Cruising Notes

Well, for what seems an age not doing any real cruising, we are actually getting somewhere. We spent the winter converting our boat to one suitable to spending time in a marina, as we will probably be spending most winters in marinas. We are getting a bit old for the rigours of cruising in the winters, but will miss the delights of doing so.

However we built the boat to cruise, with engine providing hot water and all electricity. Having a land-line available meant changes.

So a new calorifier (the gubbins we use to hold hot water that the engine heats) was needed that incorporates an immersion heater. Re-wiring and re-switcing of the land line, new batteries, cleaning out and re-painting the water tank and other less major works were carried out. We also fitted a galvanic isolator. A wonderful device that lights up an LED to tell you if your boats hull is rotting away because the marina, or the boats in it, have bad electrics.

Naturally by the time the boat was fully ready to function in a marina, it was late spring and time to go cruising.

Plans were further delayed by health problems, nothing at all serious but the national health service has ways of delaying you that are both ridiculous and unarguable. Asking if it will kill me before next winter is not well received.

However we did set sail in May, and as a change of plan went to get the boat blacked (clean off the hull and paint it with bitumastic paint) and do some other minor work.

Hopefully we now have a boat for all seasons that should not require too much attention for a few years, and we are back in the lush green of the canals.

So knowing that the average time to read cruising notes is less than 30 seconds (according to the web site statistics) here are the current crop of pictures

Just to give you an impression that changing the batteries on our boat is not a minor operation, here are the old ones. There is a more normal “domestic” battery from a friends boat which is about 50% bigger than a car starter battery. Each battery weighs in at over 70kg and is marked 2 man lift, and to make it even more fun they are normally right under the deck. My son was summoned, being a professional wrestler he can dead lift that sort of weight. I certainly cannot.

Getting out of Northampton Marina is a trivial matter, and a couple of hundred yards further is the start of the Northampton Arm. Just 5 miles and seventeen locks later you are on the main canal system. Well after about 10 locks Judy was getting a bit puffed and up turns Leon the wino (his words not mine) and raced us up the remaining locks. The Canal and River trust (our lords and masters) hate the guy, but I think what he is doing is great. He does not ask for anything but, talking to other boaters,he walks away with booze or cash most times. Nice to see a little enterprise.

Apart from the seventeen locks there are other minor obstructions, such as this lift bridge which seems never to be used, but it is pretty in a kind of useless way.

Finally, out on the main canal system, it all gets back to normal. It's the Oww Arr season.

Begging Swans

Begging coots

Lambs exploring the towpath

Llamas, (I think) after all we are a multicultural country now.

And a fantastic old bull contentedly surveying his domain. This guy really seemed to be at peace with the world.

And what appeared to be a harrowing sight, but I admit to not being very good with agricultural equipment identification.

Then we come to the misshapen bridges that you find near canal boat hire bases. After all a bit of extra width at the top of the cabin area never goes amiss.

There is a bit of canal in Ansty (a small village) where no mooring is allowed. The canal is higher than the road and, apparently, the residents complained that boaters could see in their upstairs bedroom windows. Not surprising is it, not a curtain between them.

I included this for my own reasons, it's just an ordinary field with buttercups. Somehow a much nicer colour that the oil seed rape that is yellowing the british countryside these days. I understand that our US friends are upset by the word rape and call it canola.

I have to say that graffiti is getting better in the UK, some graffitos are truly works of art and not only those by Banksey. I saw this on the inside of a bridge and loved it.

We were heading north which generally means more industry. It was the reason for the very existence of the canals and the potteries were big customers. People like Wedgewood invested heavily in them. The reason is simple. Travel by canal boat is much smoother than by horse and cart over rutted dirt roads. There were a lot less breakages.

So, if you have ever used a toilet or urinal with the words Armitage or Shanks on it, it came from here.

The original potteries are now relics, supplanted by factories like Armitiage, but many still remain,though not in use, at least for their original purpose.

The sheer age of the canals has also caused them to change, this bit was a tunnel, but the roof fell in. It's one boat wide with no controls and it has a bend in it so you can't see if anyone is coming. Actually I've never met anyone coming the other way.

And the canals are still crumbling due to lack of maintenance, this is not a place to misjudge if you like your paintwork, nor is it a good place to pick up your crew which is it's real purpose.

And there we were, once again in the “witches”, the salt towns of Cheshire.

Salt on the hoof, well it certainly isn't snow.

So from the cool green to the dust of a boatyard for two weeks. This is the result. Before anyone tells me that the name is “on the piss” they should be aware that it's the port side, and is probably drunk. New names arrived yesterday and will be fitted. As regards the chimney cover, well it was a little bit windy for a couple of days.

Things happen in two weeks, you notice the humour of the narrow boat next door.

You get used to your every move being watched by “Charlie”

You wonder how anybody could carve this using only a chain saw

You idly wonder if it is a roof box for a narrowboat or a two person coffin

I leave you with this picture. The unusual narrowboat Elizabeth, probably the most distinctive boat on the canals. I last saw her in Ely

Further plans this year are to get to Chester, then to Oxford. If there is any water, down the Thames to Brentford, if we have time, another visit to the beautiful Lee and Stort, and back to Northampton. Of course, we may end up doing something completely different.

Have fun