Perfect Harmony

Perfect Harmony
Moored at Huntingdon

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

26th April '11

So much for cunning plans.....

I slept in somewhat and so we didn't get off until nearly 10 this morning - the weather was cold, overcast and much windier than yesterday. We got to the lock and there was a short queue and then when we came out the boat before us had moored outside the pub - another boat was coming in leaving little room for manoeuver to get around the corner. Naturally the wind caught us as soon as we put our nose out onto the Coventry canal and we ended up with the nose in one bank and the stern on the other across the canal. I went up the front to push us off and had to climb out onto the rocks to get some purchase and promptly slipped a bit into the water - luckily only one leg up to mid-calf but in trying to climb onto the boat I managed to bash myself about a bit - nothing that some Arnica isn't putting right though! We got off the side and pulled away quite quickly after John came up the front and gave it another shove. We both wished we had gone through yesterday when a. the wind wasn't as bad and b. it was nothing like as busy. However hindsight is wonderful and it could have worked out differently.

Anyway we are now on the Coventry and have stopped at Nuneaton to find a wool shop - amazingly there was one and I was able to buy more stocks of green yarn for the blanket plus some other stuff I wanted for my Mum's (now very belated) birthday present! I can get on and do that now.

The weather has remained cold today but we are seeing more signs of celebrations for the Royal wedding on Friday - Union Jacks are well in evidence both on boats and in windows and gardens along the way. We are expecting to get to Willington at the weekend if all goes well - phew!

We have seen a mass of wonderful bluebells today - we have seen odd ones that are more like naturalised hyacinths but today there was a woodland grove completely blue - they are one of my most favourite flowers so I was very happy to see them.

Just before stopping we realised that we have lost the cowl from the top of the chimney - must have come off when we hit the bushes at the junction - another trip to the chandlers is in the offing I fancy.

We were going to get on to Atherstone today so that we were ready for the next lot of locks but we have moored up about 2 miles short of that as we were both cold. We are now sat inside with the radiators on feeling MUCH more cosy!

Here is the lock - I said it was shallow!

This is what it looks like from the other side - I am just taking the boat out after dropping all of a foot in height!

 To give you a better idea of what we had to do the boat is currently travelling south and the water on the other side of this sign is where we are headed - to be travelling north!

At this point we realised it was going to be interesting - note the boat moored and the other one coming our way - this reduced our turning space by about 20' - quite a lot under the circumstances!

This is us going under the bridge - because of the other boats we were much further across that we would have chosen to be but it still looked possible!

Moments before it all went horribly wrong!

Safely through and moving again!

Coventry Canal ahead of us - Oxford Canal to the right of us.........

Monday, 25 April 2011

25th April '11

After a 7.30am start - yes that is right - not a typo SEVEN THIRTY - we cruised for an hour or so and then stopped to have breakfast. The reason being that we were moored against a stone ridge and it was making nasty graunching sounds - that is the one problem with the Oxford - at least the Northern part of it - it appears to be lined with stone and much of it is at a 45% angle - not good for boats. There are places where there are pilings (such as where we are now moored) but these are few and far between.

A generally peaceful day with no real hiccups - stone again where we moored for lunch - and we got stuck on some mud waiting for a boat to go past with moored boats on the bank at a narrow section. Resulted in both of us swinging off the side of the boat in unison to get it moving off the boat - watched by 2 young teenagers who were having breakfast on the front of their boat - nice to cause amusement to others I always feel.

We have travelled about 13 miles and am now moored just before Hawksesbury Junction - an interesting place. It is the join between the Oxford and the Coventry canals and there is a difference in water level of about 1' so it has the shallowest lock in the world to get through. The interesting bit comes straight afterwards as you have to turn 180% in a very small basin in front of a busy pub!!! The wind is in the wrong direction at present and the pub is heaving so we are going to do that bit in the morning well before the drinkers emerge and hopefully the wind will have calmed down a bit.

We have come through the Newbold Tunnel - only 250yds long and so hardly a tunnel at all really but John has mended the light so we were legal this time - even though we could clearly see the end and there are lights in there in any case. Why can't they put lights in the long tunnel that needs it heaven only knows!

We were going to stop for some provisions but because of the timing and the fact that it's a bank holiday we didn't and will probably stop in Nuneaton tomorrow instead.

No pictures today but I shall take some of the junction tomorrow!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Easter Day '11

We had a bit of a lie in to celebrate Easter so had a slightly later start today!

It was quite overcast and murky and much cooler this morning so we both donned jeans and sweaters to start the journey. We filled up with water and John emptied the cassette so we were off in good order. We had a small drama inasmuch as Paddy had been messing about when we were getting ready to go so I left him down in the boat, with the front door on the catch. Somehow he managed to open it and while we were negotiating our way through moored boats on our left and trying to stop to get to the water point and letting boats pass us - again on our left - he burst out of the front doors and leapt straight into the water! I was at the front and yelled at John - he had to turn the engine off and throw himself onto the deck to grab at Paddy who (once again) was not in his life-jacket and haul him out. Luckily everyone else found it amusing and we got back to normal again - albeit with a dripping dog on board!

We stopped at the chandlers in Braunston to get a replacement bit for the light that didn't work in the tunnel as we have a much shorter tunnel to do in the next couple of days - we also bought some different fenders to hang to protect the sides of the boats as we have already lost 2 of the lovely rope ones we had! New ones are rubber and not so attractive but likely to stay in place longer - we hope. Also bought some piling hooks to use when we are moored against metal pilings and a new lump hammer as the last one got left behind in the reeds on the start of the Grand Union (see photos of boat moored in reeds and you may understand why)

Once on our way we negotiated the junction at Braunston and got onto the Oxford canal. This is familiar territory as we did it a number of years ago with Tom and Charlie - it's a beautiful canal - very typical canal countryside and so much nicer than a lot of what we have been through in the last 6 weeks.

We had a good journey through about 10miles of canals without a lock in sight and then we got to Hillmorton - just outside Rugby and there were 3 locks to do - they are rather nice ones actually as there are 3 sets of 2 separate locks so you can have one going up and one going down if necessary. Since they are single locks I am happier and going down always seems easier than going up for some reason. When we arrived at the locks it was manic - about 8 boats waiting to go down with mooring for about 3 so that was interesting, add to the equation that at least 3 of the boats were full of students who were unsure how to manage their boats and had obviously been having quite a liquid breakfast / lunch / afternoon and you can imagine the state of things! All was well though and we survived.

By now it had warmed up and we had changed earlier in the day back into lighter clothes. Once through the locks we found a mooring and are going to stop at Rugby tomorrow for some supplies.

Believe it or not - the white bits through the trees here are cars and lorries on the M1 - it runs parallel to the canal where we left it yesterday morning and is a constant background noise to the canal.

Next door neighbours coming around for supper!

This is the entrance to Braunston tunnel - two boats can pass in it and this is where our lights stopped working - it's over a mile long and more than half of that we did in darkness. See the exhaust fumes outside the entrance!

Beautiful bit of engineering at Braunston Junction.

Arriving at Hillmorton locks - total chaos.

Nearly our turn and things have got a bit calmer.....

Friday, 22 April 2011

Fri 22nd April '11

It's Good Friday and I fnally have a good connection and lots of time!

Such a lot seems to have happened in the last few days that I'm not sure where to start.

As already stated, we left Ditchford on Tues morning and had a long but relatively easy day getting to Northampton, which ended late thanks to Darren leading John astray at the pub and then bringing us a bottle of Malt to say thanks! Thanks Darren we say!!!!

Wednesday was fairly short as far as cruising goes because we wanted to get onto the canal but not to get on the staircase of 13 locks - so we settled for the first 4 (of 17) and then moored up in sight of the next one - also in sight of the M1! This was memorably Paddy's 4th birthday and I'd bought him a huge chew which he has pretty much ignored! He had all the crusts from Darren's pizza though and that pleased him!

Thursday we actually lost track of the time and day - John asked what it was and if it hadn't been for our phones we wouldn't have had a clue - we sort of lost a day somehow and thought it was Wed! We had a full morning of getting up the locks - they were single ones so it meant that we couldn't share the space which meant that each lock had to be done through twice. On about 3 of them another boat was coming through in the other direction so that made it easier and less wasteful of water. I felt much more relaxed with the boat being on narrow locks and the canal so took her through single-handed apart from one dodgy bit that John did. This is why I felt so indignant that Darren gave me L plates at the end of the day! Apparently he had wanted to put them on the boat first thing while I wasn't watching but didn't have time! Thank heavens!

We got to Gayton Marina at lunchtime and filled with diesel (180litres) then moored and went off in search of a pub for our final meal together since Darren in Nuggy B was going south at the junction and we were going north. Somehow we got the directions wrong and walked a couple of miles in the wrong direction! that meant going back and starting again for another mile or two to get to the right place. It was steaming hot and we all felt somewhat overheated when we finally arrived. However it was worth the walk and we had a really good meal and one or two or three drinks before  walking back!

It was really quite emotional saying goodbye - we had been together over a week and Darren had spent every evening with us at Ditchford, eating, drinking and getting beaten at different games so he had become one of the family - even Paddy didn't take much notice of him once he'd got in the boat!

We got onto the Grand Union proper and it felt to both of us as if we were finally owners of our own boat and living on the canals! Despite being on the boat for 6 weeks now it needed the canal to make us feel we were finally home - lovely feeling.

We can't believe the weather - it is absolutely glorious and a bit too hot to be out in for too long. We have moored up today at 3 in a relatively shady spot, with another staircase of locks just around the corner but it's far too hot to start them today. The are doubles as well so if we are on our own it's a lot of work for John and not quite so comfortable for me - but I'm slowly getting used to handling her and I need the practice!

Just about to leave the river Nene (finally) and enter the Grand Uuion (Northampton Arm)

Our first canal lock - 1st of 17 on the flight!

Darren busy on the lock!

We had to moor amongst the reeds - the bridge in the distance is over the lock!

Paddy trying to find somewhere cool on his birthday!

Just another evening on the canal!

Having a drink with Paddy for his 4th birthday!

Nuggy B going into the first of the staircase of locks - the start of a very hot day! Note the bikes on the roof - they make it impossible for me to see where I'm going so I have to peer over the side to steer!

This is were the M1 goes over the canal outside Northampton - I'm waiting for Nuggy B to go through and the lock to be emptied for me to sail in.

Looking down from the top lock - it's quite a climb - amazing engineering when you think that the dates on these go back well over a century and they are probably replacements for the originals!

Top lock a bit over 3 hours later!

Very welcome drink at the Greyhound- many miles further than expected!

How rude!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

19th April '11

At last a decent internet connection!

I am currently awaiting John and Darren to return from the pub and I have a chille bubbling away!

A good day - we left Ditchford Lock at 8 this morning and have travelled non-stop (apart from locks, emptying toilet tank and filling water tank) until our arrival here a bit after 6.30pm. The weather has been gorgeous and I can't ever think that I've spent over 8 hours sat in the sun before - I must be getting toughened to it as nothing hurts as yet!

We have been through about 17 locks today and travelled 22 km (however long that is in English money). It made it much easier travelling together as Darren and John did all the locks and we devised a very efficient system with ropes and suchlike that John and I will probably continue to use.

We are now in Northampton - which we should recognise from Robert having been to university here but as yet nothing seems familiar - mind you we have never arrived by river before!

Paddy has coped with the day very well considering that he was stuck on the back of the boat in his life-jacket most of the day! I gave him a quick walk when I could at the locks and he has been so very good! He got too fed up to bark at anything and didn't object to Darren sharing our locks - the only thing he barked at was some sheep and that was my fault for baaing at them - doesn't everyone talk sheep????

Before the men arrive I want to put some pictures on so will write at greater lenght tomorrow or soon at least!

John and Paddy sunbathing at Ditchford Lock

A red kite - I know it's a bit far away but you wouldn't believe how many tries I had to get this!

A rather lovely sunset from the boat at Ditchford Lock - we had some amazing weather while we were there.

Leaving Ditchford at 8am!

Coming toward Northampton - it was like being on a huge lake - that's Darren's boat in the distance - the Nuggy B (don't ask - noone has a clue) it's a plastic pig so I have sort of re-named it Flora - plastic pig = plastic container = margarine tub = Flora. Sorry Darren - no offense!

Just in case anyone read the first bit and is concerned that I'm becoming all female and subservient - I went to the pub as well and now I'm back at the boat rapidly consuming a bottle of red!

Tomorrow's another day........

Thursday, 14 April 2011

14th April '11

Losing track of time and date! Thank goodness for my phone or I wouldn't have any idea of the date or day!

We are still at Ditchford Lock and are now quite at home here! Darren has found us - he turned up yesterday morning at the same time as the men from the EA who wanted to mow the grass on the lock - unfortunately we were having a lie-in (for a change) and so had a hectic session of getting dressed - moving the boat across to the other bank and then filling with water while we had the chance before sailing back across the river to moor up again!

We are getting conflicting reports of when we are likely to be able to move - one says that it may be tomorrow or the day after and another says not until next Tuesday! At least with Kevin and the farm shop we are able to eat well on fresh vegetables - the down side being that he has started to stock biscuits as well - just as my weight was going down a bit!

We have walked miles - yesterday we went into Rushden to find a post office - we were gone 3 1/2 hours! but at least we were able to post our letter!

We have bought a generator - by internet and it was delivered here - but John is having problems with getting it to work to run the bigger things such as the washing machine - at least it is powering up the batteries so we can have the heating on and run the computer etc without having to turn the engine on. The nearest garage to get petrol is half and hours walk away so we are staying fit!

The weather has turned cooler but it's still not too bad - a few April showers but nothing to complain about. Still not enough unph to put pictures on but we will do it at some point.

John and Darren are busy tidying up the outside of the boats - at least we will look smart once we get going again!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

9th April '11

You may have noticed a bit of a gap in the blog - all will be revealed! We are in fact stuck at Ditchford Lock for the next however because they are doing maintainence to the next lock and so it is unnavigable! We have been through 4 locks at least where there have been Environment Agency (EA) workmen - we have chatted to them and they have helped see us through the locks but did one of them mention that the navigation was closed further up-stream - no they didn't!

We couldn't really have been stuck in a better place though as it is lovely and quiet - there is a farm-shop right next to us and Kevin the owner has been kindness itself in helping out with supplies etc. There are fishing lakes here so it seems like being back at Coking Farm and there are plenty of walks. It's a bit of a journey into Rushden which is the nearest town but we have walked it and cycled it so it isn't too bad. Apparently Wellingborough is not far away and there is a good footpath to get there so we may try that direction later today or tomorrow.

The EA say that the work on the next lock is due to be completed on 17th April but they conmpleted the work on this one a week early so have suggested that we ring them on tuesday to get an update.

There doesn't seem to be enough signal here to up-load any pictures so they will have to wait until we have moved on a bit - I have however finally got some pictures of Red Kite - after many, many frames of empty sky where they had just flown out of shot!

We are enjoying the lovely weather and if there is anyone in the NN8 1RL area in the next few days please come and see us! (Bring wine!)

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

5th April '11

We have done nothing today except go through the lock and moor in a slightly sheltered backwater adjacent to it. The wind was blowing first thing and hasn't let up since so we decided a quiet day doing some domestic chores was in order!

John is trying to sort out the satelite dome so that we can have TV - to be honest I have really enjoyed being without it, especially since we have been able to watch the essential programmes (The Boat that Guy Built and Dancing on Ice) on playback on the computer. However having spent rather a lot on the dome it is only sensible to use it! It is currently sounding like something from Close Encounters, but I'm sure all will be well eventually.

I have tidied through a bit and taken some photos of the inside of the boat so that you can get a better idea of how we actually live!

We took Paddy out for a walk to the nearest village of Aston which is apparently owned by the Rothschild family and had a drink at the (rather twee) pub. Paddy disgraced himself by rolling in something unpleasant and green so had to have a shower on our return!

We have only seen one small narrowboat go down and up the river today, with 7 people onboard - obviously a day trip and a narrowboat has just moored behind us here - otherwise the river is quiet.

This is John working the wheel to raise and lower the lock gate - hard work.

The Chequered Skipper on the green at Ashton - nice pint!

Paddy in disgrace after his shower!

The saloon or living area - note the crochet in the foreground - more of which later!

The dining area... this converts into the spare bed for those of you who are planning to come and visit (please do!)

The kitchen - note that there IS a door - some were worried about building photos and thought the bathroom was visible from the kitchen at all times!

The bathroom looking towards the bedroom - note there's a door at this end as well!

The bedroom - the crochet blanket is a work in progress - I've been doing little else since we started out on the boat and it is about 1/3 complete - it's meant to cover the whole of the folded bed. The lump on the left of the picture is the section of matress that fits at the end of the bed on the right and forms the bed - it's a bit short for John but he sleeps diagonally across every bed that we've ever slept in so no change is necessary except that now he has an excuse!

My office space! The steps lead up to the stern of the boat - there is a small second loo just out of shot to the left and the washing machine and tumble drier are this side of the desk.

Now you can picture the space where we are living! I love it!!!!

Not sure what we are going to do tomorrow - depends a bit on the weather - we have basic food so don't have to move to get near shops but we would like to be getting closer to Northampton if at all possible.

Monday, 4 April 2011

4th Feb 11

A long day today - went out before we left and took some photos of the trains and the mooring:

We have travelled over 14 miles today and done 6 locks - this took us a bit over 6 hours travelling - this is pretty good going considering the wind being against us the whole way and we are going against the current. We couldn't do it on the canals but the river is wider and we can go a bit faster, also we had help on 2 of the locks as there were workmen and on  one lock they did the whole thing and on the other they let us sail out and closed it all up for us. Rivers are different to canals in that on a canal water is precious and so you have to close both gates when you leave unless another boat is coming in to the lock you are leaving. However on rivers you have to leave the downstream gate open and the upstream one shut - this means that a lot of water goes through each time but then on a river there is plenty coming from the source. It means however that although we are able to sail into each lock as we are going upstream, once we are through John has to close the upgates, open the downgates and empty the lock again. This obviously takes time. We have been lucky up to now because the downgates which are guillotine have been mechanical but the last 2 have been hand driven which means that he has had to turn an enormous wheel around over 100 times to get the gate down and then reverse the process - I have a feeling that this is not his idea of fun!!!

We passed Fotheringhay today - we were planning to moor there as our map showed moorings but when we got there, it was just fields, with no landings or mooring posts just a slippery bank AND the farmer wanted £4 a night. So being intrepid sailors we continued on and are now moored totally illegally at a lock. In our defense we haven't seen a boat in either direction and it was far too late to expect anyone through. We will be off in the morning so no harm done.

The landscape is becoming far more interesting - there are HILLS - well rises in the ground level in places at least and it is amazing how much better we feel for seeing them. The fens were like a recurring nightmare!

Fotheringhay was a total let-down since as well as no moorings there was only a small mound where the castle had stood that Mary Queen of Scots had lived and been executed in. I was bitterly disappointed! However we have seen some stunning architecture and some really innovative designs on some waterside developments.

We are now about 1/3 of the way from Peterborough to Northampton so hopefully we will be there by the weekend, but there are still a LOT of locks to get through and the weather is very changeable - the sun didn't really come out today and there was no real rain but we had some very strong winds that don't help much as they have all been either in our face or on our side - neither of which is good for the boat! Aerodynamics and narrowboats are not words that are usually in the same sentance!

Our current location is Ashton Lock just south of somewhere called Oundle that apparently has a school - as the crow flies we have hardly travelled at all but the river meanders continuously.

Talking about birds flying we have seen several red kites today - I've never seen one before but they are really beautiful - the first one we saw was hovering directly overhead of us for ages and then gave us a real aeriel display - quite stunning! Unfortunately I didn't have the camera handy and as I was meant to be looking out for moorings I couldn't get it easily - I shall try harder in future.....

3rd April '11

Mothers day and after opening cards, Skyping, texting and phoning - had contact with all of them. John went on a chocolate hunt for me so all was well!

We were going to leave Peterborough after the Skyping etc but our new boating mate Darren who had gone on ahead returned saying his key didn't fit the next lock and so we decided to stay put and go to the Environment Agency office in the morning and see what was needed. As it was a nice day John and I decided to explore the steam railway that runs through the city and we took Paddy for a walk along the rail path that was alongside the river. Eventually we came to the lock and John tried his key and lo and behold it worked. We walked back, had lunch and decided that since the day was warm and windless we would make a start - it was just after 3 by this time!

Just before leaving Peterborough - the river is pretty wide at this point and there are plenty of moorings - we liked the place! They actually seemed to want boaters to stop there.

We travelled on and went through the first lock - LOADS of gongoozlers (people who for some strange reason like to watch boats go through locks - boating term) and thanks to copious amounts of Rescue Remedy I managed perfectly and felt a lot happier about handling the boat in general, thankfully.

The weather suddenly changed and we had an almighty downpour - Paddy turned out to be a fairweather sailor and insisted on going below while it was raining! Luckily it stopped for the next lock and meant that there was no-one watching! Coped OK with this one as well so my confidence (and intake of RR ) was increasing!

We had located some moorings after the next lock which was not far away and was the most picturesque setting imaginable - the sky was still very grey but even so the pictures look good.

It  was even prettier from the approach but I didn't have time to get the camera - I took these while hanging onto the rope at a VARY small landing stage! Note the water over the lip of the top was pouring over them as we approached and as soon as it started to empty it was pouring over again - we felt that someone ought to open the sluice a bit more to reduce the height of the water - I dread to think what it's like after a wet season!

Paddy had decided to wage a war against ducks in particular - he isn't keen on swans but ducks really seem to get him - after a particularly sneaky move from a duck that landed in the water close to the boat without giving Paddy enough notice he has taken up a new position - and I'm not too keen on it!

It looks very cute but means that I have to be hanging onto the lead to stop him jumping in after the offending ducks!

We are moored up next to a bridge where one of the stations that carries the steam trains and John says that they are all stored at this depot! Should be interesting in the morning!

Anyway 8 1/2 miles and 3 locks today in just under 4 hours done so we are on our way!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

2nd April '11

I didn't do a blog last night as we watched a DVD instead!

We are now in Peterborough which we were supposed to get to yesterday but the wind was so horrible that when we got through the lock at Whittlesey we moored up at some very convenient moorings there, next to the leisure centre and playing fields.

As it turned out it was just as well because we took a walk up the river to see what was ahead and there were two right-angled bends - the second of which being through a bridge with lots of concrete at the base and narrowing to a ridiculous widtth! If we had gone through with the bikes on the back (they weren't on the roof because of the very low bridges) they would have been totally mangled. So bikes went back on the roof and we settled down for a quiet evening.

We decided that if the wind were still bad we would wait another day on the moorings as John didn't think we would get round the corners with the wind against us. We had already lost one slot getting through the lock at Stanground that would take us onto the Nene and was thankfully attended because of the fact it's a sluice as well, and tentatively booked a slot at midday with the proviso that if it was windy we would put it off until Sunday.

After a night of wondering how we were going to get around the bend - despite the book saying that a 70' boat had negotiated it in the past - we wpke to calm and after a quick walk with Paddy to check we decided to make a run for it and rang the lock-keeper AGAIN to say that we were going to be early!

The bends were a piece of cake and we got around them fairly easily and then once we had done it the wind started again so we breathed a sigh of relief and continued our journey!

Spotted some goats on the way so this is for Robert!

All the swans are now nesting and we are seeing lots of them - Paddy barks at each and every one of them!

This is the empty lock at Stanground - a lovely young lady lock-keeper who is apparently the 3rd generation in the family at the lock saw us through safely.

This was the lock just before we left - quite a difference - and then we were on the Nene!

This is the Cathedral from our window! We went and had a look around it and it's a stunning building. Not going to be a quite mooring here, unlike last night - there appears to be a fair just behind us across the river! Mind you the good news is that there is a free pump-out here, plus water and somewhere to dump our rubbish so we are happy boaters. It doesn't take much really.

An early start and on to fight the locks!