Saturday, 23 February 2008

Bits and bobs.....

One of the benefits of where we keep Waterlily is the perfect distance she is from home. We can get to her and back in under an hour. But when we are at Fradley it feels far away enough to be different. So a trip out to Waterlily today was undertaken - mainly to collect the sky card I had left on board and Rachel's glasses.

When we were on waterlily last weekend I used the sky card, but found it would not let me view my package channels as it was in a different receiver. I spoke to sky today about this and they said if I wanted to use the card on another box I could do so but I would have to phone sky up every time. So I went Sue's way on Nb No problem and ordered a freesat card from sky (they are only valid for three years, I wonder if Sue is aware of this?)

This should be fine for when we are on the boat - we don't watch a lot of telly on the boat but when we do I prefer it to be clear rather than the grainy pictures we have had with the old aeriel.

I got my new phone yesterday - its the Tytn II which has built in GPS - excellent. I have loaded up windows live which uses the GPS to plot where you are using either road maps or satellite images. It is VERY impressive, I can't see me getting lost ever again - I just need to buy a waterproof bag for it when I am on the boat.

The Brompton continues to impress. On my extended trial I have taken to going a very long way to work. I do want to try and cycle back from Fradley, I'll just wait until the weather gets better for that test.

I have also ordered a pipe thermostat from ebay. I will be fitting it to the back boiler pump to make the central heating a little more efficient, especially at night when the fire is a little cooler - by lowering the stat temp it should pump every now and again during the night keeping the rads warmish in the bedroom. I also have a digital engine hours counter to fit - so roll on the clocks going forward when I can go to the boat after work. I may even move her to Willington for a week or so to enable me to get to her in the evenings to do these little jobs - plus a definite use for the Brompton.

When I was at the boat earlier I gave the stove a good clean - including the glass - anyone got advice on keeping it clean, our squirrel stove has the vent thing on the door but it still seems to soot up?

I'll get onto the next chapter of the sale of Comet next.....


Thursday, 21 February 2008

Its a Brompton Jim, but not as we know it......

As folding bikes go the Brompton is one of the best. I have one, I brought it some while ago knowing that at some point in my life it would be a central point of my transport in association with a narrowboat.

I have used it already when dropping Comet off at Streehay to get back to Fradley and my car. All in all a very versatile bike.

One of the benefits of my job (the transport side) is getting involved in alternatives to the car. We have just brought a couple of Bromptons, nothing interesting about that other than these are electric Bromptons. We have tried a few electric bikes but I think these are the best so far. They are glorified prototypes but still for sale from a bike shop Oxford way. (Details can be supplied on request)

The biggest benefit as I see it is they only have minimal extra weight so should you want to ride them without the battery - just don't plug it in. The battery is carried in a modified front carrier. The bikes ride well and the motor does support the rider very well, if I get a chance I will give it a tow path test ride (the suppliers suggest 40 miles in assisted mode - I doubt that but half that would be good)

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

And this weekends boating update........

Well, static boating that is.

Due to family committments we arrived at Waterlily at just before 10 on a lovely winter morning

We could not stay as we had to be back in Derby for a family get together, but we were due back on the boat later that same day. I am not sure if being 20 milesish from the boat is a good or bad thing under these circumstances. Anyhow our plans were to unpack and move the boat up to Shadehouse, clearing the five Fradley locks and spend some time in the sticks - anywhere between Fradley and Great Haywood.
The best laid plans of mice and men - picking up the mice thread again here. When we started to unpack we found out two 'guests' had crapped in the fridge as well as some of the cupboards. This is just not neighbourly I say. The end result was a boat spring clean - generator out, Dyson on , cupboard empty etc etc. By now I was not feeling any guilt about the way our antisocial friends had been removed from the boat.
So it was clean of boat, A38, eat, socialise, A38, on boat - we arrived back at 5pm and then I let my mobile phone have a swim - all in all a mixed day. Good old alcohol came to the rescue and we dozed our way into the late evening.......
I have a new gadget, an essential for all boaters, a digital multi meter, and it records temperatures. It got down to -4c overnight but Waterlily was a nice warm cacoon as I perfected the trick of keeping the fire in all night (another first and part of my apprenticeship in the way of canals) The next morning the cut was well frozen and looked like a winter wonderland. It was so much the better for being a Monday morning and we were on the boat and the rest of the world was at work.

Another first (hopefully) for the blog is my YouTube video of the morning from the counter of Waterlily on her moorings. I hope you can see what we were so keen to get the mooring we have?

As no boats were moving, and we did not want to loose out newly acquired blacking by ice breaking we decided this trip would be static and opted for a lazy day, reading and relaxing then some lunch and a trip to the BW shop at Fradley for some local walk details.

As I do, I opted for the longest walk which took us away from Fradley across fields and brought us out past Kings Bromley Marina. It was a great walk (we did get a little lost) We saw a woodpecker and a large bird of prey that we could not identify - (Note to self - I will buy myself a bird spotters handbook)
As we returned we enjoyed a fantastic sunset, and played with the camera to improve it.

This picture was taken from the bow of the boat as the sun had set - stunning sky and a warning for another -7c cold night.

Tuesday was a very grey and damp cold start. Once again the canal was iced up and no boats were moving first thing so we walked into Alrewas. I think this may be a village we eventually retire to. It is a lovely place with some nice old houses. Not yet, but did I mention my planning habits......;-)

We walked to the Trent and back which time a couple of Shakespeare boats were cracking their way through Alrewas.

All in all a perfectly relaxing and enjoyable couple of days. One thing we know for sure it Waterlily is a boat for all season as she kept us warm and dry even down to -7c

Roll on summer....................

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

The apprentice takes his first step (picture)

Without blowing too much smoke up Andrew Denny's ar$e (horrible term but one I find myself using more and more) I am a big admirer of Andrews night photography (I even have a tripod now)

Night or low light shots can't be just a point and shoot job otherwise we would all be taking fantastic shots. Yesterday whilst returning from a nice circular walk from Fradley junction the sun was setting just next to the Swan. Shooting straight into the sun was always going to be a problem, but I did, then decided to have a play with the exposure setting (-) and got more of the picture I wanted. The actual picture is too full, and the car would not move on and I got inpatient , but the fact I did not point and shoot - and got something different (read better, in my opinion) will inspire me......

First attempt

Less exposure

What do you think?

One small step for a boat roll, one giant leap for Waterlily

When I started this blog, one of the challenges was to get a mention on Andrew Denny's Granny Buttons site Sarah from NB warrior gave Andrew a gentle nudge recently whilst blogging about not liking the RSS feeds in favour of the web/blog sites themselves. I read that Andrew is experiencing a few personal pressure, which I offer my best wishes, and thanks for taking the time to add Waterlily to his list. I'll try and keep updating it, and thanks to Sarah for the nice comments

ooops - revenge of the mice (sort of)

I was fully intending to update my blog while away this weekend, only my very expensive multifunctional mobile phone looked like this on Sunday afternoon.......

I was setting up for a last hour of fishing when I remembered where I had stored my groundbait(in the engine bay away from my mice friends) I leaned in and retreived it. Unknown to me my phone had slipped out of my shirt pocket and was nestling between my jacket and shirt. As I jumped to the bank - 'plop' and the phone I had kept safe with me for the last year or so was fubar'd

It did look like this...............

The fact I left my 3g modem at home and had recently cancelled Rachel's web'n'walk meant I had an internetless weekend.

No problem for the first time in ages I read a book !

Saturday, 16 February 2008


One of the first blogs (or rather websites) I hooked up to for a canal fix was Mike and Liz's Snecklifter site. They shared their all year cruising in great detail and with a real enthisiasm for the canal life. I was very sad when I read recently that they had put Snecklifter up for sale and returned to land. It's a very selfish sadness I know as I enjoy the 24/7 water, electicity and gas, something I know from reading Mike's comments they are now enjoying fully.

So Mike and Liz, thank you for the many thousands of words and pictures and sharing your experience. In celebration of the end of the cruising I'll be trying Snecklifter ale for the first time tomorrow when on Waterlily for a few days.

Cheers !!

We will mainly be boating this permitting

Well a decision was taken not to go to the boat last week as we have a few days off attached to this weekend. So after dropping youngest son off at Morrisons in the morning and leaving other son in bed we will be off to Waterlily for a few days :-)) after all this is the reason why we wanted our own boat rather than the share - the flexibility.

Only problem may be ice. Looking at the BBC forecast and reading the experts blog Sanity ice is /should be expected

No problem, only do I go and buy maggots for some fishing...... ?? I remember my mum telling me stories of her and my dad cycling (on a tandem) to Shardlow, and breaking the ice with stones so they could fish - hardy souls and a simple pleasure, there is a lot to be said for it.

I did have an idea that we might make Great Haywood and back - but I think I might be a little less optimistic just in case we get iced in. (it would be a great reason not to be in work later next week !)


Friday, 15 February 2008

Small interlude.......the old mobile phone

I know I said this was going to be a retrospective on my 2007 cruising, but hey what the heck, its my blog....

I was passing an old mobile phone over to a colleague at work when I remembered I had some photographs on it. They turned out to be a few from a trip in late 2006 (remember I said I like out of season cruising)

Sylph was based at Hockly Heath on the North Stratford. We had done the trip to the basin in Stratford in the summer and also taken her to Stockton top* (for her paint job - a one way trip) at the Easter, so this trip was to venture on a new bit of canal - down the Tardebigge flight on the Staffs and Worcester and back.
It was a good cruise, we got held up by a tree down just before Brandwood tunnel. The BW lads were very good. I got stuck in helping. I was just glad they used a hire boat to get access to the tree. By the end it was covered in wood chippings from the chain saws.

On the return journey we (Rachel and myself) did the whole 29 locks in one hit - while the two lazy lads snoozed in their beds. When we got to the top there was a hire boat winding and getting ready to go back down, 58 locks in a day is impressive (isn't it?)

This is a nice shot, taken from the banks of the resovoir looking down on Sylph.


O yes the * .....................this was the first place I fell in !! We had moored up at Stockton top, and I had done a taxi shuttle to collect the car while Rachel cleaned the boat. Just as I was stepping onto the back of the boat in the marina/boat yard Rachel popped her head out of the back door, just in time to see me miss my footing and lower myself into the canal. I luckily had hold of the rear seat rail but I still went in to my waist. I did struggle to get out - its amazing how 'heavy' you get.

Anyhow......back to the sale of Comet

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Waterlily hits my radar.....

We had Comet and we also had a part share in Sylph, so we were technically a two boat family. Sylph was up for sale via Ownerships at a fair share price and as we had not taken any holidays (our pre booked ones anyway) we were hoping for a quick sale - that way whoever took Sylph would pay us our sinking fund fee on top of the share price.

We subsequently were advised we had interest in our share and to Ownerships credit (and at a cost) we sold our Share in Sylph and the transfer took place on the 1st April. :-(

I do not recall the exact day I first saw Waterlily on Whilton marina's web site (I wish I could pin point it for nostalgia sake) I do recall showing Rachel, jokingly saying that it was the perfect boat for us - very much like Sylph, very much the style we liked. At that time I did not imagine we would ever own her.

Whilton is exactly 50 miles from Derby and about an hour on the motorway. So as I had some time owing I took a long lunch break and drove down in appalling weather.

I like the set up at Whilton, very friendly and accommodating. I took the keys and was left to my own devices. I go on gut instinct a lot and first impressions. I had a very strong 'good feel' about Waterlily the first time I went on board. She seemed ideal, nice and clean inside - someone had loved this boat. I had been on board quite a few boats when looking as you do - pretend buying if you know what I mean. So many were dirty, damp, untidy - not the sort of place I could imagine myself. Waterlily was just the opposite nice, clean, friendly tempting...........

O blimey, that planning worm had started in my head. What had turned into a casual visit out of interest had seen me winging my way back north with all sorts of ideas and plans in my head. My doubts were based not on the boat but how easily should it be to realise a dream. And was this dream being realised too easily and should I give Comet another go and should I have not sold Sylph as we had had such good times on her.......

My poor long suffering wife Rachel had seen this all before, the reading, the planning the focus. I know she knew I was not happy with Comet, and we had discussed buying a cheap boat to get a mooring then selling it on. The planning continued.

As I saw it I had three problems,

1. I already had a boat
2. I did not have the money
3. Our mooring was only 45 foot and Waterlily was 50 foot

No 3 was the easiest and the first problem to go away - a call to the moorings officer at Fradley and she dispatched the lengthsman to check if we it would be ok to take up a little more space between Elizabeth and Mabel (I strongly suspected this would be ok but wanted the official ok) a couple of days later I got number three struck off the list.

The fact I already had a boat was a bigger problem. Money and moorings were issues so there was no way I wanted to have two boats - not even I am that greedy. I went back down to Whilton for a second look at Waterlily just to cement my desire for the boat - no problem at all. I then discussed my own boat with the staff. They said that part exchange may be an option and agreed to come and look at Comet. The fact they were travelling to see the boat gave me hope they may be in the mood for a deal. So once again I took a longer than normal lunch (bearing in mind my normal lunch breaks were five minutes eating while answering emails) a few days after my last Whilton visit to meet Rob for him to offer me a price on my boat.

I recall the day being a May day and it was soooo hot. We met on the boat and I could see straight away he thought this boat would sell. His interest was dampened by the 'wavy' lines of where the GRP shell met the hull. But the inside was practical, clean and well looked after. He spoilt the day by offering me well below what the boat was worth and what i had paid. I put forward the scenario of me taking the price and the price of Waterlily being reduced as well. He took the proposal back to his boss, but cautioned he was not optimistic.

The next day his pessimism was founded when he rang back and told me the seller was not willing to drop the price at all ! Bugger..... at this point Waterlily seemed further away than 50 miles of M1

My only option was to consider a private sale of Comet. I told Rob I would do so and if Waterlily went in the mean time - so be it, fate would deal her cards accordingly.

So on to the sale of Comet.........

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Last trip on Sylph

In support of a friend I arranged a gentlemen only few days on Sylph. This was another 'free' week as part of the Ownerships booking scheme. The scheme is good for this sort of short notice cruising - especially in winter, which we did not mind doing.

John and Mick came down from Scotland with Prince the daft collie dog and met up with me and Tony. It was very much the same route as we had done a couple of weeks before as the stoppages were still on.

As you might imagine cooking extended to lunchtimes on the boat and then big meat meals at pubs in the evening, all washed down with vast excesses of beer. Towards the end of the week................well you can imagine what the boat was like !

We did do some boating - this is me giving Tony some instruction at Tyrley locks.... as Mick guides Sylph out expertly.

There are some great pubs on the cruising route we did, and some very friendly locals in most of them.

My last task on Sylph was to moor back up at Norbury - it was perfect, a fine end to our association with the boat. I was a little sad to lock the door for the last time (well I hoped so as our share was then up for sale).


Sunday, 10 February 2008

Last but one trip on NB sylph

We had an idea that we would be letting go of our share in NB Sylph so we had booked later weeks in 2007 - making the share more attractive. One of the benefits of the Ownerships scheme is that over the winter there are usually free weeks. So it transpired we were heading off to Norbury junction for the last but one trip on Sylph. It was 0n the 10th February 2007 we navigated the snow to get to Norbury.

This picture was taken from the back doors in the very late evening on the 10th Feb, camera sitting on the cruiser stern board - a year to the day I'm writing this! (Andrew from Granny Buttons helped with the post processing to get more detail out, so thanks for that Andrew)

We had a lovely cruise down to the winding hole just above the Adderley locks. We had to wind at that point as there was a stoppage on the Audlum flight. We stopped both ways at Market Drayton, which is a town we like very much.

I really like the Shroppie, and could easily be persuaded to relocate Waterlily there, somewhere near Norbury Junction maybe? It is so atmospheric, when cruising I certainly feel so remote, which is perfect and a significant reason for being on the boat. This is Sylph on the 11th Feb (2nd boat up on the left), just waiting to depart through one of the most iconic bridges on the cut

When we got to Tyrley lock we got 'buzzed' by the RAF in one of their training helicopters. it came straight down the cut at speed, very low.

In fact we were 'tracked' for a good part of the holiday. I'm sure they were using us to track - especially as we crossed Shelmore embankment.

On the last night we moored in Grub Street cutting - one of my absolute favourites on this canal. I was fishing as the sun went down and the bird noise song was fantastic - enhanced by a couple of high speed fly pasts by the local Kingfisher, just a perfect way to end the family association with Sylph.

I know I'd be back shortly for an altogether more different, final cruise on Sylph...........


More about Comet

Not counting the Streethay cruises I think we only did a couple of local trips on Comet. The first was a trip down to Bagnall lock and back with My Mum and Ross and my sister Pam and Brother-in-law Bill. The other time was a trip the other way up towards Rugely, winding at Hansacre.

On reflection it was this trip that cemented my doubt about Comet. I liked the boat but, as the surveyor had commented, she was a bottom end boat and had limited potential. I am, by nature, someone who aspires for better things (not a good trait) but one that drives me to work hard and plan. I think I decided on that trip that Comet might not be the medium term boat we had envisaged. It was a good trip and towards the end i was regretting not packing an overnight bag.

On returning home I started to trawl Apollo Duck ............a dangerous, time consuming and expensive pastime

At this time we still had our share in Sylph and had a week booked in February half term - so a trip on the Shroppie was pending.......


Saturday, 9 February 2008

I need a cut fix

It’s been a crap week, Tess, the cat, work, and not helped by having the worst tooth ache I have ever experienced. I am on anti biotics as since I had a tooth filled I have had tooth ache - now I have an abscess. I will no doubt have to have the tooth out in the near future - more pain and more money !!

It seems I can live without being on the boat for up to two weeks, then I get very restless for some time on the boat - a small cruise or even just lighting the fire, listening to the radio and watching the canal world go by. Blogging does help as it brings back memories of trips on the canal. I think I should write some more about Comet.............................


Sad Saturday

It’s so sad as we have had to take Tess back to the RSPCA.

When we first saw Tess the RSPCA told us she had shown no interest in other dogs or cats. That was very important to us as we have a 10 year old rescue cat called Tamsin. In an earlier post I commented that straight away tess was 'excited' by seeing the cat. This turned into aggression on every occasion we tried to bring them together. Tamsin did her bit - being in the room trying not to react to the dog, but as Tess got more comfortable in the house she got more aggressive towards the cat. We did not give in straight away. we took advice from a behavioural specialist and tried all week to manage the interactions between Tamsin and Tess.

Last night however Tess started to show her instinct and whilst outwardly showing no interest all of a sudden lunged for the cat. We had to have her on a harness top stop her and it was a good job otherwise I think Tamsin might have got injured, something we just could not let happen. So it was with a very heavy heart we had to take her back today. At least the RSPCA know a lot more about her. We have written a note to them and hopefully her new owners so they know what she likes and more importantly what she does not like. She is a smashing little dog, who will make a fantastic companion to any family - just no cats.

I hope they rehome her soon :-(

Sunday, 3 February 2008


Mmmm I am starting to think that Tess is relaxing in her new home..................

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Tess starts her new life........

We were just getting ready to have a walk into town when I took a call from the RSPCA home visitor who had some time and "were we available". 20 minutes later we were having a cup of tea and discussing dogs and boats (her husband was restoring a cruiser in their garden). 15 minutes after she left we got a call from the RSPCA saying all was ok and when did we want to pick Tess up. Rachel arranged to call after 4pm when the shelter is closed to the public.

Fantastic news - only we had purposely not got all the dog stuff we would need. So we shot off to the local pet superstore and did the business.

We then parked half way between our house and the shelter and walked in. We signed all sorts of forms - the RSPCA one, chip details and a free 6 weeks insurance form. Then we left with Tess. I dropped Rachel and Callum off at the car and walked Tess home.

Biggest problem so far is Tess's 'interest' in Tamsim, our rescue cat. It is something we will have to be aware of, any advice greatly received. We were told by the RSPCA that Tess had no interest in cats or other dogs - time will tell !

So fed and watered Tess is settling in - she has found her bed already and seems to be relaxing all the time. She will need some time, peace and quite, long walks and love - all on the agenda.

A pic of Tess 'settling in' having found her bed already.