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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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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
 
 

Bonfire Night November 14, 2017

Filed under: Canal boat,General Musings,Knitting Travels,Narrowboating,Travels — happystitches @ 19:05

 

leavesgone,fieldsbare

In all of the excitement, I didn’t have the chance to take any decent photos, so this one will have to do! Autumn has arrived: the leaves are gone from the trees and fields are bare. A beautiful scene.

 I’ve always missed the rituals of Bonfire Night (commemorating Guy Fawkes’ failed attempt to blow up Parliament) right back to my first November at sea. I have fond memories of the weeks leading up: the damp  leaves stuffed into old clothes to make a Guy; hauling him around in a barrow in order to solicit pennies; damp, dark nights, with garden clearance bonfires; sparklers and old milk bottles set in sand to launch rockets; the smell of burnt gunpowder; Catherine Wheels that wouldn’t spin; splitting sticks for toffee apples, making and devouring them.
This year John and I scored. We tied up just outside Dunham Town (a very elegant village) and found ourselves adjacent to a field in which a large bonfire had been built. It was November 4th – would they have the fireworks on an non-school night – or wait for the better weather promised for the actual day? Fortunately for us, they were eminently sensible. A shelter was erected and they proceeded (between showers) to give us an excellent show. From the banging and popping further afield, it was apparent that much money was being burned all around. We even had a more distant but repeat performance by full moonlight on November 5th.   I am please to report that Bonfire Night is not dead!
sayinggoodbye

Onward, ho! Only one month now before we head back to Canada.

 

Narrowboat Adventures: Weeks Nine And Ten November 11, 2017

beautifulQueenBee

Our beautiful home away from home. There is a lot of hard work and some days are challenging, but this experience has been one for the books, we are loving every moment!

The start of this month found us chasing diesel – not sure how far we could go without running out and unable to purchase a jerry can for emergency supply (not to mention organizing a way to carry it back from a garage) – diesel stockists are few and far between at this time of year.  It was our very dear plan to take the Huddersfield Narrow Canal back south (many, many locks but narrow) and go through the Standedge tunnel  (the longest in the UK) but the vagaries of the Canals and Rivers Trust thwarted us thoroughly and we decided to continue along the Rochdale Canal in the company of our canal-exploring coconspirators aboard the Willow.
tandemCalder

Traveling in tandem with our friends aboard the Willow

Traveling in company is fun provided they are compatible – luckily we are! We leapfrogged each other on the run up to Leeds both heading for the one open day at the lock stoppage and both getting caught up at the jammed swing bridge – adversity unites. 
calderdale
The Rochdale! It’s spoken of with trepidation, and we found out why.  Since the Summit, it was challenging with both excesses of water and shortages. Going downhill is easier than uphill, but many of the overflow sluices are blocked with twigs, which then catch the leaves and effectively impede the water that needs to escape, leaving the locks brimming over at both ends. The canal itself is very shallow, with very few mooring spots and none of them dredged.
Frequently we had a challenge to get alongside at the end of day. The locks came thick, fast and heavy but we had a good system going.
transitingManchester

A gruelling but satisfying day transiting Manchester. Disappearing under the arches.

The final day on the Rochdale saw a target of 29 locks to reach the middle of Manchester and a reasonably secure overnight mooring in Castlefield. There are many spots en route where it was not possible or wise to stop. The homelessness visible in Manchester is depressing. One lock in particular was inhabited under the bridge by a full on encampment constructed of umbrellas and tents with all the occupant’s clothes hung on the lock mechanism.
cozy
Luckily we were able to get both boats out of the lock using only one gate so didn’t have to disturb or dismantle the residence.
SundownInCastlefield

Moored in Castlefield after 29 locks; early to bed!

We made our goal, setting off at first light and tying up in the twilight.
 

Narrowboat Adventures: Week Seven October 25, 2017

Filed under: Canal boat,General Musings,Knitting Travels,Narrowboating,Travels — happystitches @ 20:00
teamural

A detail of the Leeds mural

 The Leeds & Liverpool Canal is 127 1/4 miles long and by last Friday, we only had 19 1/4 miles to go.  What adventures we have had on this stretch of the UK waterways!
halfwaythere

I’m very familiar with the mileage as every milepost along the route shows the L’pool distance on one side and the Leeds on the other (always including the 1/4).   We were at the halfway mark about 12 days ago.

We successfully met up with our friends from Denver last week (they managed to spot several birds that we didn’t know existed, including a chough), and weathered the winds from Hurricane Ophelia that raked Ireland.
skipton

We made it to Skipton AND had our pork pie!

We spent a lovely day in Skipton, a beautiful city with enough bakeries, chocolatiers, and pie makers for an armada of boats. It’s hard to not overbuy with more food than we can store or eat! Later that week, we finally gave in and carried out a washday in Silsden, taking it in shifts to monitor the machines which all took different kinds of coins and tokens.
boatingintherain

Boating in the rain is more fun with friends!

We then completed another successful rendezvous for our friends to be whisked on their way to York. We’ve had some heavy rain of late but have been managing to stay warm with the coal stove.
bingley

Standing at the top of the Bingley Five Rise locks: 60 feet in 5 staircase locks.

We came down the Bingley Five Rise staircase locks on Friday morning –  an impressive 60’ drop in only 350’ distance – I was glad of the on-duty lock keeper to assist. This is not the place to make a mistake. Some very substantial timbers are used to hold back the massive weight of water.
knittinginLeeds

Knitting at Leeds station: I have actually started on knitting an aqueduct tea cosy.  Whilst waiting for the river level to subside, we made a quick visit with relatives, laundry in tow. 

 We arrived in Leeds on Monday!
After Leeds, the canal magically turns into the Aire and Calder and we will continue on towards the junction for the Huddersfield Broad Canal.
leedsflowers

Flowers on the canal, Leeds

We are about at our halfway point now after having lost 10 days in September. We have managed to reach the damaged Hurst Lock 19 in time for the one day opening before they continue the repairs for another week – this has been our goal time-wise. However it looks as if we will have to go back via Manchester as the Marple flight is still out of action.
skiptonswingbridge

swing bridge in Skipton

Approximate figures to date: Distance 480 miles, 6 1/4 furlongs, 259 locks – not to mention 80 (24 usually open) movable bridges, 13 tunnels and 126 aqueducts or over-bridges.
 

Narrowboat Adventures: Weeks Five and Six October 17, 2017

Filed under: Canal boat,General Musings,Knitting Travels,Narrowboating,Sale — happystitches @ 21:07
coffeeonthellangollencanal

We offered our guests an unparalleled experience on the canals

My friends and I had a happy reunion at Heathrow Airport after my brief sojourn in British Columbia, Canada (see my October Spun Yarn for details).  They joined John and me for a most enjoyable week on the canals before continuing their own UK adventure. We offered them an unparalleled guest experience: sleeping together in maximum intimacy, strenuous exercise, lock wheeling, floor sweeping and learning the art of living with a sewage holding tank…
workingthelocks

A working holiday!

…On a narrowboat you have to unlearn everything your mother taught you about always ‘going’ before you leave the house. We have quickly learned to visit the facilities both on arriving and departing a pub, the supermarket or any other designated place in order to save room.
Queen Bee has a fairly large waste tank, hardly situated under the fixed double berth. We have been carefully monitoring the level and pumping out as needed.  While the tank  does have a gauge, we were warned of its sudden leaps from empty to the red zone – with no interim progression.
stockinguponcoalfromthefuelboat

Stocking up on coal from the fuel boat

We were very organized, stopping for fuel and a pump out on our first day out from Ellesmere.  Chugging along the Llangollen canal just a couple of days later, the gauge suddenly took off. A visual inspection of the tank was immediately undertaken – it was 7/8 full. Evidently we were short-pumped at the last stop. A swift consultation of the nav book and we found a hire base, just 2 hours away.  Off we went.  Imagine our predicament when we arrived and found it to be long-since ceased operations!
Our next possibility was another 3.5 hours away and we couldn’t make it that day. We took our chances and made an early start next morning.  All was eventually well – we checked the tank visually this time. It’s amazing how rapidly boat conversations sink to plumbing and electrics. 
knittingafteralongdayofboating

We didn’t find much time to knit, but made the best of it when we could!

Despite the more “back-to-the basics” elements of our time together, we had a most enjoyable visit.  On our last day together, we coasted into town on fumes, dropping our visitors off in Llangollen 
captain

Starting to feel a chill in the air

Autumn is setting in seriously now.  The air is a confetti of leaves with each wind gust, we see skeins of geese in the sky daily. I’ve been finding myself thinking  about gloves whilst on the tiller in the mornings.
The canals are becoming leaf drifted and we have to stop the engine and reverse to shake them off the prop from time to time. The weather continues to be intermittently showery, we try to shelter the flowers in the worst winds – nearly lost the parsley overboard. The hydrangeas on the foredeck are very popular with passing boaters and walkers, we’ve received many compliments. John says hydrangeas are the new orchids!
aqueduct
We have established what passes for a routine to our days – up early before first light and underway. By  0730 we are quietly having breakfast (or even tea in bed) and one of us suddenly leaps up starts the the engine, lets go the lines and we are off. We generally travel all day, apart from necessary stops for groceries, water, fuel and pump outs every few days. It’s definitely about the journey; the destination is largely academic.
I find it very hard to be below once we are underway. Although you still have a great view, you can rubberneck better from on deck.
stowawaysockfromNelson

We seem to have brought a stowaway with us–all the way from Nelson, BC!

Equilateral Hat

This week’s half-price pattern is my Equilateral Hat! This highly unusual but easy construction for a hat may be made from oddments of wool or out of a variegated yarn with a long color gradation. Work a strip of triangles, fold, and mattress stitch into an amazing hat. The Equilateral Hat pattern is half-price ($3.75) until October 19!

 

 
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