Just Bobbing Along….


The Long Weekend

It had seemed like a very long week, having made business trips to Yorkshire, London and Birmingham so it was off to Braunston on Thursday after work. We had dinner at the Boathouse pub before getting to the boat around six. We had brought the ‘new’ chairs with us so spent an hour swapping them over with the old ones. That might seem like a long time but it did involve a bit of carrying between car and boat as well as dismantling the old and assembling the new.
Next morning, I was up and about and off to work, leaving Sue to give the boat a thorough clean through. I returned to the marina at four and by five o’clock we were out on the cut. Sue had some news about our mooring, following a visit to the marina shop earlier in the day. When we return on Sunday we will be berthed on the same pontoon that Phoenix III occupied but on the other side where Caliburnum used to be before it was sold last year. It won’t change our decision to leave the marina in the autumn but it will make the remaining months at Braunston easier for access to the facilities. The main thing is that we will have ringside seats for the historic boatshow in three weeks time.
We motored on around Braunston turn in the direction of Napton and found a great mooring close to bridge 103. We spent the rest of the evening just lounging in the cratch or as Sue has taken to calling it, the conservatory!
Saturday morning brought heavy rain, so heavy in fact that by eleven o’clock we were pretty much resigned to staying put for the day. An hour later and the weather had changed so we decided to untie and press on. Of course there was no pressing reason to do so, it was just about playing with the boat and all too soon we reached Napton. We turned Caxton and tied up for an hour, the sun was out and it was hard to believe that only a few hours earlier we had been sitting inside being battered by the rain. Our rest over, we untied again and started our journey back to Braunston, the weather was absolutely glorious and after we passed under bridge 103 we saw that the spot that we had occupied the night before was still vacant so we pulled over, tied up again and enjoyed another sunny evening out in the cratch conservatory.
Sunday brought more blue skies but since we knew that we were only 90 minutes away from base, we were in no hurry to set off. Eventually we did set off though but only as far as bridge 99 where we stopped and had one of Sue’s succulent cooked breakfasts – Mmmmm
We did more lazing in the Conservatory and then set off again around half past one, this time we only got as far as the Boathouse pub mooring where we pulled up again and spent a couple of hours more in the cratch / conservatory (delete as applicable). We’re going to eat in the pub in a while and then return to the marina where we will stay overnight before going home and then to work in the morning.
Of course this means that we have slept more than half of the week on the boat rather than in the house and whilst that was inevitable at some point, we hadn’t really expected that it would happen as soon as it has.

Scary moment

Hello everyone
I am Sue and today I am doing my first blog on this site.
We went over to the boat at Braunston for the weekend to clean the boat and do some other jobs that we needed to do and even though we did not clean the boat several other jobs got done.
The reason that I wanted to write on the blog today was because I had one of the scariest moments ever on the canal system today and we were not even out boating.
We got showered and dressed this morning and then about 11.45 we set off to walk along the towpath with the intention of sitting outside of the ” Admiral Nelson ” to enjoy a leisurely drink. As we sat there enjoying our drink an Alvechurch hire boat went into the lock to start their descent. As they were descending George said ” That boat is starting to list” and within seconds we realised that the boat was in trouble and looked like it was stuck on the cill. I shouted to the lock winders ” Drop the paddle now” and they looked bemused. We ran over and George took the windlass out of the man’s hand and dropped the paddle. The boat was leaning badly by now and we were afraid that the three elderly people on the front were going to fall out of the boat but because the lock was leaking badly at the back it righted itself with a massive swing and really shook up the people on board.
We were both shocked by the incident and dread to think what might have happened if we had not been sitting outside of the pub today.

It’s been a long short week!

No, I’m not trying to write a new Beatles song, it’s just that despite being a short working week, it seems to have been a hard slog getting from bank holiday monday to this weekend. It hasn’t helped that I have had a cold/man-flu and that I have had a fair bit of travelling to do. Sue did some “half-term grandchildren visiting” and stll managed to go for a tune up at the pacemaker clinic.
We decided to leave our trip to Braunston until Saturday morning so there was time on Friday evening to deliver a car boot full of pallet blocks to Jim who was moored by Trinity marina, he won’t need to burn many in the coming months (we all hope) but it’ll give him a good start on the autumn.
Saturday morning dawned and I felt that my cold was on the way out, sadly it seems to have found Sue who awoke feeling the effects of the early symptoms. Nevertheless, we stuck a few bits and pieces in the car and were on the road just after nine o’clock. We stopped off in Rugby to do a bit of shopping and then completed our journey by eleven.
We had brought and bought cleaning materials to give Caxton’s paintwork a good going over but neither of us were really in the mood for it, both being a bit under the weather.
We did, however get a couple of other jobs done in the early afternoon. Silicon spray on the brass runners to make the slide glide easily, the Desmo bases removed so that they can be countersunk into the oak floor and a proper mobile internet connection installed. We did this before on Phoenix III but in that case we had a fixed antenna. This time around, we have used an antenna with a magmount so it sticks to the roof. This has saved drilling a hole in the roof and the antenna can be brought safely inside when we are not living on board. The cable was threaded from the lounge to the cratch by attaching it to the end of a redundant tv aerial cable and gently pulling it until it emerged at the front of the boat. Once in place, it was only a matter of connecting the antenna at one end, the Huawei dongle at the other and switching on the TP-Link router. Once activated, I tested the connection and was pleased to see a very healthy 4MB/s download speed.
After clearing up and enjoying a celebratory beer, wine for Sue of course, we went for a stroll around the marina where we dumped the aforementioned redundant cable in the skip before walking up the towpath to the bottom lock. We took a quick look in the chandlers there and then returned to our boat for dinner.

And so back to Braunston

Another peaceful night’s sleep before early morning coffee and then up and ready for our voyage back to the marina at Braunston. That was as exciting as it got, the weather had turned drizzly again but not so heavy as to make the trip an unpleasant one. The steerer was kept fortified with bacon sandwiches and tea being passed out from the galley by the Chief Steward, she certainly knows how to keep the crew motivated! There were a lot of boats on the move including a widebeam dutch barge that we met near bridge 107, it was absolutely massive thankfully we didn’t meet it at the bridge! The only other bit of excitement came when a dog being walked along the towpath decided to rejoin its owner on his narrowboat by jumping in and swimming over to it. A heartstopping moment for everyone (except Sue of course, who is now bionic in that respect!) as the steerer was trying to position himself near a bridge to let an oncoming boat through. It all worked out in the end with the mutt being dragged out of the cut by the scruff of his neck.

It has been the weekend of the Crick boat show and once again it seems to have had terrible weather. I have looked back through the blog to check out the weather on the spring bank holiday weekends.
2008 High winds and heavy rain, Crick show cancelled for 2 out of 3 days.
2009 Sunny and Warm
2010 No record
2011 No record, boat in paintshop
2012 Queens Diamond Jubilee, heavy rain
2013 Sunny
2014 Two days rain, one day of sun

Maybe the Crick show organisers should consider moving the show to a later date or perhaps as a nation we should move the Bank Holiday?

The weekend starts here!

It’s a bank holiday weekend so of course the weather is a bit mixed but we’re spending it on Caxton anyway. Despite the fact that I have to go to work on Friday, we decided to pack our stuff and drive to Braunston after dinner at home.
We arrived at the marina just after half past six and carted all of our stuff to the boat. With Caxton being much longer than Phoenix III, we have to moor in a different part of the marina and park in a different car park and as a result we have to carry our stuff much further than before. Anyway, we moved our stuff then nipped up to the village shop and then returned to the boat.
Sue put most of the bits away and re-organised the fridge using some new containers while I installed a USB charging point which utilises a spare 12 volt supply under the bench seat. My kit built bedside clock from Phoenix III got a new plug and is now in place too. All in all a productive evening!
Sue is planning a big clean up tomorrow while I am at work and when I return in the afternoon we will set off for the weekend.

Mission Accomplished

I woke at half past six to discover that Sue had been awake for ages and was now getting dressed. I got up too and we were ready to tackle the locks by ten to seven. Not only were we first up the flight, all the locks were our way with the result that we were leaving the top lock twenty minutes later. We met a few oncoming boats near the Hungry Horse pub but other than that we enjoyed a nice cruise in the early sunshine. Sue had a shower and then while pottering around in the kitchen, produced a couple of breakfast rolls stuffed with bacon and sausage – just the job for a hungry steerer!
A little bit of congestion at Willoughby called for a bit of deft manouvering but we all got where we wanted to go. There was a similar encounter by the services near Braunston turn but again it all worked out in the end. We tied up opposite the Boathouse and walked to the marina where we checked out our new berth. After returning to Caxton we drove back along the cut and under the cast iron bridge that spans the marina entrance. There are currently a lot of boats moored here making it almost impossible to turn into the main area and as a result I managed to clip the end of the dockside with Caxton’s bow. Ah, well if it hadn’t been that it would have been one of the other boats! Anyway, we made our way into the second basin and reversed on to the berth. We drove to Midland Chandlers where we bought a few bits and pieces and after we returned to the marina we carried the two bags of stuff that had lain in the car since we left it there almost two weeks ago. After that it was a bit of the usual stuff, fill the water and empty the cassette as well as some new stuff, putting the canvas covers on the cratch, the houdini hatches and over the back deck.
As we drove out of the car park we realised that this was the end of our adventure, we had completed the mission that we started on May 6th and Caxton was safely ensconsed in Braunston.

Phoenix III is up for sale!

Regular readers may have wondered why we have apparently done no cruising lately, despite the reasonable spring weather. Quite simply, we have bought another boat and Phoenix III is now up for sale and that whole process amongst other things has kept us busy for the last few weeks.

We bought Phoenix III for leisure purposes in 2007 and agreed that we ‘give it a go’ for a couple of years. Six and a half years later and we have had many holidays, weekend trips and even weekends based in Braunston marina. With a new paint job and a replacement engine with gearbox fitted in 2011, we intended keeping Phoenix III until I retire when we would spend six to eight months cruising the system before deciding on whether we could become continuous cruisers and buy a bigger boat. At 52’, Phoenix III is just about big enough for living on board but to make the leap to CCing, most people would go for something close to 70’.

Despite our plan to wait make the final decision after our first summer ‘out on the cut’, we still regularly looked at brokerage websites in case that special boat was up for sale somewhere. It was always to no avail, there were a few contenders but there was always one thing or another that would put us off and as a result we got no further than looking at web pages on Apollo Duck.

I regularly peruse the pages of a canal discussion forum which is a bit like the proverbial ‘Curate’s Egg’, good in parts! Mainly, it’s crap, there are a handful of members who regularly hijack posts by arguing amongst themselves as they try to score points off each other. Some of these sad people have averaged more than 8 posts per day since they started on the forum but that’s my rant over. One of the good parts of this Curate’s Egg came on the day when someone asked about narrowboats for sale which were 45’ to 55’ in length. One response included a couple of links to boats that were for sale. One of the boats, Caxton, hadn’t been officially advertised and the owners included a link to the blog of the original owners who had carefully recorded the building of the boat.

When you imagine what your ideal boat would consist of, there are a number of big decisions to make, the stern layout, windows, engine and equipment to name but the basics. Caxton is a semi-trad and that was on our list. We like windows and a saloon at the front of the boat so that we can see along the canal. Caxton has portholes and the saloon is in the middle but those holes are large, there are two side hatches and a couple of Houdini hatches so we are happy with that, the engine is the bigger brother of what we bought for Phoenix III so that was OK too. The rest of the equipment swung it for us, engine generator, sine wave inverter, washing machine, tumble drier, dishwasher, full size shower cubicle, fully fitted bedroom, huge front deck, the list went on. It was easy to see that Caxton had been built to a very high specification with every piece of equipment given a great deal of consideration.

I realised that I had spent hours reading the blogs about Caxton so I figured that it was time to confess my obsession to Sue. She was impressed and intrigued and then we both spent an hour or so trawling Apollo Duck again but with the same result as usual, nothing that interested us.

The following morning, Sunday 23rd March, we talked again about Phoenix III, Caxton and our boating future before deciding to take a drive to Aston Marina near Stone where we could take a look at Caxton. We knew from their blog that the owners, Paul & Elaine weren’t around but it was a lovely day so we were happy enough to make the trip up the A5 into Staffordshire. We discovered that Aston marina has a Bistro and a farm shop so we decided to have lunch before walking around the marina to catch a glimpse of Caxton and she looked as good in real life as we had seen in the internet pictures.

I sent a text to the owners and arranged to return the following day to view the boat properly.

We met Paul and Elaine the following day, Monday 24th March and were given the grand tour of Caxton. Having pored over the blogs, it was all very familiar to us and we had very few questions to ask, Caxton was exactly what we expected to find and as a result we very quickly struck a deal to buy her from Paul and Elaine.

Although we weren’t dependent on selling Phoenix III for the purchase of Caxton, we wanted to get her ready to sell as soon as possible so we moved on board Phoenix III three days later. It took us another three days to remove all of our belongings, three car loads and a load into the skip before we were able to hand the keys over to the marina at Braunston to put her on brokerage. So despite the fact that storage on board was seen as being a restriction, there was a hell of a lot of stuff to remove.

It was a strange weekend, I was emotionally unhappy on Thursday, Friday and on Saturday morning, remembering and picturing the great times that we had enjoyed over the last six and a half years. Something changed in my mind as I drove back from Hinckley to Braunston on that sunny Saturday morning and I felt much more positive about the situation. Sue was quite bemused by my emotions since she had been unaffected by it all until the last few moments on Sunday when the final sweep through took place and she was suddenly overcome and cried unexpectedly.

We handed the keys over so Phoenix III is now up for sale and we have arranged to buy Caxton on Wednesday 16th April with the intention of cruising back to Braunston over the following week.

That plan went out of the window when Sue was admitted to hospital on Thursday where she is awaiting an operation, our trip from Stone to Braunston is on hold for the moment but hopefully not for too long.

As for this blog, I haven’t decided on its future. We had always thought that our CCing boat would be called BRAMLORE after the first two letters of our children’s names; BRett, AMy, LOuise & REbecca so maybe our new blog should reflect that. We have nothing against the name CAXTON but the name of that blog is already well known. The answer will come to us I’m sure but until then, we’ll keep posting here on applebeesfarm.co.uk

Off we go again!

We haven’t been out on Phoenix III since last August for a whole host of reasons but with the first weekend of decent weather forecast, we decided that we had to embark on our first voyage of 2014.
I drove to Braunston from Basingstoke while Sue made her way to the boat from Hinckley, we arrived within a few minutes of each other, either side of 3.30.
After a hurried shuffling of stuff from car to boat followed by all of the essential checks and re-tying of mooring ropes, we slipped out of our mooring and let the wind turn us towards the southerly marina entrance where we exited on to the Grand Union and turned left.
Our cruise only lasted 10 minutes before we tied up as planned, right outside The Boathouse pub. We took a few minutes sorting ourselves out before disappearing into the pub for our evening meal. I’m writing this in the pub using their free wifi and enjoying a post-dinner pint of Amstel.

Going Home???

We decided to bring the boat back to where we live at Hinckley last weekend and then we took her back this weekend in the company of our friends, Cliff and Liz. The adventure began on Saturday morning when we travelled by car to Braunston and headed off on to the North Oxford canal. The weather was glorious and we loved our cruise to Rugby where we stopped briefly to top up the water and make a short shopping trip to Tesco. We carried on and eventually moored between Ansty and Hawkesbury, benefitting from a clear satellite tv picture and a strong broadband signal.

Sunday brought another glorious day so we made our way to Hinckley and moored opposite the Limekilns on the A5. After tying the boat up we walked home and watched Andy Murray win Wimbledon – Hurray! We later returned to the boat and moved it on to the visitor moorings at Nutts Lane where we stayed for the evening. The following morning we walked back to the house and after a shower I went to work, later in the day Sue visited the Trinity marina and arranged a mooring for us for the rest of the week.

On Monday evening we made a trip up to bridge 22 before turning around and returning to the marina. Along the way we saw Treena from Carpe Diem waiting for her husband Stu to return to their online mooring outside the marina. Getting into our temporary berth was easy enough and after we had sorted ourselves out we just walked home.

The following Friday afternoon saw us leave the marina and start our journey to the boat’s home Braunston. We passed our old mate Jim near bridge 13 and then we saw Mamta Boy Lee near Bulkington a short while later. We were surprised to find that there were many spaces on the approach to Hawkesbury Junction and we availed ourselves of one of them before walking to the Greyhound where we had dinner. We decided to move on after dinner and following a short stop for water when we rounded the bend we made our way back to the place that we had moored the previous Saturday.

Saturday morning was yet another sunny one and we were on our way just after eight o’clock. We had a very enjoyable cruise in the summer sunshine and stopped again at Tesco Rugby where we stocked up for our meeting with Cliff, Liz and Lucy later in the day. After a short break we were on our way again and reached Hillmorton just before two o’clock. Cliff arrived on ‘Stonewall Jackson’ at half past five and we then all ate yet another of Sue’s delicious meals

Sunday morning was a bit of a lazy start for all of us and it was 9am before we ventured up the locks. With Liz crocked due to arthritis and Lucy generally disinterested, Sue worked both boats up through the Hillmorton flight in just under an hour. The run back to Braunston was a bit of a slog because we had a number of boats ahead but eventually we reached the marina just after midday. We walked back to the Boathouse pub where we met up with Cliff, Liz and Lucy who had walked from their mooring at bridge 89 and enjoyed a drink together. We left an hour later and returned to the boat before clearing our gear and driving home. Cliff and Liz are planning to go to Peterborough so we look forward to catching up with them at a later date.

So that was it, our trip from the boat home to our real home and back was over and we had enjoyed our time out on the cut along the way.

Across the lonely summit

Our night at Fenny Compton had been a peaceful one and we awoke refreshed and ready to face another day. It was warm even at seven o’clock so we hoped that we might be enjoying some summery weather. We weren’t disappointed either, when we untied at eight the high hazy cloud was only just obscuring the sun as we picked our way slowly passed the long line of moored boats that are a feature of this area. We then started our long and lonely journey across the summit, the convoluted route totally disorientating us along the way. We didn’t see anything on the move for over an hour and after passing speeding Ashby boat, we caught up with a Rose narrowboat following a Viking afloat boat. The entertainment began at a bridge, where else? The Viking passed through and panicked when he met an oncoming privateer and grounded himself at the same time burying himself in the reeds and bushes on the offside. After allowing the private boat to pass under the bridge, the Rose narrowboat shot through, passing Viking just as he had almost righted himself. The Viking ended up back in the reeds again as a result! By this time we had stopped well behind to give them all time to sort themselves out and of course to get a good view of the action.

We now resigned ourselves for a journey on tickover behind the two holiday boats and then we would have the pleasure of following them down through the locks that lay ahead between Marston Doles and Napton. There were no more incidents on our slow chug to Marston Doles but we were delighted when both boats pulled in to take on water, propelling us to the front of the queue. With boats coming up the flight, the first two locks were easy but then we found ourselves following nb Wey with nothing coming up to aid the progress. Part way down we saw that ‘Wey’ were sitting in the lock ahead looking over the fields, it turned out that they we were watching a calf being born in the field. By the time we had moved down, the calf’s mother was licking and prodding her new offspring into life, everything seemed to be going alright as we passed on our way. We were being followed by nb African Queen, crewed by a couple who had recently sold their business and moved on to their boat, now embarking on a new way of life. With three of us following each other, we all helped with each others paddles and gates which seemed to pass the time if nothing else. Three locks to go saw a boat coming up which then opened up a gap between us and ‘Wey’ and with volunteer lockies manning the last two locks, our passage to the bottom was speeded up. We found a mooring around the corner so we tied up and went to the Folly Inn. The weather was still glorious so we treated ourselves to lunch in the garden.

On returning to Phoenix III we were in two minds as to what to do, stay put for the day or carry on in the sunshine? In the end we decided on the latter course of action and we cruised back to Braunston. All too soon we found ourselves back behind our Viking friend who was weaving his way along on tickover. We thought that we had seen the last of him when he weaved his way around a widebeam which happened to be winding at Wolfhampcote at the time. After allowing the widebeam to complete its manoeuvre, we passed by and then saw travelling in the opposite direction nb Aileen Rose, the boat that we had shared locks with between Warwick and Stockton a few weeks ago. Cheery waves and shouted hellos were exchanged as we passed each other. Then we caught up with our old friend the Viking afloat boat in the final straight before Braunston turn where the crew had decided to pull up, walk to the junction and ‘suss things out’ as they said when we eventually passed them by. It’s bad enough pulling up there at the best of times with boats travelling from three directions but with a CaRT barge tied up almost opposite, the obstruction was complete.

Once around the turn we made the familiar trip back to the marina, our progress only impeded by a boat trying to turn in the marina entrance rather than in the winding hole directly opposite, never mind, it’s all good fun when the sun is shining!

Once we were back on our pontoon we took advantage of the good weather and washed as much of the boat as we could before nipping up to the village shop and then settling down for the evening. We would spend our last night on Phoenix III in the marina before heading off home in the morning. This would give us a week before returning for the Braunston Historic boat rally.

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