Monday, April 30, 2012

Zip fixed and the sun came out - oh, happy day !

Hi !  Elaine here ...

We ended up having a late night last night - didn't get to bed til midnight !  It was all those folks fault at the Admiral Nelson pub in Braunston - we only popped in for a quick one - which turned into a quick two or three!  Paul, myself and the (muddy) dogs were made very welcome by the Bar manager, Michelle - it was a yukky night so there was only one other couple in the pub and also another chap, 'Spanky'!  The other couple left quite soon after we got there (??) which just left the four of us - we had a great chat and the time just flew by!  The Admiral Nelson is under new management apparently - so we wish them well - it is a really nice pub - but it's just off the beaten track and in the middle of the locks of the Braunston flight - so I think it may get overlooked a fair bit.  Shame !  In case you need to call them their new tel no is 01788 891900 - I found it really hard to find the number via the internet.

Here is a sign which was on the mantlepiece in front of the fire - and also the toilet seat - all of which I found very amusing (maybe it was the Guiness !) ...
Great sign and 'Spanky's special tobacco tin !
Spanky got a lovely fire going for us !
Toilet seat - I want one !!
Anyway - as expected - we were a little worse for wear this morning but woke up to a beautiful sunny day - with just a little bit of a breeze to help blow all the puddles away !  England has such stunningly beautiful countryside but it is especially so when the sun is out ...:)

We had an appointment with the zip people this morning at 10 am - so we had to undress the boat to take the cratch cover in ....

The cratch looking a bit naked !
... made it quite accessible for a good clean up though !
The zip people (actually called AJ Canopies, Braunston) did a quick repair for us and also patched up a little tear on the starboard side - all in 1.5 hours !  As we were on a 48 hour mooring, it was time for us to move on, so we did a quick stop to get some water etc. - then just moved along a little way and tonight we are moored just opposite the Boat House pub ...
lovely blue skies !

We've had two lovely chats with some elderly boaters today - it was just such a brilliant privilege to have the time to stay and have a long conversation and listen to their stories ... in our 'previous lives' we would have had to be rushing along to our next 'appointments' with no time to stay and chat ... it was brilliant!  One of the boaters is aged 74 and has been cruising on his own for over 8 years (with his dog) - he absolutely loves it and his only wish is that he had done it earlier.  He said he never makes plans and just goes where he feels like - but did say it does his head in when there is a fork in the canal - and he actually has to make a decision !  He was ex-Navy so had travelled the planet quite extensively but really loves exploring this country !  So inspirational !:)

We went for a walk to the village after we moored up - actually we had to drop in at the Chandlers first - to get a few items, including one fender to replace on that had disappeared along the way and also a tiller pin - ' cos ours dropped in the cut after getting tangled up in a bit of rope when we moored up - bugger !!!!
Taking a short cut through a field with sheep and lambs !
Sheep always look like they are 'chewing gum' to me - like they got 'attitoood'!!
On the way up to Braunston village
An old windmill just behind the Church - looks a bit bald !
Just one of the beautiful cottages

Stunning gardens ... what a brilliant time of year !

  Tomorrow we will resume our journey northward - not sure yet how far we will go but we really need to find a pet shop soon - our animals will only eat Royal Canin biscuits, and they have run out so are whinging !  (The mince / rice / chicken isn't quite doing it for them - poor kids !)
Posted by Picasa

We Miss Death by Inches!

As we left the boat tonight to head off up the pub we noticed that a tree had fallen in the canal right in front of Caxton........completely blocking the towpath! Not quite missed death by inches, but it would have scratched the paintwork,  we got back from the pub at midnight and the offending tree had been chainsawed off. We will talk about The Admiral Nelson pub tomorrow.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Nigel No Friends

We left Norton Junction yesterday morning in the rain, (yes the DROUGHT continues).  The first challenge was the Braunston Tunnel, it's another long tunnel 1867 metres long.  For our non- narrowboat readers these tunnels are barely wide enough for 2 boats to pass plus they are very dark and dank. This one also has a few kinks in it so you have to be very careful when you pass a boat coming the other way, especially on one of the kinks as you could end up having a 1.5mph head on crash ... but when the boats weigh 18 tons each it would still be a fair old bang! I noticed that on the southern side there was a wooden rubbing strake running along the length of the tunnel so your boat can't be damaged (not the tunnel of course) but heading northwards i'ts just you and the bricks!

I can't say that I enjoy the tunnels - it certainty would be a bit freaky to break down in one.  It reminds me of flying, can't say that I enjoy it but it is nice when you get to the other side!

After exiting the tunnel there are 6 locks down to Braunston; once again we hung around for nearly an hour waiting to lock down with another boat to save water in the DROUGHT.   Alas, none came along so once again we went on our own - so now we have been through 3 flights (20 locks) all on our own (Nigel No Friends!) 

Rising Damp Problem?
We arrived at Braunston and tied up on the 48 hour mooring.  The boat in front was having a new cratch cover fitted so I spoke to the lady performing the job and we have an appointment to see her 10.00 am on Monday to get the cratch zip fixed.

We went for a walk around the village and had a swift one at the The Plough Inn (dog-very-friendly - even with free Schmakos !).  There was an end of season football do on for a local football team, but they were a very nice, polite and humorous bunch, very different from my playing days!

In the evening we went for a walk to the Boat Inn for dinner - now this is where I am gobsmacked  ....  Elaine had a seafood ravioli, I had steak and ale pie with chips and peas, waitress service, very clean and efficient pub - actually a very nice pub full-stop, but not in the traditional quaint country pub style as it is a Marstons chain pub. The cost....10 pounds which equates to $15.40 Aussie dollars!!!!

Last night and today the DROUGHT continued with gale force winds and driving rain!  So we had a very lazy day reading, doing a crossword and playing on the internet (not games, just surfing).
I took the dogs out in the rain and mud this morning plus went to the butcher and bought some fantastic snags. 
Blogging with Geoffrey editing !
Walking the dogs in the UK DROUGHT

NEWS FLASH............7.30pm Sunday night, the sun has just came out !!!!! Hallelujah the DROUGHT has broken :)  Time to go to the pub and celebrate with a drink or two !
Blue Sky - 7.30 pm !

Friday, April 27, 2012

A rainy day up the Buckby flight

Elaine here ... we had a good night's sleep last night even though we were next to the train line at Weedon Bec; the trains seemed to stop at about 11 pm but we could hardly hear them before that due to the wonderful double glazed windows on Caxton ! 

This morning we set off for the Buckby locks. Once again it was pouring with rain  but we had to keep on keepin on!   We made a quick stop at the shop at the base of the locks to buy me some waterproof trousers and then we set off - we waited for a while at the bottom lock to see if anyone else was going to come along to share the locks with us, but alas again we were destined to do the flight alone!  I'm not sure exactly what time we started doing the locks but I think we only just made the 1.30 pm deadline !

Paul enjoying his morning shower !
The dogs joined Paul for a wee while between the locks ... 

There was a lot of froth in most of the locks - it was like the boat was having a bubble bath along the way ...
Paul coming up to the 6th lock ...
 On the way to the last lock, we were admiring some ducklings swimming along with their Mum on our right (OK, I know .... starboard side!) - I thought the Mum Duck looked a bit agitated and we looked to our port side to see a bloody great big crow hacking at a duckling in a garden - poor little thing was still kicking - then it flew off with it in its mouth .... nature is so cruel :(

Anyway - onto the 7th lock - the British Waterways chap had cycled ahead and was getting it ready for us when we got there ... very helpful!  And another BW chap helped me fill it and turf Paul out - that was also well appreciated !  As you can see we had a big bubble bath in that lock ....

Just made it in time to be locked out by the BW chappie ... phew ! 

We stopped for water and a 'deposit' just past the lock - only just managed to reach the water tap as someone had moored in front of it - nice !  We carried on a bit and turned left at Norton junction and are moored up opposite this beautiful view tonight !
We sorted out the muddy boat, Paul took the dogs for a walk and then we strolled back to the top lock and had dinner at the New Inn - nice pub but no dogs allowed !  Paul had the hottest curry he has ever had in his life - he was puffing and carrying on all the way through dinner - but he still got thro it !

Still raining tonight !!  Tomorrow - Braunston !

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Let the cruising begin and an encounter with the President

On Tuesday night we went to the Coffee Pot at Yardley Gobion for our farewell drinks with Russell, Tracy and Mumsie Macey !  We thanked Ben, the Landlord, for his hospitality over the past few weeks - it really helped us to be made so welcome in a foreign country!

We woke up on Wednesday morning to howling winds and driving rain (drought!).  A lie-in was in order!  However, after midday the weather had abated and we severed the umbilical cord (shore power) and set sail!

We were going to postpone our departure for another day but we knew we wouldn't be able to go back to the Coffee Pot (look what happened to Capt Cook when he returned to Hawaii !)

Our first stop was at the bottom of the Stoke Bruene lock flight.  The locks are padlocked between 3 pm and 10 am the following day to conserve water because of the DROUGHT !  So, on Wednesday evening, we took a walk up the flight to the pub at the top lock called the 'Boat Inn'; we would have to say it was a nice looking pub but a very cliquey village crowd within - crowded into the small, canalside bar.  They all had dogs, and so did we, but we somehow felt like intruders into a private party :(  Never mind, one drink and back to the cosy Caxton. 

 On Thursday morning, we were ready to go just after 10 am but we hung around waiting to see if another boat would come up with us.  After nearly an hour of hanging around (and helping people coming down at the bottom lock), we thought 'Bugger it' ... and off we went !
The boys watching Caxton rise up in the lock
At the first lock we met a boat coming the other way called 'Moon Shadow' and the owners turned out to be a couple of Aussies - who lived approx 3 km from our old address ! They came out last June -on a five year cruise.

On our way through the flight we went through rain, hail, gale force winds and a bit of sunshine (DROUGHT !)

At the top lock we helped a boat through - Elaine found out that her hubbie had developed Parkinson's disease and this was his 'Swan Song' - so sad, but he was having a good time.  There but for the Grace of God ....

We stopped after the top lock at Stoke Bruene for lunch ...

Top lock at Stoke Bruene

Next was a 2.8 km tunnel - the Blisworth tunnel!  It was nice to get in the tunnel, even though there was the occasional torrent coming down the ventilation shafts - but it was still a damn sight drier than being outside of it !

Entering the Blisworth tunnel
Inside the tunnel - the colours are the port nav light, the tunnel light and the starboard nav light
Exiting the tunnel !
The canal criss-crosses the west coast main line - 125 mph vs 3 mph ...
Bombo train-spotting 

Now the exciting bit ... as we were approaching a bridge hole on a blind bend, whilst it was pissing down with rain and blowing a gale I heard a whistle blow ... 

I thought that, as we were close to the railway, 'bloody great - there is a steam train coming - and I havn't got my camera handy' - but, no, it was the historic steam boat 'President' and its butty 'Kildare'...

We both stopped dead in the water and I thought that as we were a thoroughly modern boat with a diesel engine, bow thruster and the like, the best course of action would be to ram him and push him out of the way - not really, I know the rules of the road (water)!  

Three blasts on the horn and I reversed and, if I don't mind saying so, with a swift bit of manoeuvring, managed to pass him on the incorrect side, but never mind we missed each other by metres inches!  I was also shouting to Elaine, who was in the galley, to bring the camera and take some pictures - as I was a bit preoccupied.  She got some good shots ...

We were trying to get to the bottom of the Buckby flight so we could be up first thing in the morning - because it is also shut between 3 pm and 10 am because of the so-called BLOODY DROUGHT !  However, by now the wind had really picked up and, at some point, we were crabbing along at 30 degrees, which isn't much fun, so by the time we got to Weedon Bec we decided to call it a day.  We are moored up right next to the railway line, which, as an old train spotter, I am pretty happy with - although there isn't a lot of variation on the trains ... Virgin, Virgin, another Virgin !

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


We were speaking to a chap on the marina this morning and he posed the question "How are you coping with the freedom?"  Initially I said, "very well thank you"  

Later in the morning we went for a good walk through the local countryside and discussed what a profound question that was (well Elaine thought so anyway !)

As we strolled through the fields we discussed the many facets of that man's question !  We realised that we were free from so many of the everyday burdens of life as in ... mortgages, large utility bills, traffic jams, pressures of work, bloody alarm clocks and the general ties of living the conventional life. 

We now have the freedom to explore a completely different way of life, granted it is now on a budget (something that we have never had to do before) ... but we feel richer than ever before! I really don't know how long it will last, but there is one thing for sure, we are enjoying the moment more and more every day. 

Back to the walk ... the one major thing I love about this country is the ability to walk through the countryside - legally! You simply cannot do it in Australia - beaches and national parks are OK but everything else is 'private', 'keep out' and 'no trespassing' etc.  You can probably go for a stroll in the middle of the Nullarbor but there ain't a lot out there :)

Of course with dogs you haven't got a hope in hell of walking  them on  the beach (Sydney) or national parks.  

We left the marina, over the humpback bridge and went in a bloody great circle ...
Kingfisher Marina
Caxton - 4th boat down
Lots of Rape about !
The dogs of course just love it, they have never been off their leads so much, they just run around, going mental; they are so funny in the longer grass because they have to jump around to see where they are going. The photos below sum it all up really ... Space and Freedom ... Bloody love it!!!!!
Happy Sam - checking out his Kingdom !

Happy Dogs !
Freedom to stand in a field
Happy, Smiling Dogs !
Sniffing out the hedgerows - so glad they didn't see the hares running past  behind them !
Beautiful view !
Tonight we are off to the pub yet again (for the last time!), but will be joined by Mother and various other members of the Macey clan because tomorrow we are....................Moving North.....Crikey!