My best friend

Meg, the dog that changed my life.

I had been threatened by a well meaning friend, that when the offer of this dog came up, to refuse would mean certain death. Well, she would never talk to me again. In short, I rescued the dog and on the same day, rang the Estate Agents to sell my house. After all, I couldn’t have a full time job and leave her on her own all day. So my plan was to retire early, by buying a boat to live in and a small flat to rent out to pay my way. 3 years later, it is working out just fine. Here is my tribute to Meg, my wonderful friend.

Without this little Monkey none of this would have happened.

She is the best dog in the world. So loyal and clever. Walking around lamp posts always on the same side as I do. Climbing trees while chasing Squirels sitting at wait command running back to cross the bridge when she has followed the boat from locks on the wrong side. I could go on, what a star. So intelligent, she can even read my mind.

I love her so much.

Coventry Basin

Today I am really excited, as I left Hawksbury Junction I was headed to Coventry Basin, where later on I will be met by my son Glenn with his wife and my new Grandaughter Ellie. She was born in April this year and the last time I saw her was just a few days after she was born. Now she is 6 months old so she wont know me, worse still I wont know her. Still, she is so beautiful, I cant wait.

On the Coventry Canal leaving Hawksbury, it doesn’t take too long I think around 4 hours, I as always, leave myself plenty of time so I am just pootling along. After a mile or so, I am aware that there is another narrowboat closing in from behind so I wait till there is a good straight stretch before slowing and waving him by. Aware also that the channel is quite shallow, with lots of Flotsum and Jetsom I stay well away from the edge. As the chap behind starts to overtake, I am away from the bank by a good metre and a half, still leaving the other guy mid stream. When there was a terrific thud and Alfie lurches away from the bank rising out of the water by a good 10 inches to a foot or so. I was absolutely terrified, never have I hit anything so hard, goodness only knows what it was. I carried  on, but looking imediately behind saw the look on my fellow boaters face, even he saw Alfie come out of the water. I suppose if there is any lasting damage I will find out soon enough, fortunately, I am still afloat.

Arriving at the basin after passing amongst other rubbish, a sofa, a cupboard, and a couple of internal doors and a 40 foot long banner for new build flats caught around the rudder. I am relieved to have made it almost unscathed, what a mess, the locals should be ashamed of themselves.

Glenn, Steph and Ellie arrive an hour later to change my mood imediately. She is so beautiful and delightful, smiling and laughing all the time, such a happy little baby. I soon forget my mood and enjoy the rest of the day. I treated them all to lunch in a local Pub, Ellie eating as much as you could give her, she is obviously one of the family. Time disappeared so quickly and no sooner than lunch was over, they had to leave

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James Brindley stands looking over his plans for the canal Basin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although it was a very small basin, with mooring for only around 10 boats, one hire company has the monopoly of half of it, leaving free about 5 or 6 spaces. I still managed to get in for my 48 hr stay. Having said that, I spoke to Canal and River Trust about an overstay, due to the lack of traffic and they were fine about it. Lack of traffic, now there’s a statement, as we were well into the last of the “Holiday season” I really did expect to see more boats on the move. Sadly, more and more, I am seeing lots of overstayers and less roaming the system than I expected when I set out. It’s no wonder CaRT allowed me to overstay. Anyway, the reason I gave them and the actual reason I wanted to overstay, was that my old friends, Ken and Annie were travelling up the Oxford, and wanted to “pop in” to Coventry for a catch up. If you havn’t read my whole blog, Ken and Annie are a couple I met way back in April on the Thames while stranded next to me at Abingdon in the floods. They were fully aware that I am/was a newbie, and besides, we got on really well drinking, sharing curries and generally having a laugh, so I was looking forward to meeting them again. They arrived as predicted quite late in the afternoon, but that didn’t stop us from chatting well into the night on the bank side.

 

 

The next day, Ken and I made over to the Transport Museum, my second visit of the week as the first was not long enough. The Transport of yester year has always been of interest to me, especially English cars and motorbikes. And as most of British Bikes and Cars were from the Midlands, this place is Mecca, I especially loved the prestine E Type Jaguar. Along with many old British Bikes, I loved this place.

As my stay was to be quite short, I never did too much historic learning, though appreciating the cost that Coventry made in the war effort, it was more than my old body and legs could cope with in a few days, so the City walk about was put on hold for another day.

We set off later that afternoon to make Hawksbury for a slap up meal and a couple of jars before going our seperate ways. I love Ken and Annie, they have been stalwarts for me during my apprentiship period, thank you guys.

 

 

Up Up and Atherstone

Leaving Fazely and Tamworth behind was a bit of a wrench, it had become warm and sunny and I felt like staying put to relax and enjoy it. However, time waits for no man, and the rest of the system was calling. In particular, I really wanted to visit Coventry, to visit the Transport Museum and to see its cathedrals, one was still a war torn relic from the WW2. But first there was a small matter of the Atherstone flight. A sequence of 6 locks in 3 pairs followed by a flight of 5, I’d do the first six, then rest up to tackle the rest the following  day.

 

I didn’t know it when I had moored, but it’s generally manned, and would have been a sinch had I tried it. I spent the afternoon fishing, catching some quality Roach and Roach Bream Hybrids of a good size, some were over a pound. I’d like to report a quiet and restful night, but the truth is, the railway line is so close with late night and early morning goods trains, I didn’t sleep very well.

The following morning after a little shop in the close by town, I ventured on, and as suggested, the “Vollockies” Volunteer Lock Keepers were there to do all the hard work for me, Luvly Jubbly. Onward towards Nuneaton, a place that had a real sentimental meaning for me. I had never been there, but remember my Dad saying where he had been while at work one day. I thought the word was strange and asked him to say it again, he said    ” Nun Eaten” in two distinct words, I was only around 10 years old, and it has always stayed with me. Bless my old man. I only stopped to do a shop, mooring at the pedestrian bridge 21a I think from there Lidl was a 10 minute walk.

I didn’t stay, it was a little bit too built up and exposed to houses etc for me. Just as I was leaving the boundry of Nuneaton, passing a boatyard, I heard a shout out from one of the boats ” Ahoy, Alfie” I turned to see a face from the past, a guy named Jimmy, who I’d met a year before on the Thames at Reading. He had just taken delivery of his first narrowboat and was collecting antidotes and general advice from me. I was happy to share any knowledge I had gleaned from my travels, and remembering me as I passed was payment in full.

I was soon to pass the Ashby canal, a lovely little run up to Market Bosworth would follw next week. For now, my aim was to make Hawksbury which I did, mooring up amongst many other boats at this popular spot. I was fortunate to find a space, as I gathered a bit later chatting, lots of these boats were well and truly “overstayers” people that are the bain of the waterways, always pushing their luck with the rules of the waterways. We, as Constant Cruisers, have to stick to the guidelines of moving from one Parish to another every 14 days, and not returning before having stayed at 3 or more other areas in the same direction. Some of these guys, I could tell by the mossy ropes, had been there a long time.

Anyway, I was in and it was time to prepare dinner. I was expecting company tonight. Sean, a guy I met in Syston, had been “tagging on” to my travels and had become a nice guy to hang with for a while. He had supplied me with a postal address when I needed it. Also became a delivery courier too, and it was to be today that he was bringing my new TV. I have a nice 40″ Samsung, Smart TV curved screen the lot. But it is quite power hungry if I am not getting good solar. So I had ordered a nice 26″ 12v Cello, a common brand known amongst us in the boating fraternity. Reliable and much “cheaper” to run, even if the sound quality was a bit lacking. It does however, have a USB and a sound jack point, so adding extra speakers is the way to go. I am, a year later, very happy with it.

Fits nicely on the wall too.

After a cozy meal and a few beers, Sean anounced that he was staying the night ! Ooer, I hadn’t counted on that, still he could rough it on the put you up, I was having my bed, on my own ! He left quite early the next day and I carried on towards my next port of call Coventry.

 

Coventry Canal

It’s a nice place Fradley, but I’m not here to stay. Moving up the Coventry towards Tamworth and Fazely today. I think around bridge 46 there is a fantastic Nature reserve, for birders it’s really very good. But for dog walkers a bit sad, they only allow you into half of it, but you need to keep Fido on the lead. A great bird hide there, I did leave little Meg on the boat while I spent a few hours ” Spotting” all the usual stuff there.

The bit of the journey I needed to make was to the Vets, as it was time for Meg’s Inoculations. As she is a member of the Healthy Pet Club, any vet belonging to the scheme,pre warned, will book her in for the treatment. Tamworth was the closest to where I was, so I toodled off to Fazeley and moored there for the following days visit into town.

Holy crap on a cracker, it was surely a longer walk than I’d expected, after the day was done, my phone app had recorded 12 miles. TWELVE miles ! jeeze, who says this boating life is relaxing. I had walked so far the next day, I had siezed up. My knees were stiff and painful, my feet so tender, I could barely stand. Needless to say, I did very little walking that day. I did enjoy Tamworth though, some great shopping the Castle and surounds were pretty good too and the art under the flyover was excellent.

.Before I left Tamworth a small Hicup with Alfie, a coolant hose had burst and was spraying the engine bay with water. A bit of a trial actually, because I couldn’t find the leak while it was cold, it only seemed to materialise when running at normal temperature, and the hose was a ” special” for Thornycroft, who no longer excist. Still, I then had to get back into town to track a suitable replacement, £20 for a silcone replacement, that wasn’t designed to fit seemed like a lot of money. However, I was in a dilema and had to “bodge it” I can report, nearly a year later, it’s doing fine.

 

 

 

 

I found the Coventry canal to be full of character, including old battle fields at Polesworth.

 

 

 

Battery Problem solved

It was a nice bright start to the day and so we decided to move on. Sure enough as soon as we had set off, it started to rain, typical. Still it wasn’t too far to go before the lock at Alrewas, ( I dont know how to pronounce it either) some visitor moorings were vacant above the lock, and as the weather was so bad, I just had to stop to dry out, I was drenched. Next morning it was looking much better, so walking along the bank to the  nearest village path decided to move down after filling with water.

I hhave mentioned several times in previous posts, that my batteries were charging very quickly but there capacity was very poor. Well, this morning they were down to 10.2V and 1% SoC ( State of Charge) I was on the internet like a shot to buy some more. My choice over the last few weeks of deliberation, was to buy cheap and chearful. In the meantime, with a view that, I still have a lot to learn, but I was at least getting to know how to look after them better. I had been looking at 6v T105 Trojans I think 150Ahr but at £180 each and needing at least 6 thought better of it this time. I soon found a company that would deliver next day 4 x 110Ahr Cheapos for £320, sorted.

We (Oli and I) were really surpised to meet up with Richard, a newbie who had a 70 footer on his own. Gave up work like I had, to enjoy his later years. I had met with him at Shardlow a few days before, he actually saw me heading for the water point and beat me to it ( the Bounder ) Anyway, he’s good company, a great converstionalist ( is that a word ? )  and also quite generous with his time. He did actually have a car, which with his bike was able to “pop” back down stream to retrieve it and so on. He was going to the local Asda later and offered to take me, too right, I said, leaping at the offer. After a quick £80 shop, most of it wine, we returned to sit out in the evening sunshine till it was dark, top bloke.

The next morning They, Oli and Richard were going to head off to Fradley, I on the other hand, was hanging around awaiting delivery of my new batteries. Oh, wow ! they arrived and the courier, even rang to ask if he could get them closer, great stuff ! I had absolutely nothing in the batteries so had already taken them off. So it was just a matter of 200 yd walk down the towpath with my little trolley ferrying the bad batteries up to the road, and returning with good ones. A couple of hours later, I was away. I even managed to get a local garage mechanic to collect the old batteries, saving me the effort of recycling them. He would, no doubt be making a few quid, as 5 dead batteries would make £50 of anyones money, hey ho.

There had been another slight issue though. While I had been slogging my poor boat up the Trent against the current, I had overheated. My engine bay was showing the signs of not only water, but oil leaking from somewhere. After fitting the batteries, I took the time out to completely clean out the engine bay, spick and span. So by keeping a closer eye on things, would no doubt discover where the leaks were coming from. I headed off to Fradley at a reduced pace as I didn’t want to overheat again, I really do need to cure the problem, this could be serious.

 

However, now was the time to take it easy, it was only a few miles and 3 locks to Fradley, where I would arrive, fully charged up and raring to go. Meeting up with Richard and Oli once again for a few Jars at the the famous Swan Public House on the Junction with the Coventry Canal was a fitting way to end all my battery woes.

Shardlow and Beyond

After last nights meal at Shardlow, we hung around for the day having a real big fry up to set my son et al up for the journey back home to Hertfordshire. Over three hours away by car, sounds like a mission, but by boat it’s less than half a day cruising.

Saying goodbye to my family, gave me time to have a look at my batteries again. I had been recording 100% State of Charge a bit too easily lately and they were dropping off too quickly as well. That could only mean one thing, Gulp ! time for new ones, as I had 3 new ones just a year ago, topped them up to 5 in total a couple of months later, I wasn’t happy that I still had problems. Almost every boater will have his or her story to tell you about their own battery woes. Almost as many will have their own methods of storing, maintaining and charging them too. But the one thing we will all agree on is that they will most certainly at some point let you down. More to come on this later, but for now, there was nothing I could do.

We left Shardlow to make Willington before it got too late, 5 and a half hours straight through. That’s the longest straight through journey I had made for a very long time. My idea of enjoying life means no rushing about, stopping to smell the flowers is more me. Disappointment to arrive and find that for over half a mile of moorings were taken up, but the last space right next to the main road at the Green Dragon pub garden, even then, we had to breast up. That is one of my pet hates, having to breast up means constantly banging into the other boat whenever another goes by. Because no matter how you tie up, the two boats will never be as tight as just the one. Being next to the bridge also meant that as soon as boats came through they were throttling up and pushing more water my way. Grrrr !

Oli, a nice guy but a bit spoilt, had to meet his mum and uncle with their spouses in Burton on Trent the next day so at least we didn’t have to stay that long. Shame really, because with a nice spot to tie up, I could have enjoyed a few days here. It wasn’t great for dog walks mind, about half a mile before anything resembling fun for Meg, so I was pleased to leave.

Stopping for lunch at Burton, was nice and his family were very entertaining and sociable, but after lunch we went our seperate ways, with us mooring up a short while later at Shobnall Park. We tied up there for the night so in the morning had a great walk for the dogs, Monty the stoopid Beagle and Meg.

 

From the top of the hill in Shobnall offers the most briilliant views, and reallt is worth the trek up what seems to be around 500 feet or more. And apart from giving myself and Oli a good workout, was great for the dogs to really stretch their legs,

Soaring up the Soar

After many nice days and nights at Pillings, I moved on up the river towards Loughborugh, pulling into the basin to top up water etc, decided I wanted to moor somewhere a little bit quieter, so carried on for another half hour before tieing up just before Normanton on Soar. There is a beautiful old Church of St James built around 1200 ad. Amazing how they managed to build spectacularly then, but now all we build is boring Steel and Glass. It was getting on in the day, and I had arranged to meet my old mate Saun in Kegworth, so I headed off again. Arriving there I was a bit peeved off, that all of the moorings were full, seemingly by overstayers. It is quite obvious too, as the pathways to the boats doors were well trod and grassless. With old log cutting equipment left out etc. ( as we were deep into summer that’s a giveaway too) I reversed Alfie back into the pound of a disused lock pound, where I would be staying for the next couple of days. I had also arranged that my son Gary, daughter in law Emma and Grandaughter, Kaitlyn were to meet me here, so I didn’t really have any other option. Besides, in all the time I was there, only 3 or 4 boats came through, one even tieing up opposite me in the pound.

Since I had a few hours to spare while I waited for the family to arrive I put in some luncheon meat in the hope of luring a carp or big bream out. What a shock when my rod was being bent double after just a few minutes. I realised I had hooked into something big and so strong. Noticing a little GRP cruiser coming towards me, I began to try and slow him down, frantically jumping up and down waving my arm about, because at the time, I was not in control. The “fish” had the better of me. After a minute or two and with the little boat stopped in anticipation, I managed to retrieve some line on him, he was getting tired. With the fight lasting about 5 minutes, I finally got a net under him, to my surprise, the biggest Eel, I had ever caught.

 

What a whopper.

I did manage to keep it in the net till my son arrived so he could take the picture, sorry about cutting the head and tail off. lol, at least that is I mean, metaphorically in the photo.

The next morning I had arranged a trip to Shardlow, and wouldn’t you know it, for the 5 hour trip it was no more than 12 degrees and  absolutely chucked it down the whole time. Considering the above picture again, look no shirt on. Typical, but time was the enemy, I had to make the journey, up the Soar crossing onto the River Trent, across the Derwent and into the Trent and Mersey canal to Shardlow. The meeting of the Trent was fun, massive current coming in just as the flood water was coming down stream from Nottingham. Thankfully we were heading downstream so at least Alfie wouldn’t have to be worked too hard. Reaching the Derwent uniquely crossing our path, was an event, man it was like the Amazon. With me trying my best to follow the Trent and the Derwent trying to “take me” across the stream. I managed to avoid the cross flow by angling the boat at about a 30 degree angle and powering up to 3000 RPM poor old Alfie didn’t like that, but we got through in the end.

After we (I) had dried out, we all went for a really very nice meal out in the Clock Warhouse on the Trent and Mersey canal.

A Lesson For Us All

It had been a great day, starting off with some lovely sunshine which developed into a scorcher of aday. With a successful session of fishing, landing me a 3lb Bream, I know nothing to great but I had watched the water and predicted a Bream so I was pleased with it. To completing a few little tidy up jobs on the boat, with the weather being so good. As I was able to complete my plan of cutting back the other drawer chest as planned a week earlier. Because it meant getting it out of the boat, I needed predictable fair weather which we now had. What I did, was to take just under 2 inches off the depth of the drawers, and an inch and a bit off the height, enabling them to slide further in and under the Gunwales. Giving me another 4 inches of walk way,  so making the whole saloon feel more spacious. Now there’s a word you won’t hear often in the Narrowboat world. Let me put it this way, you see, once you are stretched out with the TV on or laying down in bed, ” how much space do you need ?” I think, when we live in the “Outside World” we are conditioned to growing up in a house. Where, sadly, our parents and guardians have also been brainwashed into believing that bigger is better, the “my house is bigger than your house” attitude. Sadly, that is also starting to materialise on the Cut, poor delusioned folk that they are. Where as in reality, the space afforded to me is plenty for 99% of evrything I need, the other 1% well, I can’t think of right now.

There was also plenty of time and light to enjoy some nice walks with Meg, I say walk, but she does like to stretch her legs in pursute of the odd rodent or two. It’s so funny watching her as she nears the quarry, putting on the brakes and giving them a chance to escape.

 

Rabbit on the run from Meg, dont worry she never catches any.

 

Meg Sticking Her Neck Out

She has other little games she plays too, like lets see how far I can walk the gunwales before it all goes “Pear Shaped” and yes, she has fallen in once doing this. Very worrying for me, but she did learn and doesn’t risk it now. Talking of taking risks. Back at the mooring near Pillings, we, Oli, Saun and me went out on a bit of a bender for a night in Quorn. A lovely little place that seems to have the monopoly of the nightlife. Live music on Friday and Saturday nights. Well, cutting to the Quick, on return from said Bender, I attempted to jump from the bank to the gunwales, as my mooring was a bit off of the bank. Forgetting that I was now wearing polished leather soled shoes, I misjudged the leap only to find myself hanging from the handrail having missed my footing. I was dangling full stretch fairly well inebriated to burst out laughing, but sober enough to realise the danger I was in. With my legs up to the knees in the river and losing my grip, I somehow managed to haul myself up on to the Gunwales to safety, to the sound of riotous laughter from the bank, as Oli was attracted to the splashing about. Let that be a lesson for us all, never jump on the boat. Never wear unsuitable footwear, and never get drunk and return in the dark to your boat after mooring away from the bank. It still makes me laugh though.

This is a stolen shot of Pillings Marina, sorry, but I never had my camera when I saw it like this.

Mount Sorrell

After doubling back to Leicester Marina to fill up with water and empty the cassette, I managed to scratch the fresh paint at the first attempt. Grrr ! with the paint being so fresh and soft, it’s not advisable to take a chance, but I’d been at the Hope and Anchor for too long so had to get away. Oh well, I have some paint in reserve, I will retouch it later. Turning round I headed back past Syston onwards to Sileby and moored up at the Waterside Pub Mount Sorrell. A lovely place to moor, but bring plenty of cash, this place thinks it’s in Chelsea Harbour, £13.60 for 3 pints of lager. !!!

Before my next move I have a few jobs I would like to do. Service the engine, Oil and Filter. Ollie, a guy I met last month at Syston, has turned up, and has convinced me to buy some Engineered Oak flooring. It aint cheap, but it’s about time I permenantly covered the floor boards. It’s not going to get any better or worse after the sinking now. Time to move on with my life.

 

 

After spending a few days at Mnt Sorrell “enjoying the beer” and having barbies on the bank. It was time to get round to  fitting the new Oak floor I had bought, it only took about 6 hours including stripping out the boat remoddeling a chest of draws and refitting it all back again.

 

I decided it was time to leave and headed off  a couple of miles along the Soar Towards the Trent and Mesey canal.  We arrived at the Deep Lock, Barrow and it lives up to its name over 12 feet. Emerging from that, we make a sharp turn to the right under a low bridge to be greeted by an empty pub mooring, where the sun was shining and it seemed like a nice idea, so we pulled over for a pint.

As you can see, I’m breasted up with ollie, the skipper of Happy Hours, he helped me fit my new Oak flooring which has turned my boat into a great place to live once more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time to Move to Syston

Syston, isn’t that far away from Birstal just a couple of miles, the way I travel it’s still an hour plus the lock at Thurmaston, of course, I couldn’t go past Leicester Marina, without filling up with water and cleaning my cassette, all done before 10 so it’s free of charge. Well, there’s no where to drop my donation off at.

At Syston, there is a river side mooring at a pub called the Hope And Anchor, pretty soon I would be calling the local layabout who has 2 boats moored in the prime site the Hopless ahem ! …… er  well you know what I mean. He was moored there for 6 weeks before I arrived and was still to be there when I leave in 2 weeks.

Anyway, back to Alfie, all the preparation on the Port side was complete and so I needed to get some paint on, before it turned rusty again. There have been probably 3 different colour schemes since Alfie had been commisioned, leading to some deep gouges along the vulnerable surfaces. I didn’t need or want to rub down to the bare metal, so that meant lots of ” feather edging” a method of rubbing down each scrape and gouge so as to be almost invisable. I was to find out later I hadn’t been thorough enough, but at the time I was reasonably happy. In the places where I had reached bare metal, I treated the hull to Firtan, a rust converter and preventer. It turns rusted steelwork into a workable paintable surface and can be applied to damp steel too, so far I can recommend it.

After more than 4 weeks of preparation, I was at last putting the final coat on. I had, had some problems getting the paint  on because, surprise surprise, Englands summer had arrived. For the last week or so, it had been high in the 20s meaning that to get the paint on, I was outside at 05.00 before it got too hot. However, I was still experiencing the paint going off too quickly, so had to order some Owatrol from a local marina. Owatrol, is a paint conditioner, that allows the paint to remain more usable for longer, to prevent it going off too quickly. I can also recommend this product too, for without it, I would have been in a right mess as the paint at times, was going off on the brush ! All in all, for my first ever boat paint, I am very happy with the results.

Just the base coat applied

                                                                                I hope you agree it was all worth it.