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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!

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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!

 

Narrowboat Adventures: Weeks One and Two September 16, 2017

Filed under: Canal boat,General Musings,Knitting Travels,Narrowboating,Travels — happystitches @ 16:32

Week One:

ukprep

Two days before we set off!

We had an interesting and busy few days after reaching the UK: pre-boat shopping and provisioning whilst we still had a car.

I knit quite a few rounds on the Ice Dragon blanket between Heathrow, Somerset, Merseyside and Oxford. And not a stitch for a whole week after having embarked on the Queen Bee!

queenbee1009

Our beautiful home for these three months: The Queen Bee

We arrived on QB with all our provisions and worldly goods in garbage bags (no room for suitcases on a narrowboat). Steve, Queen Bee’s owner, met us for a handover and we moved in. This felt roughly like getting a quart into a pint pot. The boat has plenty of equipment and every locker had something in it.

We sorted ourselves out bit by bit whilst heading to Oxford. The canal and homes alongside were beautiful, but without tying up and going into the city, you really couldn’t see much of the Oxford of dreaming spires, etc. We did get one brief glimpse of Jericho – familiar from Inspector Morse! Next, we started heading north, with one of our first stops just north of Banbury.

After only 4 days, it felt like we’d dropped off the planet.

 

canal0509

Heavenly Warwickshire countryside, winding along the contours on the Oxford canal.

 

Internet is tricky and I’m trying to conserve! I’m not getting much time to knit a stitch, but the journey has been nothing but enjoyable so far.

 

interiorcabin0509

This is my view as I answer my Craftsy class questions!

 

You will laugh, but never have I felt the urge to be so tidy! During the whole first week, in between steering, locks, taking on water, finding fuel and pump-out facilities, shopping for additional gear (bath mat, a few extra towels) and groceries, we sorted cupboards and lockers so that we could fit everything in (and find it again). There is plenty of equipment on the boat: 3 dustpans and their accompanying brushes are handy, but the duplicates and other things we don’t need can be stowed deep in the most convoluted of the available spaces. Tidying up reminds me of the game with 15 squares in a 16 square grid: you have to move one thing to get to another.
J has been entertaining himself by gradually puzzling all the systems out and making fixes – all four burners on the stove now work (and the radio). I’m getting unnatural urges regarding Brasso and polishing.

Having fun on the cut.

 

Week Two:

greathaywood1209

 

I find myself juggling taking photos on my phone while trying not to use too much data. It’s bit tricky to get lock photos and action shots with just the two of us – we are both kept pretty busy.

 

hawkesburyjunction0809

Hawkesbury Junction, turning on to Coventry canal.

 

After an intermittently rainy morning with a bunch of locks, which run through several appealing historic villages, we entered Warwickshire.  Here the canal meanders along a contour line in an apparently aimless fashion. With many 180 degree bends, it takes 11 miles to achieve 4 as the crow flies. The scenery was magnificent – too expansive for an iPhone. Next, we had a full day with many locks ahead to get through Napton.

The hedgerows are brimming with wild fruit The wild fruits are stunning: hawthorn berries, hops, rosehips, elderberries, sloes, curranty-looking springs, to name only the ones I can name or describe. One morning, I picked a basin of blackberries – they are everywhere along the canal but not often convenient to pick. There are apples, plums and pears in profusion, in canal side gardens and many gone feral.  The fields all look very smart and stripey in their recently harvested condition. The smells and scents of the countryside are delightful. The Oxford canal meanders along the contour lines, so not many locks. It’s such a pleasure to get away from the drone of motorways, hooting of trains, it’s just sad to know that the new planning white-elephant high-speed train will soon be cut through this extraordinary landscape – all to save a mere 20 minutes travel time.

 

lucyknit1309

End of the day bliss.

On September 11, I finally knit one round on my Ice Dragon DK Blanket.  I’ve either been too busy, late with dinner, or the evening light on the boat hasn’t permitted knitting or any fine work. We’ve found a solution, though.  There is a small rocking chair on board and, if carefully angled (in the minute available space) so that I can put my feet up, I can then knit by the light of J’s headlamp.  It’s very focussed but works. I’ve got 2 x 40” needles in the work now and a third one to knit with. J has got the radio and DVD player working and the boat has an eclectic supply of discs aboard.

lucyknit1009

Enjoying some highly anticipated knitting time!

Of course as soon as I picked up the blanket I discovered a FTRC (failure-to-read-chart) mistake from the road travel knitting, and had to change the colour of the centre line increases from 5 rounds back in eight places on both sides. Grr. Once I had that fixed I was able to proceed. One afternoon we had enough sun, and no locks so that I was able to sit on the stern deck and make my fixes as we transited Nuneaton. However I was exceedingly careful with my short fixing needles and crochet hook not to lose them overboard.

 

icedragonupdate

 

 

On we go… we have found a good rhythm and are enjoying every moment!

 

 

 
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