cleats and later I saw a sign saying 24 hrs only.  Hmm, not a particularly nice spot and hard to get access to the path especially with a dog.

After a coffee & roll, we began the long walk up Steep Street to the cathedral

Stunning views of the cathedral and the recently renovated friezes

It was £8 admittance and we weren’t if the dog could go so we didn’t linger, much

Very impressive . . .

The bishop was a tad tired after the walk and dealing with all the peasants . . .

No dogs allowed in the castle nor the museums or galleries, so we walked back down to view the river, the sculpture and the moorings more closely

Yes, I think we made the right decision to visit by train! We returned to the station, via the cake shop & the Chinese supermarket and later on a visit to the Blue Monkey brewery pub, the Organ Grinder and then back to the Just Beer pub, who were looking forward to a load of students turning up after 9 – they are from the music college (?) where they make instruments (?). They just have a free jam session. We must revisit another Tuesday evening I think to watch this.

We’ll be here for a few more days as we are waiting for our postal voting cards to arrive from my folks in Kent to the P.O. here in Newark.

 

Summer Cruise#1 – Day 27

 

May Day, May Day! Perhaps not the best shout from a boat on the waterways but, yes, tis now May indeed! No, we didn’t get up at dawn to dance skyclad around any maypoles. We set off about ten ish. Woke the lockie up and went thru Gunthorpe Lock. Then a yogurt pot decided to come too, so we stopped the lock operations, reversed the flow and opened the gates to let him in. Hmm, big lock. Then out on to the mighty Trent for a 4 hour cruise to Newark:

Just out of the lock – all the foam is from the giant weir behind . . .

A view looking back – just to show how wide and to be honest a bit plain this bit is . . . we do like this  cruise but, to be honest, we prefer the canal network. More places to stop and more to see?

Hazleford lock opens for us . . .

Just before Farndon marina we saw this little RIB with a couple of Boy Scouts and er, a mayor, complete with chains of office . . . . I think the local scouts were having a jamboree . .

We had arranged to call in at Farndon for a pump out, they only charge £10, which is what we pay back in our home marina. Didn’t know at the time how prestigious this place was and that it’s the most expensive marina around (2 year waiting list).

Not really geared up for 65 foot boats! Notice the odd boat in the background – Enigma?

As we passed a huge power station we saw this work of art by Norman Sillman (see Staythorpe )

And then past the weir . . . . hmm not all boomed . . . just open . .

The huge Averham weir – only partially boomed off – a bit unnerving seeing all that water cascading, keep right indeed.

Weirs are not the only hazard on this stretch – we had two very large boats pass us! The tour boat,

And then Gwendoline!

Final stop for Adagio, on the visitor pontoons – lucky to find a space – easier to get the dog on and off. Unlike the next pic – of Newark castle (and that grockle boat) which shows the longer stay moorings but very high walls.

Chatting with Craig, one of the lock keepers, he replied to my query about local pubs, with – see that iron stairway over there – follow that up to a courtyard and you’ll find “Just Beer”, an award winning micro pub . . . .

Which of course we did!

A very warm welcome inside – especially for dogs (several in there already)

Smashing host and a great spread of beers & ciders . . .

Quite interesting – we tried a few!  Back for one of Steve’s chicken & mushroom risottos with garlic, white wine and shed loads of butter & parmesan cheese!