Shhh… Announcement coming April 18!
It’s over. We have departed from Ali’s Dream.
We made our way super, extra, very slowly the last 1/4 day, stretching it out as long as possible. We meandered back to Swanley BridgeMarina, to allow time for a last canal coffee, and to savour the last 5 locks.
In total, we completed 939 miles and 874 locks in 81 days (not to mention several bottles of Baileys – the essential ingredient in our canal coffee).
We filled Ali up with fuel, did a few pirouettes and backed her into a very slender berth. Then followed 24 hours of washing, polishing and sorting. I achieved my Fitbit goal and then some just on dashing to and fro between the boat and the marina laundry!
Jackie-the-Boat-owner made a few queries about us being happy to get back to a flush toilet and ample water flow but, honestly, a washing line and good Internet connection were all I’d missed.
Our last was another stunningly beautiful morning but, strangely, between locking the boat and reaching our hire car, there were raindrops. Actual rain drops. This turned into a light shower, requiring windscreen wipers and creating modest puddles. Not enough to break the drought, but it did help to make our departure easier.
Thanks for reading and joining in John’s and my summer adventure. And now I’m signing off from the cut…
I’ve started putting out feelers for next year’s boat.
This week’s sale pattern:
The versatile, multi-size Lighthouse Bag is another fun summer project! It is worked in the round in a spiraling lacy pattern that gradually decreases as it winds its way up the bag to finish in a short-row Spider strap.
This quick project requires very little finishing and can be felted to make it resistant to stretching.
The Lighthouse Bag pattern is half-price ($3.75CAD) until July 26,
We took a little side trip along the Middlewich Branch the other day. This east-west canal usually connects two major north south canals, the Shropshire Union and the Trent and Mersey. Months ago, there was a major breach near Middlewich, draining the canal. It’s going to take a lot of time and funds to fix it and is causing a lot of problems to boaters, the businesses situated on the canal, and hire boat companies who promote the Four Counties and Cheshire cruising rings.
You can go along the canal as far as the temporary dams. You can only get to the the last winding hole before the problem, unless you like going in reverse. So that is what we did! We met up with some friends at an excellent pub walking distance from the canal. The canal was noticeably lifeless. Apart from regularly moored boats, there were just a couple of visiting boats in the whole length that we traveled. The water, not moving much now, had become distinctly scummy and the two marinas, normally bustling, were ominously quiet.
We then returned back to the mainline Shropshire Union and continued on up towards Chester. Here we devised a plan to get John’s mum to the boat so she could spend a day with us. Deciding that a tour of all the locks in Chester would be ideal, we cruised through the 8 locks. These are big and heavy and it was hot work. After going down the 3 step staircase lock, we turned around and went up again, returning back to where the hire car had been left. We had time for a drink at the pub, dinner on the boat, and then John took his mum back home!
Yesterday marked Day 70 on Ali’s Dream. We had an early start, completing 25 locks before lunch. The flight was fairly busy and we had a good number of locks. This was very easy, as an uphill boat would exit the lock as we left each downhill one. Going downhill in narrow locks, after entering and stopping the boat, the helm can close the back gate and wind up one of the two paddles, and then hop back on the boat before it gets too low. The half-width gates can be opened, first the towpath side, then hop across the lock and open the far side, boat exits, whilst the far side paddle is lowered, far side gate closed, hop back and repeat and on to the next one. It appears that some 700 locks have honed us into a slick team!
Things are starting to wind down. We are beginning to whittle down our supplies. However, the cans of soup purchased for a quick warm lunch on a cold day, will remain in the cupboards for Ali’s next journey.
This week’s half-price pattern:
Socks are a fun, portable project!
Lucy’s charming bead-topped Double Diamond Socks feature a choice of two different diamond patterns. The Diamond Lace gives a traditional lacy effect, while the Waffle pattern gives a denser, more textured look. A lovely treat for your feet!
The Double Diamond Socks pattern is half-price ($4.50CAD) until July 19,
July made its appearance in the midst of a heat wave. A UK heat wave usually only lasts 2 days, but this one has held out. We’ve adjusted to the weather by setting off even earlier in the mornings to catch the cool bit of the day. It’s too warm to do anything other than read, and definitely too sticky to knit.
We celebrated Canada Day by doing 16 wide beam locks, making it up to Langley Mill, at the end of the navigable Erewash Canal.
The Erewash was rehabilitated from a stagnant swamp in the late 70s, and what a transformation it is! The water is crystal clear (you can see right to the bottom), with a disconcertingly vast number of fish. It’s hard to stop gazing at them and pay attention to steering! The fish are mostly 6” and smaller, but when walking up the towpath between locks I did spot a couple of pike at least a foot long lurking under the lily pads.
We took a diversion the other day. We were going to head north at Autherly Junction and get onto the Shropshire Union, but then I received a message from Riverknits on instagram that we were very nearby one another. It appeared that, if we turned left onto the Staffs and Worcs canal and headed down about 12 locks, we might be able to meet up. John and I decided to give it a go.
Becci and Markus arrived a hour or so after we tied up. Their range of mini-skeins dyed in 72 colours was most impressive. All of the dye-work is performed on a 60’ narrowboat (with a 2 1/2 year old underfoot)! Formerly conventionally employed engineers, maternity leave and a redundancy payout spurred Becci and Markus into trying yarn dyeing full time. I’d say they’ve found their niche! They sell the prepared skeins at shows and through their web site, taking parcels to the post office nearest to where they happen to be tied up!
We’ve had our conference with Ali’s owner, and she’d like the narrowboat back at Swanley in about two weeks. It’s a bit shocking to have such a finite period, but now we can plan our final couple of weeks (assuming we don’t succumb to heat stroke).
To finish our trip off we plan to head up the Montgomery Canal. This is a fairly newly reopened branch off the Llangollen that we have never had time for on our other trips. We have to book passage through Frankton Locks in advance. This is limited to 12 boats a day, so we have to determine when we will be there and when we will return.
This week’s sale pattern:
Wow, it’s hot out there!
Lucy’s cool cotton Swirling Sun Hat is a quick summer knit requiring little finishing. Knit the lace brim to fit the head, pick up sts around the brim, and work in the round up to the crown.
A quick and satisfying hot weather project!
The Swirling Sun Hat is half-price ($3.75CAD) until July 12,
After having spent some time on the Grand Union Canal, John, Ali’s Dream and I are back on the top half of our canal map!
When we reached Norton Junction, we might have turned left and gone to Braunston, Napton and the Hatton locks on the Grand Union, where we were a month or so ago. Instead, we turned onto the Leicester length of the Grand Union. There it magically turned back into a narrow canal until we reached Foxton Locks.
Flowers and cattle! A cloudy but warm morning on the Grand Union
Almost immediately, we were out into beautiful unspoiled Leicestershire countryside, with often not a building in sight. Huge fields of very dry arable land. We noticed cracks in the soil in the fields, and maize crops that didn’t seem to be getting much taller. That particular section was closed last autumn due to lack of water, although we were assured that the near continuous rains of February to April had refilled the reservoirs. Despite that, every time we dropped a double wide lock 70 x 14 x8’, in volume, it felt like a lot of water going downhill. We met up with other boats occasionally and shared a few locks, but were alone for the most part.
Along our way, we took every canal side spur that presented itself. We took the Wendover arm: 6 miles up to a dead end, a windy narrow little channel that suddenly took you past a modern working flour mill, and later petered out in a small turning basin in a field.
The next one was the Aylesbury arm: after many narrow locks we reached a turning basin in the middle of the town that appeared to have been bulldozed and rebuilt without any soul. There were visitor moorings and services there, but we felt no inclination to stay. After a quick raid on Waitrose, we were on our way.
Our next detour was to Market Harborough, which was quite a surprise: a lovely basin at the end, beautifully redeveloped but in keeping with the former port and wharves. We found excellent moorings and services, too. John and I took a short walk through town to the wonderful Hambleton bakery, a butcher, fishmonger, hardware and all sorts of excellent small shops.
Foxton Locks are famous, with two 5-step staircase locks with a small pound between them. There were many gongoozlers milling about. The locks are interesting in that they let any excess water out into a series of side pounds as you go down. This saves water but makes for a more complex operation. Fortunately there are volunteer lock keepers to keep track of both boats and people!
The weather continues to be extraordinarily dry and hot. I have discovered the delights of dipping my feet, socks and all, into a bucket of canal water. What a relief, especially when they feel that they might catch fire! In the evenings, we endeavour to moor in the shade.
Hoping that summer has found you wherever you are, Happy Canada Day!
This week’s sale pattern:
The Zinnia is a spectacularly beautiful double-layer blanket; something lovely to knit on, whenever you need it. Knit a smaller Zinnia and create a lovely chair pad or coaster!
The Zinnia DK Blanket and its accompanying Tutorial are both half-price until July 5,
Happy July Stitches!
We enjoyed our last few days on the River Thames, which was busier and busier the further down it we went. We enjoyed viewing all the crazy houses, castles, follies, and wide varieties of boats while also looking forward to more mundane, workaday peace of the canals to come.
One magical day stood out! We leisurely cast off from our bank in Windsor in the morning (aka, not quite at the crack of dawn), watching the castle looming larger and larger, then disappearing behind the trees. The canal then looped around behind the Home Park (or castle grounds), giving us a lovely view from the opposite side. The bank was clearly marked: no mooring– trespass being a criminal offence.
We chugged on as the skies slowly cleared and tied up at Staines-Upon-Thames, where I had a quick meet up with a knitter who lives near the canal!
We headed on out, past many houseboats of all shapes and types of grandeur, cottages on the little Thames islands, loads of folks out enjoying a beautiful Sunday.
In one lock which, on that day often had 7 or 8 boats in at a time, we were the largest by miles, with a wooden speedboat, an inflatable canoe, a lovely launch, and a be-fendered plastic boat. We have grown accustomed to those crafts all giving us a wide berth, as we are 20 tons and steel with no brakes. We nearly collided with a thoroughbred rowing scull awaiting their race at a regatta! There was nothing more I could do than stay in the Channel. Fortunately, they finally noticed our hoot and looming bulk and realized there was no contest.
Shortly after that, we came around a bend to see a very odd craft. Upon closer inspection, we realized she was the Royal Barge Gloriana! Decided not to take her on (even though she was on the wrong side of the river. You’ll have to take my word for it, she really is spectacular.
We’d been looking for somewhere to tie up for the day and had been failing for the last couple of hours. I had hoped to moor near Hampton Court but had doubted this would be possible. Then we found one spot that might just be long enough. The boat is 57’. We squeezed in, the gap was 56’ 9”. With a slight overlap of rudders we managed it. Imagine my delight when I looked across the footpath to find that we were right by the golden railings of the back garden of Hampton Court Palace! We went for a little stroll and were surprised to find we could freely stroll around the grounds, rose and kitchen garden. We even saw a flock of green parrots in one of the trees.
As we were returning to to boat we found we had been locked in at the side gate. Luckily we could see the main entrance and headed that way and were politely let out by a uniformed gent!
Only wish we could have stayed another day to check out the Royal School of Needlework. I guess it’ll just have to wait until next time.
This week’s sale pattern:
The graceful, shoulder-hugging Faroese Flower Shawl is knit in one piece from the neck down. This gorgeous, airy piece features floral lace stitches and an unusual petal trim at the bottom.
A beautiful summer project!
The Faroese Flower Shawl is half-price ($6.00CAD) until June 28,
We retraced our route somewhat at the beginning of the month, and perhaps even enjoyed it a bit more the second time around! The weather was clearer and the views better. The addition of our boarding plank has widened our options for mooring, too.
Our days are full, and we are usually underway by 0700. Tying up at the end of the day depends on conditions and objectives.
Once the engine has been started, one of us heads out and prepares the first lock, and we are off.
Apart from a couple of notable flights the locks have been about every 20 mins, with another 20 spent negotiating the upcoming one.
Between locks we: eat breakfast on the deck. Boil the kettle. Make a cup of coffee. Clean teeth. Wash up the dishes. Put away the dishes. Clean the bathroom- it needs regular maintenance! Make another cup of canal coffee. Tend to the plants. Dead head and water the flowers (feed on Fridays). Plan and make water/sanitary/ garbage stop.
Tidy up the bed and prep the items for charging (we only have a cigarette lighter adapter to a small inverter- that can only be run after the engine has charged the battery for the engine start for an hour.)
The one battery is reserved entirely for starting the engine, and we always ensure that it is fully charged before charging the domestic ones or the plug in the inverter to charge the devices.
Usually only one item can be achieved between locks or swingbridges. No wonder it takes all day!
By 4 or 5pm we are ready to stop, eat, drink and fall asleep. The sun insists on staying up later than we do!
We had a lovely invitation from friends in Woolhampton. They offered us both dinner AND a washing machine. We couldn’t resist, and luckily caught an excellent drying evening, too.
Still looking down at the water and continuing along our way.
And hardly a stitch knit!
This week’s sale pattern
My Celestial Baby Sweater is a lovely gift for the newest addition to your family! An easy-fit, easy-knit sweater with button-shoulders for a baby or toddler. Knit yours out of machine-washable yarn, and it will become a treasured garment!
The Celestial Baby Sweater is half-price ($3.75CAD) until June 21,