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Cruising in 2005

As last year, this is an account of the year's cruising, extended by Sheila from her log (here are the pictures)

January

Early January was notable for some wild and windy weather. We spent several days storm bound at the bottom of the Macclesfield Canal but the need for supplies drove us into Kidsgrove. As we approached the junction with the Trent and Mersey Canal various people were warning us that the canal was blocked by a fallen tree and we would not be able to get past. All we could think of was the opportunity to gather some much needed firewood. By the time we arrived the BW forestry team were already at work cutting up the tree and burning the wood on a bonfire. What a waste! We fell to and helped them clear the wood into a stack - all along the roof of Sanity. There was another boat with the same idea which had arrived from the opposite direction so between us we made quite good progress. Bruce took some photos of the team at work and sent one to BW with a thank you email for the swift action of the forestry team. This eventually led to Bruce sending all the photos to Waterways World and being paid for two that were published the following month in a story about storm damage.

Once past the tree we enjoyed some excellent winter boating down the Cheshire Locks and through Middlewich to Nantwich. At Nantwich our visit coincided with Holly Holy Day which proved to be a celebration of a local battle in the Civil War. It appeared that the inhabitants of Nantwich regarded the Parliamentarians as goodies and the Royalists were the baddies. The town was full of members of the Sealed Knot or similar in costumes from the Civil War.

We continued down the Shropppie to Market Drayton where we turned and retraced our steps to be back at Middlewich by the end of the month.

February

The first week of February we climbed the Cheshire locks again then started back down. At the end of the first week of February I left the boat at Thurlwood to house sit for my brother while he and his wife were getting some winter sun. Bruce single handed down the rest of the Cheshire locks and across the Middlewich Arm to Calveley where I rejoined him. We then left the boat at Calveley for a week while we went back to Anglesey to clear our house and help Elanor prepare for her move to Burton. Back on the boat we moved down to Nantwich for the end of the month.

March

Now the winter maintenance season was coming to an end and the canals were reopening. We worked slowly down the Shroppie and north east up the Staffs & Worcs aiming to reach the last stoppage just as it was lifted. Of course it was lifted a few days early so we needn't have dawdled quite so much. Our aim was to reach the vicinity of Burton in time to provide Elanor with temporary accommodation while the sale of her old house and purchase of her new one went through. We tried for marina moorings but there were none available so we set out to comply with the guidelines for continuous cruisers whilst providing a base for someone in full time employment. We more or less achieved this but only because we were available to move the boat while Elanor was working. It would have been very difficult if we had been off the boat working during the day.

April

Elanor continued to sleep on the boat while her purchase ground along. The only day that it really went wrong was when we had moored one night within walking distance of her office in Burton on Trent. The following evening, instead of following her usual habit of phoning us before driving to the boat, she set off to walk back to the mooring leaving her car in the office car park. Poor Elanor she must have had a shock when she reached the mooring and discovered there was no boat there. We had changed our plans and moved during the day and although we had texted her our new location she had not turned her phone on when she came out of the office. After that we always got a call when she left her office to ask "Where are you?"

Most of the month we stooged up and down the Trent and Mersey between Fradley and Willington. Towards the end of the month we took a run down the Coventry for a change of scenery getting as far as Fazeley.

May

In May Elanor had to move into Bed & Breakfast accommodation as we could stay no longer having a date with a dry dock in Stone. Fortunately she found good accommodation in Alrewas and we were able to leave with a clear conscience. The second week of the month was spent in dry dock of which I have written elsewhere. After Sanity emerged with her smart new blacking we were off back to Fradley but this time turning down the Coventry on our way to Hawksbury Junction and then through Braunston to the Leicester section of the Grand Union and so to Crick Show. This time Braidbar had very kindly booked us a mooring on the towpath so we had only a short walk each morning and evening to get to and from the show. As last year we were very busy helping to show through Skye, the new Braidbar hire boat. However we had enough time off to have a look round the show and do a bit of shopping.

After the show we retreated to Welford, just north of Crick. We needed somewhere to chill out and do nothing very much for a while.

June

Having recovered our energy we left Welford and retraced our tracks to Braunston in order to obtain an anchor. We had hoped to pick one up at Crick Show but we couldn't find one. In the end we went to Tradcraft and got a full kit of anchor, chain and rope. Now we were set for the Trent. On the way back up the Leicester Arm we stopped off in Market Harborough and I spent a couple of days catching up on the washing whilst on a very convenient mooring in the basin complete with water and electricity. Bruce vanished off to Glasgow for a couple of days work.

The section through Leicester was new to us, we had always rather avoided it because of its poor reputation for vandalism. We followed the recommended pattern of mooring at Kilby Bridge then setting off very early. Fortunately there was another boat doing the same thing so we agreed to go together and simplify the lock working. I should say straight away that we had no problem whatever in Leicester but I am still glad that we went through early and quickly. Much of the waterfront in the city centre is undeveloped and unattractive. The so called secure town moorings were anything but. We kept going until we reached Thurmaston where mooring was limited but we felt much more secure. From Thurmaston onwards the Soar got better and better. Loughborough was a place just to get through but apart from that it became a very pleasant cruise down to the Trent.

We turned back up the Trent to moor at Sawley while we prepared for the big river. This was very fortunate as we met Ivor and Joan Caplan there who were also heading for Lincoln so we agreed to stay together on the way down to Torksey. They had been on the tidal Trent before but it was a new experience for us and we were glad of the company. It was all pretty uneventful as far as Nottingham where we had an excellent mooring at the back of a Sainsbury's supermarket. It was even possible to bring the trolley to the side hatch and unload straight into the galley - luxury.

Below Nottingham the locks are BIG. Although the fall was not exceptional the lock walls are built to allow for flood conditions and towered above us making the locks very gloomy. There was enough space in each lock to put at least three and probably four narrowboats abreast and two boats one in front of the other. It was a pleasant surprise to find how little turbulence there was when the lock was worked. We never worked one ourselves, they were all manned, so it was easy to hold the boat steady on the vertical lines set in the side of the lock.

We arrived at Cromwell Lock on Saturday afternoon which in some ways was a mistake. It's the lock at the top of the tidal section and departure depends on the tide. On that weekend the recommended departure was 8.00am Sunday so we moored breasted up to the Caplan's boat on the wall above the lock and turned in for an early night. We hadn't allowed for the local custom of the boaters in Newark whose weekend jolly seemed to be a cruise down to Cromwell Lock, barbie and party to the small hours then cruise back to Newark late on Sunday. This in huge fibreglass cruisers where the wheel-house was above two decks of accommodation. By Saturday evening there were three of these breasted up in front of us and another three directly behind and the party seemed to encompass all six boats, was very noisy and at times quite obscene. Still, we had our revenge on Sunday morning when both the Caplans and ourselves started our engines at 7.30 am and spent some time revving up before casting off, still breasted up, and manoeuvring thirty five tons of steel out from between all this very expensive fibreglass. We didn't touch them but I doubt if we did their hangovers much good!
Running from Cromwell to Torksey on a Sunday was a good move as the only gravel barge we saw was moored up. Meeting one of those in a narrow section of river would be a bit nerve racking. We were very glad of our VHF because we were able to listen to the barges and work out where they were. We never actually got up the courage to speak to them.

The last week of June saw us cruising the length of the Fossdyke Canal to Lincoln and then on down the River Witham to Boston. Boston is a lovely town. There are plenty of shops but they haven't taken over completely; there are lots of old buildings and narrow back streets to explore. There was also a very good market the day that we were there. The bit everyone has heard of is the church tower known as the Stump. It is an amazing site and well worth a visit but there is much more to Boston beyond that.

July

On our way back to Lincoln we were joined by the family for a delightful day doing the tourist bit in Lincoln. We went for the Castle rather than the Cathedral and it proved a good decision. Of particular interest was one of the copies of the Magna Carta which was on display. I didn't realise that there was more than one copy.

The next day Elanor, Graeme & Cathy joined us again, this time to travel with us through Lincoln to the Pyewipe Inn where we enjoyed a late lunch. After they left we were buzzed by a jet ski. It made little impression on us but its wash fairly battered the fibreglass cruisers moored behind us. It was unwise enough to come back for a second run making as much wash as possible. The two guys on it got scant sympathy when the engine cut out and the ski capsized. There were enough angry boat owners on the bank to make it inadvisable for them to climb ashore and since the engine wouldn't restart they were last seen paddling down the canal with their hands.

We returned to Torksey and back up the Trent to Sawley where we joined the Trent and Mersey Canal. We ended the month at Alrewas taking the chance to see Elanor's new house.

August

The first weekend of August we were at Stafford Boat Club for GIG 2005. The GIG is an annual event for people who correspond on one of the Internet groups for canal enthusiasts. It involves a lot of talking, quite a bit of drinking, a certain amount of eating and usually raises a goodly sum for charity. All in all a delightful weekend.

Since we were already on the Staffs and Worcs we decided to carry on to Wolverhampton and turn right at Autherley Junction onto the Shropshire Union Canal. It was a slightly long way round as we were heading for Preston Brook on the Trent and Mersey but we had time in hand and we enjoy the towns and villages on the Shroppie - Brewood, Market Drayton, Audlem and Nantwich. None of them are major centres but each has its own character and its own attraction.

In spite of the diversion we were well on time to reach Preston Brook on the third weekend of August where we spent a fortnight helping wrg provide services for the IWA National Festival which was over the Bank Holiday weekend.

September

After the Festival we set off back down the Trent and Mersey to Kidsgrove then turned up the Macclesfield to return to Braidbar for a few days. A few bits and pieces were done for us on the boat but we were away by the third week of the month and off back to Alrewas. As we had achieved registration at both doctor and dentist in Alrewas we now have to visit there every spring and autumn for our various check ups. It's no hardship as this is probably our favourite canal village.

October

We pottered at Alrewas for the first week of the month, and then headed south to Hawksbury Junction near Coventry to meet John & Nev, friends from our Ownerships days, with whom we cruised in company up the Ashby Canal. We had a particularly pleasant walk when we explored the site of the Battle of Bosworth which is very well laid out with explanatory boards. After that, we returned to the Alrewas area for the rest of the month to get a clean bill of health from doctor and dentist.

November

We started the month at Tamworth on a mooring that gives good access to a retail park and made a good start on the Christmas shopping. After that we moved slowly south and by the middle of the month had reached Braunston just outside Daventry. It's a major meeting point of the canal system and a very pleasant place to pass a few days even in winter. Moving on south down the Grand Union we reached Milton Keynes which from our perspective is a very nice mooring. We were moored at one side of Campbell Park, a very pleasant municipal park and a brisk walk of half an hour took us across the park to the very centre of MK. In one of the open areas of the shopping centre there was a temporary ice rink and a continental style Christmas Market. All good fun and a great place to stay which was fortunate as we were frozen in for five days. The thaw came just in time as we were seriously short of water and needed other services as well.

We started back north from MK and enjoyed a very pleasant visit from son Graeme and his fiancée Cathy at Cosgrove where we had a meal in the Barley Mow to celebrate Graeme's birthday. We reached Buckby by the end of the month and acquired a folding bike from the chandlery at Whilton Marina by the Buckby flight. (It comes in very useful for working lock flights.)

December

The month started well with some very successful cadging of firewood from BW staff who were hedge laying on the Braunston flight. We continued north collecting further supplies of wood out of the canal round Atherstone, including one entire pallet, soft wood of course but good for kindling.

We went back to Alrewas by the middle of the month to visit Elanor then south again to reach Hartshill where we celebrated Christmas.

On the way up the Atherstone flight after Christmas we had a bit of a scare when the idler pulley on the drive to the TravelPower jammed and the drive belt ran smoking hot before it parted. By the time we reached the engine room it was full of foul smelling black smoke. We had great support from Braidbar and Beta Marine who despatched a replacement pulley and drive belt to Braunston Marina. It was already there when we arrived a few days latter. We celebrated Hogmanay in Braunston with Graeme and Cathy and friends Doug and Ann off nb Zoria.