Sunday, 28 June 2015

Time to go

Because of the Historic Boat Rally, Braunston was extremely busy but luckily we managed to find moorings for both boats in the pound above the Admiral Nelson pub. As it was our last night with David we had dinner in the pub but the meal was decidedly mediocre. They're trying to do "fine dining" but I think the menu is too ambitious for their chef as what was described on the menu was definitely not what arrived on the plates.

One place that really does deliver the goods is the Gongoozler's Rest cafe boat which is moored just outside the marina. Roger and David popped in for a fry-up before he left us to start heading back up North.

By setting off at lunch time David didn't have too long to wait to get past the moored boats outside the marina which were 6 deep in places. He tagged onto the end of the boat parade, along with all the other boats in transit who had been held up.

We've really enjoyed his company over the past 3 weeks and we'll be meeting up again in the Autumn to go to Liverpool together.

The weather has taken a turn for the worse today and it's been persisting it down all morning although that hasn't stopped the never ending stream of passing boats which have been coming up and down the locks since 6 a.m.  It's a nice place to moor but there's no EE phone signal, no digital TV and no satellite reception either and as it's the last Formula E motor race tonight we need to move to get a signal.  As son as it stops raining we'll be off.

Bye for now

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Idiotic Hirers

I thought I'd seen all the daft tricks hire boaters can come up with.

Today a Kate boat came past us with a young girl aged 9/10 sat astride the front button fender trailing her feet in the water and with a rope around her waist to stop her falling off!  If the steerer had rammed a bridge or another boat she'd have been seriously injured as there was no way she'd have got off it in time to avoid the collision. When I pointed out the danger to the two women (presumably mum and gran) sitting in the well deck swigging wine I got a mouthful of abuse. I felt like I was wasting my breath but I couldn't live with myself if anything had happened to the child and I hadn't said anything.

We've had another good couple of days cruising and tied the two boats together again to come up Stockton Locks yesterday.  This is a good view of the bottom paddles which are raised to let the water out of the lock.

We've moored in a lovely spot near Flecknoe and walked up into the village after lunch. This afternoon there have been lots of boats passing on their way to Braunston for the weekend.  It's the Historic Narrowboat Rally on Sunday and "President" must surely be one of the most famous of the old boats that will be on show.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015


I don't have anything really interesting to share with you today apart from this photo of a field full of poppies that we passed yesterday.

It was simply stunning! As usual the photo doesn't do it justice.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Paired up down Hatton

It's been another lovely day, sunny and warm with only a slight breeze. Perfect weather for going down the 21 locks at Hatton.

We tied both boats together and I drove while Roger and David did all the hard work.

I haven't done that before but it was surprisingly easy. We had to untie them to get out of the second lock as one of the gates wouldn't open properly but re-tied them and did the remainder that way.

We passed several boats coming up the locks but only one other pair tied together. This pair were moored in one of the pounds waiting for me to come out of the lock. It was a bit tricky steering as the wind had suddenly whipped up and the steerer of the other pair made a snidey remark about me "finally making it" into the lock.  Karma works amazingly well though, and as I turned round to see how he'd got on he totally cocked it up and ended up with both his boats sideways across the pound. I bet that took the sneer off his face!

It took us 3 and a half hours to descend the flight of 21 locks, dropping 148 feet in just under 2 miles. Hatton flight is also known as The Stairway to Heaven as the locks come thick and fast and this must be quite a daunting sight for novice hire boaters going up.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Lazy Day in Lapworth

After filling up with cheap diesel (55p/l) at Hawne Basin we went back to Birmingham for some more retail and real ale therapy.

On Sunday David treated us to lunch in Bank restaurant which overlooked our mooring. The place is very upmarket and gets good reviews on the internet but, while the food was good, the cutlery and glasses were filthy and the service was dire.

City living is fine for a few days but we soon found ourselves longing to be back on the move and back out in the countryside, so on Tuesday we set off down onto the Stratford Canal and are now moored up half way down the Lapworth flight.  We've had a few alterations done to our cratch cover by a lovely man who came to collect the cover at Hockley Heath and then brought it back this morning. It's the second time we've used him and wouldn't hesitate to recommend him for repairs or new cratches. His name is John Wiper and you can find his website HERE

By the time John had gone it was almost time for lunch so we decided to have a day off and go to the pub for lunch. We've been in The Boot before and this time was equally as good. The food and service are superb and I wish all pubs were this good.

It'll be time to move on again tomorrow and work off these restaurant lunches doing the locks. Hopefully I'll have some photos to share with you then.

Bye for now

Friday, 12 June 2015

Gosty Hill Tunnel

I love mooring in Birmingham. It's such a vibrant city with good shops, fantastic markets and LOTS of fantastic real ale pubs. We'd recently been recommended the Craven Arms, owned by the microbrewery "Black Country Ales" and as we've never been before we gave it a try the other day. They have 11 ales on tap, don't do food apart from cobs and don't allow children or dogs. The beer was on form and we spent a very pleasant couple of hours in there putting the world to rights.

It's not a very good photo I'm afraid as it was a very sunny afternoon, but it's a lovely traditional pub with blue and gold "Majolica" ceramic tiles on the facade and real fires inside.

Today we decided to go cruising again and as David on Wye Knot 2 has never been through Gosty Hill Tunnel we booked overnight moorings in Hawne Basin and set off late morning. We pulled over for lunch on the way and were lucky to not have our mooring pins pulled out by a speeding boat.

Netherton Tunnel is much longer (2768m) and wetter than I remembered and by the time we got out the other end it was pouring down and the rain continued for the rest of the journey. About half way through the tunnel Roger got something caught round the propeller but managed to shift it by going into reverse.

Gosty Hill Tunnel is much shorter at 491m but is extremely narrow and has very differing ceiling heights. It's one of those tunnels where you have to be very careful what you have on the roof and I made Roger move the taller plants to the back of the boat where it's a bit lower. David took his satellite dish inside the boat just to be on the safe side.

The channel approach is narrow but the tunnel starts off quite high

before the ceiling level drops dramatically

The section in the middle of the tunnel is tall and narrow

but for the final section the ceiling drops suddenly again

David followed us out into the rain

We finally arrived at Hawne Basin but really struggled maneuvering in through the bridge entrance to the basin and then into our mooring, as we'd picked up something large on the propeller just as we came out of the tunnel.  It was a large heavy duty "bag for life" shopping bag with some black rope and webbing attached to it.

I'm glad it's Roger's job going down the weed hatch to clear the propeller, especially in the horrid black waters of Birmingham's canals. We keep a couple of very sharp serrated knives specially for the purpose, packed away with a pair of above the elbow rubber gloves, and luckily he hardly ever needs to use them as the prop-protector blade which is fitted on our prop shaft usually copes with smaller bits of rubbish.

We're having a quiet night in tonight, basically as there's nothing to do here in Hawne Basin and we aren't allowed a key to go out of the compound. It'll actually make a nice change after the hustle and bustle of the city centre.

Bye for now, see you soon.

Monday, 8 June 2015


We've had another great day's cruising, although we've now swapped the green and pleasant countryside for Birmingham's motorways and industrial heritage.

Altogether we've done 27 locks today, sharing the work in the sunshine.  One of the first locks on the Aston flight had been badly damaged as the lock beam had split after been rammed by a boat. I wonder how long it'll be until it's properly repaired/replaced.

We were followed up the locks by an unusual pair of boats.

Apparently they are restored Dutch push-tugs that are now cruising the British waterways for 6 weeks.

They moored up behind us at Cuckoo Wharf at lunchtime and I was really embarrassed on behalf of British boaters when a share boat raced past us making so much wash that the little boats were slammed into the wharf so hard it forced their fenders out of the water Thankfully they weren't damaged but one of the men made the comment that "there are so many skippers who don't know how to control their boats" very true!

We passed 3 boats coming down the Aston flight and most of the locks were set in our favour but the locks in Farmers Bridge flight were all set against us so it took us a bit longer than usual to get up into Birmingham centre.

The canal passes closely beside offices and hotels as well as the BT tower

It also goes underneath buildings

We made it up to the second lock from the top where we were met by our friend David on Wye Knot 2 who had just arrived in Birmingham and come looking for us. It was nice to have a bit of help for the last 2 locks and after we'd moored up near the N.I.A Roger and David adjourned to the Prince of Wales to make sure the beer was up to it's usual standard.............well that was their excuse anyway.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

No Sunday dinner for us

We had a nice easy trip up the remaining 8 locks in the Curdworth flight this morning.

They're all well maintained and easy to operate, but the only 2 boats we met coming down had problems getting out of locks. The bottom gate wouldn't open all the way at locks no. 2 and no. 8 and a boat got stuck in each lock.  By getting them to reverse back into the lock and jiggling the gate a bit we managed to move whatever had been stuck behind the gate and get them out.

It'll be a real shame if the proposed HS2 spoils this canal.

After the locks, we moored at this new pub intending on having Sunday lunch.

It's not a pub, more a hotel with a tiny bar and a large restaurant but after buying a pint and checking out the carvery we decided not to bother. The carvery food was all dried up and very unappetising, but on the reverse side of the menu they had some nice sounding sandwiches so we tried to order some of them only to be very rudely told that they don't do anything other than carvery on Sundays. Needless to say we finished the beer and left. I've since checked up on their website and it clearly states that the do do sandwiches, they obviously just couldn't be bothered. Another thing I didn't like was that the carvery was advertised at £8.95 on a large board outside the pub but then was priced up at £9.50 on the menus on the tables.

Back on the boat I managed to rustle up some cheese on toast before carrying on to Minworth where we've moored for the night. There's a large Asda store about 10 minutes walk away and as our cupboards are fairly empty we paid them a flying visit.  We'll have our Sunday dinner this evening.............roast rack of lamb with all the trimmings, cheaper and better than we'd have got at the Cuttle Bridge

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Our floating life continues

It was great to be back on the boat and moving again. American scenery may be really spectacular but our green and pleasant land takes a lot of beating.

It doesn't get much nicer than this now does it?

We're now heading to Birmingham to meet up with friends and also for a bit of retail therapy and decided to take a route that we've never been done before.

On Thursday we turned off the Coventry Canal onto the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, mooring up for the night outside Tilson Mill cafe. It wasn't long before we were joined by several other boats, its obviously a popular spot.

I had a look inside the cafe on Friday morning and was amazed to find this wonderful yarn shop.

If you knit or crochet you really need to stop here. It's a hidden yarnaholic's paradise and I didn't escape without making a small purchase.

While I was drooling over the yarn Roger was chatting to Barry on the boat moored behind us. He sells home brew kits etc. but (un)fortunately we just don't have the room.

We've actually been on the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal once before, many years ago, but only as far as the first winding hole.  This is Drayton Manor Foot Bridge which is currently being renovated.

You can moor here to go to Drayton Manor Theme Park

We've been surprised at how quiet this canal is. It's got beautifully manicured lock sides and there are plenty of good mooring places but hardly any moving boats?

We moored outside the Dog & Doublet pub last night and are staying put today as Roger says it's the perfect spot to catch up with a bit of under-gunwale painting. The boat is also due for it's spring wash and polish and then tomorrow we'll carry on up the lock flight to Curdworth.

Friday, 5 June 2015

San Diego Zoo

We were both pleasantly surprised with the quality of the meals while we were in California (with the exception of Los Angeles) but were shocked by how large their 'normal' sized portions are. Even smaller/lighter meals were usually too much for me.

The exception though was this amazing seafood stew call Ciopino and we just couldn't get enough of it.

The bib was optional but necessary

One of the highlights of our trip was San Diego Zoo and we spent an entire day there. It's billed as being the best zoo in the world and they're not far wrong. It's not as tacky as some of the British zoos we've visited and even the restaurants served decent food, instead of just burgers and fries. The only thing that could have made the day any better would have been if had been a bit warmer.

I could quite easily has slipped this little fella into my case to bring home

I know tortoises are slow but it took me several minutes of watching this one, waiting for it to move, before I realised it was a statue.....doh!

This cheetah cub was so cute and not very old at all

The King of the Jungle doing what male lions do best..............not a lot

At least someone was glad it was a bit chilly

This is about as close to an otter as I'll ever get, it would be lovely to see a wild one though

And here he is, the main reason we went to the zoo. Their male Giant Panda. I've wanted to see a live one since I was a child and never for a moment thought I would.

We queued for 45 minutes but got to spend 5 minutes watching him. His mate was inside the panda house but we also got to see their off-spring who looked to be almost full grown.

Isn't he spectacular...........and so laid back

San Diego was the last stop on our road trip before returning to Las Vegas where we stayed for 2 nights at The Bellagio hotel which was very swish. Thankfully it was lovely and hot and we spent most of the time sunbathing and swimming in the pool. As we left on the Friday the temperature was 35'C with the forecast rising to 41'C by Sunday............too hot even for me.

This was the view of Paris Hotel from our room

and illuminated by night

We had good views of the dancing fountains but they were better photographed at ground level.

Three weeks in America was certainly a holiday of a lifetime and we'll remember it for many years to come, but it was also lovely to be back home on the boat.

I hope you've enjoyed my holiday snaps. The normal boating blog will be back as soon as I've got something to share.

Bye for now