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Narrowboat Adventures 2018: Our Journey Continues June 7, 2018

Filed under: Canal boat,home,Knitting Travels,Narrowboating — happystitches @ 20:04

June5SteamingintoHungerford

 

Travelling downstream along the Thames added to our progress considerably. A river is quite a different proposition to a canal. No lack of moving water, it being replenished from many feeders and has to be channeled downwards and out to the sea. Many of the locks are left with one set of the paddles open, a definite no-no on canals, where every drop is husbanded. I didn’t really enjoy the automated or manned by a lock keeper locks — not nearly as much fun or exercise!

 

 

beautifulscenery

There are long stretches where you can see nothing apart from the wide river and bushes and trees, then towns with interesting buildings and many ostentatious houses with enormous lawns leading down to the river! These often include docks with equally fancy boats. The boats were noticeably larger and with greater air drafts as we went further down.

 

Mooring up is tricky along a big river too. All the fancy gardens are clearly labelled “Private – no mooring”. The wild banks have many trees. Sometimes there are fairly smooth sheer bits of bank that might work. At least the river is wide enough that you can turn the boat and go back to a suitable spot — not an option on a canal. I believe it is also done to moor the bow to a tree or a pin and just let the stern fall to the current.

 

yellowirisonK&A

yellow iris along the Kennet&Avon canal

We reached Reading sooner than expected and decided to continue on to the start of the Kennet and Avon. We turned into the mouth of the Kennet and faced a formidable current against us.

We slowly made headway against the flow. We reached a ‘one boat at a time’ section controlled by a traffic light!  You had to push the equivalent of a pedestrian crossing button. When the light changed to green, you could proceed, giving you 12 minutes to reach the lock at the other end. This section wiggled and wound around the Center of Reading taking us right through the middle of a ritzy shopping area, where we formed the entertainment for those drinking at the bars and restaurants on either side. After having exited the next lock, we were happy to tie up for the day.

 

afewstitchescanalside

happy to tie up for the day, getting in a few stitches canalside

 

The Kennet & Avon is different. The first day or two was a mixture of river and canal sections and lots of “Danger” signs. The River Kennet was flowing strongly against us. Wherever it leaves the canal, it swooshes off over a weir, sucking your boat to that side. For the period that it runs as the waterway it works against you, and where it enters the canal, it pushes you across (often just as you approach a lock). The locks here are very large and somewhat aggressive, not at all consistent in size and method of operation.

ChocolateBoxVillageAllCannings

chocolate box village!

 

Here in  Wiltshire, the rolling hills and unspoiled scenery are glorious with villages few and far.  In them, thatched cottages abound.  The canal took us uphill for 3 days and once we  passed the summit headed down to Bristol.

 

 

caenhilllocks

above the Caen Hill Locks

We did our usual crack of dawn attack on the Caen Hill Locks. We had about an hour to go before we reached them and we were just in the first lock when the thunder clouds rolled in and drenched us. Fortunately it wasn’t very cold rain and working the locks kept us warm.

CaenHillLocks

29 locks in five hours!

These locks were distinctly heavy and we were just getting a system worked out between us (each set seems to be different), when up popped a couple of Canal & River Trust volunteers offering assistance!  As there were no other boats around, they stuck with us most of the way despite the deluges. We cleared the 29 locks in about 5 hours.

 

May28BradfordonAvon

May 28, Bradford on Avon–gongoozlers on holiday!

We had planned to pump out, get rid of rubbish and take water in the sleepy little town of Bradford-On-Avon but, as we reached the bottom of the locks, there were suddenly a lot more boats!  A fair was being held and the quays were brimming with people. Luckily for us there was a CRT guy on the quayside ensuring that the sanitary berth was only being used for its intended purpose and we left as soon as we were done.  The towpath was awash with people, dogs and bikes and also heavily wooded.

Eventually we found a spot where we could moor in –  a concrete ledge prevented us from getting fully alongside, but gave us a grandstand view of a string of frazzled hire boaters failing to make the next bend.

yellowirisonK&A

Along the Kennet & Avon canal,  the lilacs were starting to go over, the ducklings becoming adolescent, the yellow iris coming out. Swans just hatching and the Canada geese herding the chicks into community daycare systems.

Next we worked our way west until we connected with the River Avon.  The intersections between canal and river were less frequent and the current not as strong. Here we encountered a bit of a problem:  in order to secure to a rough bank, you had to be able to get off the boat to drive in  mooring pins, but we had no boarding plank suitable for bridging the gap!

We reached the final lock that released us onto the Avon and called the lock at the Bristol Docks to check that their lock was open and headed on downriver. Both gates of the entry dock were open,  we tied up and paid our dues and then chugged on into the Bristol Floating Harbour.

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entering Bristol Floating Harbour

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the new pedestrian bridge in Bristol

After a fair stretch of Feeder Canal we turned into the heart of Bristol. Tall buildings both ancient and modern, exotic bridges, and all manner of boats, coastal vessels, harbour ferries, water taxis, Dutch barges, sailing, tugs, historic exhibits, gigs, paddle boards, with narrowboats being in the minority. We spent the afternoon being tourists, and evening watching the harbour traffic. The harbour was impressively well organized, with visitor moorings and facilities for water, rubbish and sewage in several locations, and the harbour was immaculately free of trash.

 

 

 

 

makinguseofthenewboardingplank

Making use of our new boarding plank!

 

We have become fairly adept at planning day visits from friends and family! Arrange to meet up at a location where they can leave their car and access the canal, enjoy a day together, then plan the departure at a canal side pub where a taxi can be obtained to take them back the 6 or so miles that we have achieved.

We had a full shopping list request for our good friends who visited last week, top of which was a 2 meter long plank! They were happy to oblige and we are now equipped with our own official boarding plank.

 

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Bristol Harbour

 

AqueductHat

Meanwhile, back at home, we are continuing with our weekly half-price sales: this week we’re featuring my Aqueduct Hat and Tea Cozy pattern!  I had so much fun designing this project–an homage to the Pontsycllte Aqueduct in Wales and a lovely knit for the narrow boaters and tea drinkers in your life!

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Narrowboat Adventures 2018: First Days May 21, 2018

These first three weeks on the canals have flown by!  John and I are having fun on the cut, we found ourselves dropping back into our canal routine rapidly.

firstglimpse

First Glimpse of Ali’s Dream

We found Ali’s Dream easily. We met her owner Jackie  and the rain eased off for our move in with our garbage bags.  Once again, we felt like we were playing a life-size game of tiles: move something to one place, then  move it again for the next item.

We set out early next morning for a full on shop at Tesco, we needed food and various boat-hold items to make life more comfortable!  And then we were off, on the canals…

A quick little diversion onto the Llangollen to meet up with our friends on Willow

A quick little diversion onto the Llangollen to meet up with our friends on Willow

First off, we took a short detour up the Llangollen to meet up with our friends from Willow (we did the Rochdale together last year).  After all, they were only 4 miles, 5 locks and 2 lift bridges away!

We successfully found them, went on a little further to the next winding hole and turned around so as to be facing the way we wanted for the morning. That night, we moored up next to Willow and caught up with news.  Our friends were delighted that we had come to visit.

 

After that, we headed south in our intended direction.

blissedoutRiverSevernMay6

Blissed out on the canals…

…and suddenly, May was upon us!

Spring arrived late this year. Cows have only just gone out to pasture (they look joyous), trees are budding, and green is the colour of the moment. The first fluff ball ducklings are hatched, swans are nesting and the birds are very vocal. We’ve seen our first kingfisher. The spring flowers are a delight: occasional daffodils ( have they escaped or do they exist in the wild?), celandine, primroses, bluebells, cowslips (haven’t seen these in years), pussy willows all turned to pollen, glorious blossoms on the trees.

The best evenings are spent outside.  One evening I heard a cuckoo calling in the late day sunshine and calm. I hadn’t heard a cuckoo in years.

alisdream

We explored a new-to us canal: the Staffs and Worcs, which proved surprisingly rural after an urban start outside of Wolverhampton. The ingenuity of the original canal builders- here James Brindley and the Bratch locks- is astounding.

 

newplantsMay15

We found a Sainsburys store close enough to the canal to come back with more plant pots and compost (and food). John fitted a new water pump and nearly has the boat to to his satisfaction

 

We moored up just outside of Stourbridge More for the  bank holiday on May 7, with unaccountably good weather for the long weekend.

Stourport basin, entering the Severn, reaching Worcester and heading up the Birmingham and Worcester canalMay6

Stourport Basin, entering the Severn, reaching Worcester and heading up the Birmingham and Worcester canal

Stourbridge was very pretty and our gateway to the upper reaches of the River Severn on a glorious day. The River was flowing gently and was mostly wooded on both sides.

We had to turn back off the river at Worcester: a sharp left hand turn, but the river was wide and it was easily done. The first two locks on the Birmingham and Worcester Canal were very wide, giving access to the town dock basin for much bigger river boats. We then began our journey towards the Oxford Canal back on narrow channels.

 

Bank holiday Monday turned out to be a scorcher. We went from bringing the plants in for fear of frost to midsummer temps. This was also the day when there appeared to be a problem with the charging of the domestic batteries. The fridge shut down, the newly installed water pump gave up, and on and on! We called in to a small boatyard for confirmation of the diagnosis and the aid of many fuses, a work-around, and some shore power to perk things up we were eventually back underway.

 

readyingfor36locksMay7

Readying ourselves for 36 locks in one morning!

Next day, we completed the Tardebigge Locks – a personal best with 36 locks before lunch!

topofTardebiggeLocksMay9

at the top of Tardebigge Locks

We started very early in case it should be as hot as the day before.  There were was no one ahead of us and, amazingly, almost all the locks were set in our favour. This meant that the last boat through had been downbound the day before, leaving all the locks empty (except for a couple that had filled or partially so owing to leaks). A huge saving in time and effort for us! The weather was cooler, the heatwave over thankfully.

36lockslaterMay8

This saw us onto the Grand Union Canal and into double wide locks. This was the last leg of last year’s journey but, unlike last time, there were other boats around with which to share some of the locks. This can be fun, as you meet and chat with other boaters, exchanging jibber-jabber. Or you can catch up with a single-handler who has been out so long that he has apparently lost the ability to speak, and end up doing twice the work to help him through. It takes all sorts on the canal!

interiorMay3

the interior of Ali’s Dream–home away from home!

We’ve had a few fun nights with squeaking smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors and I’ve become expert at finding them and replacing batteries! Otherwise the engine controls are working like silk, the fridge is staying frozen, the shower can get both shoulders wet simultaneously, the new water pump is working and life is good.

tiedupMay17

On the bank, the moorhen chicks are hatching, the mallard babies are getting bigger (but still insist on trying to race the boat – whilst peeping frantically for mum), the yellow iris are appearing, the lambs are getting tubby. Sheep are nothing but eating machines. We’ve seen two batches of cygnets. The new flowers are planted (we might need a longer boat to accommodate them all!) Now headed for the Thames and new waters in a day or two.

 

canalknitting

Some evenings, I even find time to knit!

 

 

 

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Planes, Trains and Narrowboats! Part 1 February 22, 2018

sy94_beautifulNelson copy

Beautiful Nelson, British Columbia

I realize that my husband’s retirement shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but even two years out there were no formal plans. It was business as usual for Judy Fawcett and me: Plans had been hatched for our next biannual Knitting Adventure Camp in late September 2017, and Nelson, British Columbia was our chosen destination.
ukprep

Preparations

Life moved on and, somehow, the idea of a long apres-freedom narrowboat trip intruded into our consciousness and wormed its way into being. DH was set loose on the world in mid-August. We’d both been so busy with work that we hadn’t had time to take our customary two-week boat trip earlier in the season.  This left us with only the autumn months if we were going to cruise the canals in 2017.  September to December seemed perfect… apart from the Adventure Knitting commitment from September 24 to the 30th.
queenbee

The Queen Bee: our home-away-from-home!

After much discussion, it was determined that the only way to have my cake and eat it too was for me to leave for our UK journey at the end of August, temporarily return to Canada, teach the workshops, then head staight back to the boat as though nothing absurd had just happened. Problem solved!

 

This manoevre took on the nature of a military operation.
There were several steps to be taken in Canada before the September departure:
Step 1 – May – June: prepare the workshop notes, design, knit and write the Selkirk Mittens pattern.
Step 2 – July: order the yarns for the class knitting kits.
Step 3 – August: pack a large box with my teaching clothes, projector, and knitting kits; ship it out to Judy on the West Coast.
Step 4 – Find a 10 day berth for our boat and book it.  As our rental agreement precluded single-handed operation of the boat, we’d have to find somewhere within 19 days cruising range of our starting point near Oxford. This mooring would also need to be near a railway station, be pleasant for DH, and secure for the Queen Bee.
We hit upon theNational Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port, conveniently near DH’s mother. Could we book a berth there for the period? Luck was with us – yes, we could! All locked in (both by canal locks and padlocks), she could safely be left unattended if needed for a few days.
Step 6 – Plan the voyage to reach Ellesmere Port in time to catch a train to London to get to the airport to fly back to Canada. We would be picking Queen Bee up from just north of Oxford, and estimated that it would take 15 days cruising to reach our destination.   Bearing in mind that a cruising day may not go according to plan, and that time  also has to be budgeted for food shopping on foot, taking on fresh water, pumping out the sewage holding tanks, picking up diesel, or for canal lock hiccups, we gave ourselves 20 days. We even worked in a contingency plan that I could be dropped in Chester near the station should we be delayed any further.
With all this in place or planned, we were ready to head to the UK.
 Move-In Day
Space is at a premium on a narrowboat (they are not called narrow for fun), so we decided  to empty all our worldly goods into plastic bin bags to take on the Queen Bee, with the exception of one carry-on size suitcase for me to use on my return to Canada.
On the water, at last!
In high spirits and with much anticipation, we set out on our voyage.
selkirk
Check out our weekly half-price patterns at LucyNeatby.com.
This week we are featuring my Selkirk Felted Mittens!
These mittens are named for the Selkirk mountains that surround Nelson, British Columbia, the venue for my Adventure Knitting camp 2017. This speedy and warm mitten incorporates a number of interesting techniques: a ‘reducing’ waste yarn opening for the thumb, an un-fulled cuff (for maximum draft exclusion) and a tubular bind-off!
The Selkirk Felted Mittens pattern is half-price ($4.50) until February 27,
Happy Stitches!
 

The SnowFire DK Blanket January 31, 2018

 

snowfire

Knit yourself an heirloom with this spectacularly beautiful and warm double-layer blanket!

 

I’m so thrilled with the responses I’ve gotten to  my newest dk blanket design which was pre-released last week!

narrowboatknitting

I’ve been working on the SnowFire Blanket for many months–I started this project at home in Nova Scotia, it was my constant companion throughout John’s and my time on the UK Canal system, and I’ve been happily knitting on it since my return.

 

This project makes for wonderful travel knitting: interesting, colourful, technically pleasing, but still portable and fun.  My blanket is certainly well-travelled: as a matter of fact, it is with me in Quebec right now!

 

stitchmaps

The SnowFire DK Blanket pattern is more of a workshop-in-a-pattern, as it includes 15 instructional videos and detailed Stitch-Maps charts.

 

 

knitcircus

I had such fun choosing the KnitCircus gradient yarns I would use for the blanket, and am thrilled with the results.  The yarn is gorgeous, a treat to work with and so extraordinarily soft.

How exciting, too, that the good folks at KnitCircus Yarns have put together a yarn pack based on the colours I used for my blanket!

 

 

sfedge

I am nearing the end now, and am applying edge treatments as we speak.  It’s been a gloriously enjoyable project, one which I will miss.

 

 

For more tips and techniques in double knitting, please consider joining my Double Knitting Technique Club.  This is the club for all who have discovered the magic of double knitting and are now lusting after more advanced forms of DK sorcery!
My Double Knitting Technique Club is full of an ongoing supply of new techniques in video format supplemented by workshop-style notes.

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SnowFire and I on Big Tancook Island in January

 

 

Please note that the SnowFire DK Blanket is currently a pattern-in-progress.
While it is still on my needles and the pattern under construction, it is fit for use. I will continue to update it until it is complete with final pictures, video links and layout.

 

Happy DK Stitches!

 

Lucy’s Advent Sales! December 1, 2017

Filed under: Advent 2017,home,Sale — happystitches @ 10:11

 

ighat

Today’s half-price pattern is Lucy’s Igloo Hat! Check at LucyNeatby.com daily until December 25 for more Advent Specials!

Join the festivities as we count down to the holidays!
We’ve created a 2017 Advent Calendar Sale and will be featuring one half-price pattern per day until December 25.
Our first door opens to Lucy’s Igloo Hat!
You’ll have plenty of time to knit this delightfully warm, top-down, fully reversible, double knit gift: one side of the hat features a rippling texture pattern and the other sprinkles of colour!
The Igloo DK Hat pattern is half-price ($3.75CAD) until the end of the day!

Check back at LucyNeatby.com daily for more Advent Calendar Specials!

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Narrowboat Adventures: Week 13 November 25, 2017

Filed under: Canal boat,General Musings,Knitting Travels,Narrowboating,Travels — happystitches @ 19:36
almostinStratford
John and I achieved a achieved a personal best the other day – we did 16 locks into Stratford-upon-Avon. Not wanting to stay overnight,  we took a quick stroll, had lunch and turned around and went back to just beyond where we had been before, making a grand total of 32 locks. I might need a holiday from my holiday!
locks
We are meeting up with Sam and Cherrie this week: we have a major flight of double locks in mind for them.

 

 

rainy

No good photos of the gongoozlers or any entertaining jibber-jabber, so this will have to do: as canal boaters, we are ready for any type of weather!

I have some more answers to the FAQS:
What is a gongoozler?
This is the term used for folks not actively on the canal, spectating the activities of boats and boaters. Locks are frequent point of contact where you often interact with people. They will often have many questions. In cities, people peer over bridges and take photos.
Canal conversations are known as jibber-jabber. Boaters love to jibber-jabber with other boaters – often a source of useful information regarding pubs, moorings, tricky locks etc.
amomenttoknit betweenlocks
How are we keeping warm?
Queen Bee has diesel fired central heating, which is independent of the engine. In theory, this is great,as there are radiators along the length of the boat.  However, it has to have a 1/4 tank of fuel available.  If not, it will try 4 times to boot up and then shut you out forever (or until you can find a authorized agent–which might take an equally long time). We’ve had a few issues with this unit – none of which have been caused by lack of fuel!
Our main form of heat is a solid fuel stove – very tiny but then, so is the boat. The stove will burn wood or coal.  Luckily, it’s easy to buy coal as we travel. It’s tricky not to get the little stove too hot or cool, but it is reliable. In any case, the weather hasn’t really been cold thus far, although we are starting to feel the colder weather come in. Frequent work at the locks have me shedding my many layers of clothes very quickly. Standing at the helm, you don’t notice yourself getting cold, until you find that your core temperature has dropped!
Lucypull

 

 

 

 

Sadly, this will probably be my last epistle from Queen Bee, 😦

We are into our last week on the boat.  We plan to be at the appointed marina on November 29th, for a big spring clean and tidy up for handover on the 30th. We’ll have to find a hire-car and move out. We’ll then head to visit with John’s mum for a few days and then southwest-ish for our eventual departure to Canada on December 10th.

 

 

 

sayinggoodbye

We will be sad to end our fantastic journey in the next few days: what an enjoyable trip this has been!

 

Narrowboat Adventures: Week 12 November 20, 2017

Filed under: Canal boat,General Musings,Narrowboating,Travels — happystitches @ 17:34
calderdalerochdalecanal
It’s becoming frosty in the mornings, the ropes are rather stiff.
We were lucky with our visit from Elly and Brian last week, with a couple of unseasonably warm days  to cruise up to Shardlow. We also managed to pick them up on time  and didn’t lose them whilst they were with us!  Now John and I are headed towards Birmingham and then onwards to Stratford.
Birmingham

Urban boating south of Birmingham onto the Grand Union.

I have been asked a number of questions and have found some time to answer a few of them today:
 
Who gets the lock first?
The vast majority of locks are manually operated by the boater. It’s first come, first served, except when the water level is better suited to the boat in the opposite direction. If you are coming up and the lock is full, then the down-bound boat has priority. If no down-bound boat is visible, you may empty the lock and use it. The idea is to not waste water.  Everyone starts from different places each day so there isn’t often a queue – -except at difficult locks and near hire bases.
narrowlocks

Into the narrow locks on the Trent and Mersey canal

Is there a time of year when the locks are closed?
The locks are generally available year round, unless there is emergency maintenance. Scheduled maintenance begins in November.  A plan for this is published by early autumn, so journeys can be planned to avoid any major holdups. 
manned

crew at Shipley

Some of the big river locks have automated control boxes for which a waterways key is required. Turn the key, follow directions and press buttons! Other big locks are manned with lock keepers, some of whom are full time staff while others engage volunteers to help out. Starting in November, manned locks and tunnels must be booked in advance, which is not always easy to coordinate.
Lucypull
Do you pay at each lock?
No, the use of the locks and swing bridges is covered with the boat’s licence. Licence costs are based on boat length and other factors — a hotly debated topic amongst boaters. It takes a huge amount of maintenance to keep the system running. At this time of year, scheduled large maintenance work is undertaken, causing closures, known as stoppages for weeks/months to repair and renew lock gates and banks. We have had to adjust our plans to allow for for these. All of that information can be found online.
lucyatthetiller
 
 

 
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