Sunday, 13 June 2010

To new moorings

We have other business at hand today, involving much running around the northern half of Northamptonshire during the day. We set off from by the long-closed New Inn on the Kilsby Road and make our way around the eastern outskirts of Rugby. For the third time in as many weeks, we skirt the bristles of the aerial farm.

Approaching Hillmorton Locks, we see a boat coming out of the top lock and slow to allow him to pass; he takes the cross-current nicely in his stride and this allows me to slip into the northern lock without stopping. We lock down through the flight, again bemoaning the inoperability of the old cross-filling mechanism. This allowed half of the water of every lock to be saved by first filling the empty adjacent lock before spilling the rest into the pound below. The mechanism still seems to be there but BW no longer trust anyone to use it.

Hilmorton is full of hire boats today: most friendly and cheerful, several - sadly - were foolish and irritable. We relax and let them cluck around helplessly. Glad it's not our boat they are bashing around.

Rugby appears, hovers around the southern horizon through the gaps in the trees and then we are in Newbold Tunnel again, enjoying the son-et-lumiere show. Our BMC is providing the "son" and Warwickshire ratepayers have stumped up for the "lumiere".

Just a mile or so down the Cut and we are turning in to Lime Farm, where John and Sarah are tying up their returning dayboat. It's a very pleasant surprise to see Andy and Diane's boats at the head of the arm.

6.1 miles, 3 locks

Apologies to NB Longsdon

Late afternoon, Sunday 13th June and we slow down at the bridge just east of Newbold Tunnel to pick up H and the dog - Sadie.
Sadie is a rather elderly Springer Spaniel and a bit fragile: she's not particularly keen on boating, sadly, and it requires a stationary boat close by the bank so she can be lifted aboard.

We have a boat, Longsdon, 50m behind us and as we approach the bridge, I signal to them that we are stopping. They wave in response that they have seen, and I turn forward to concentrate on stopping North Star. We pick up them up and set off again, and as I open up the throttle, I turn to thank Longsdon behind us. To my consternation, they have misinterpreted my signal and believe that there is a boat approaching from the tunnel towards the narrow bridgehole: they are reversing and preparing to be passed in a very narrow channel, with boats moored along the towpath for a long distance. I feel rotten, having misled them.

I hope that they catch us up before we get to Lime Farm so I can apologise but they don't. I note they have a blog, but no e-mail address. I hope this apology reaches them! They were very good to immediately take avoiding action and I am sorry my poor signal misled them.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Once more up the North Oxford

The refit is complete. In fact, there is still work to do, but it is beyond the original agreement and Wharf House have won orders at Crick. We need to move on and out and either get the work done next winter or find someone else to do it during the summer. It's little things and we can probably do some of it, but time is really limited this year.
M has GCSEs coming up, so refuses to sail this weekend, so there's just the three of us head up the M11 and A14 again for Braunston, returning kit that had been removed from North Star back in November.
We are happy campers as we take possession and execute a somewhat messy turn, winding among the moored UCC boats and residential boats. We don't touch anything, but there's plenty of blue smoke and water sprayed around.

We enjoy the stretch up from Braunston towards Barby: we never tire of the canals in this area.

As on previous weekends, numerous boats are happy to moor up to enjoy the evening in peace: it's a pleasant landscape with a nice stretch of hedgerow alongside the towpath. We keep going with a view to mooring at Hillmorton and eating at Badsey's, but with the England-USA game starting soon, we moor by the old New Inn short of Hillmorton Wharf and walk to the Royal Oak. I really can't stand these cookie-cutter suburbopubs with their plastic menus. They have no real ale - and I seem to remember they were out last time as well. Every door and open window has people smoking in it. The food is edible, but these plastic pubs are fairly dire.

6.8 miles

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Stretton Stop to Braunston

The proximity of the railway line worries us but once again, we are impressed at the quietness of modern trains, and they barely disturb us all night.
In the morning, Kate Boats kindly send up a mechanic with a crowbar and spanners to help adjust the alternator. Almost immediately, he is cursing the BMC for having non-standard bolts and he disappears to get the right spanner. All is fixed quickly and they refuse payment - so I stick a few notes in the Air Ambulance tin in the shop. Kind people.

However, on departure, the arrival of boats in both directions causes chaos as there is barely the space to pass. We end up waiting for more than half an hour as three boats in succession arrive from the south and steam on through the narrow gap, seemingly ignoring the five boats patiently waiting an opportunity to start again. There's more than a little muttering and grumbling from us and the boats around us.

It seems a long day as we have to reach Braunston, and we need to motor quicker than we like. We are not a quick boat at the best of times, and any kind of deadline makes for stressful sailing: plenty of concentration needed and long stretches of tickover through Barby.
Late on, the sun dips slowly and majestically, creating a warm, golden summer evening. The wise moor up south of Barby and enjoy the warmth with a drink and a barbecue. We grit our teeth and press on.
We arrive back at Braunston hours late, and with no mooring.
16.1 miles, 3 locks

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Stop to Stop: Sutton to Stretton

We are woken in the night by an odd, repetitive noise. It turns out to be a haggard man, propelling his boat and a second boat under tow, simply by waggling the tiller. He apologises for disturbing us and disappears into the gloom.
In the morning, rain has freshened the shrubs and trees all around; a constant hum from the mass of overhead cables is testimony to the continuing damp in the air.
Just an hour after setting off, smoke pours from the engine-room and we grind to a halt. It would appear that the alternator belt is on its last legs - and, stupidly, we don't have a spare. However, given that we have only put 20 hours on the clock since a new alternator and belt was fitted by Calcutt Boats, we didn't really expect to need one at this point!
North Star limps another few miles before the belt finally parts by Bridge 11. Calcutt sends a new belt by taxi and two hours later we stand in the engine room - looking at the wrong belt! They have sent the wrong one. Another even more tense call ensues and another belt is dispatched.
We have lost much of the day - from around 10am to 4pm - and our engineering contingent need to head up to Yorkshire. We are grateful to Brookfield Farm at Ansty who allow us to use their lane to park a car and load the departing party.
We decide to break for dinner at the Rose & Crown at Ansty, who no longer have visitor moorings - clearly for Health & Safety reasons. We moor up beyond the bridge and head up the lane to the pub. It is one of those pubs that is now 99% restaurant with a single table left for those who just wish to drink. However, there is a good range of decent drinks and an extensive menu.

Afterwards, we get under way again, to see a gorgeous sunset behind us. We make it to Stretton Stop, but remain a little concerned about the tightness of the belt. It seems too loose and we haven't brought all the tools back to the boat.