Loo views

Loo views

Friday, 15 September 2017

Hello


I have not written this blog since I finished my cruise back in August and have been told off for it! But being that it is a cruising blog, I don't tend to have much to say when I'm on my mooring.
However I am out on a mini cruise to prepare for Autumn. I have gone to Kings Bromley Marina to fill my boat and diesel cans with fuel, pumped my poo tank out and got a spare gas cylinder.

I usually go up monthly even in the winter, but last year I very nearly hurt myself very badly from slipping on wet leaves and putting one leg down between boat and concrete.  It is also not particularly pleasurable cruising through leaves while they are lying thick on the surface of the canal. I have to constantly stop and reverse in order to empty my weedhatch and it is slow going. Add to that wind and rain and it just turns in to a chore.

So I am experimenting this winter. I am going to see how hard it is to stay put and bring what I need to the boat. I have a manual pump out kit (no, I don't pump out into the cut, I have barrels for the purpose!) I have my diesel cans which hold 40 litres and can be refilled at the marina. And I have enough gas to last till Spring. The coal boat should start coming past the mooring fairly soon but I need to add to my wood store.

When I was working full time, my 2 days cruising to fill and empty were a treat that I would risk injury for. But now I am lucky enough to cruise the season, the thrill has rather worn off!

Talking of the darker seasons, I always try to last till October before I have my first fire of the season. Today though was wet until I moored up and chilly too so I gave in.


All dried out and toasty warm. Non boaters often ask me how I cope with a cold winter on a boat. I tend to tell them that I cope by opening all my windows and by wearing a tea shirt! It is such a small area to heat that once the woodburner is going the problem tends to be getting too hot, rather than too cold!

We are moored in the woods for the night. The picture above shows a flicker of sunshine but that only appeared briefly at around 4pm. Tomorrow we return down the flight and cruise to Alrewas to turn so I am facing the right way on my mooring, so just the 10 locks to do!

Friday, 4 August 2017

What is home?


This is now my view from the loo for the foreseeable future. I have to admit to really enjoying being back on my mooring. As you can see I am half way through reclaiming my hedge. The grass needs another go over, the bushes are entirely out of control and my pots are full of weeds, but I love pottering round my patch of paradise.

I have also been welcomed back by my friends and neighbours. They have stopped for a chat. They have cut my grass. They have lent me petrol in a can as the petrol in my car mysteriously disappeared while I was away. It is a wonderful yet diverse community of people who are brought together by mooring in this location and all do their best to make it a lovely place to live.

Bonny has also really enjoyed reclaiming her territory. She has been peeing around the place so much that she has had to suck up half the canal to keep going! After four months she is loving going on familiar walks once again, but so far has been really good at staying with me while we explore!

But part of me feels a bit guilty about my enjoyment. I say to myself that if I was a 'real' boater, a real explorer, then my boat would be all the home I needed. I wouldn't need a place, a community to return to. If I was a 'real' boater I wouldn't have a mooring at all but would endlessly travel the waterways and call each patch of towpath I tie up to home.

Also although I call it my mooring, I don't own it. I rent the space from CRT who could ask me to move on at any time. So how do we define what home is? Surely it is more than the roof over our heads? Is it where our loved ones are? But then what about those of us who are alone or who are separated from those we love?

Perhaps for me it is the place I feel I most belong. Yes, I belong first and foremost on my boat, but Hunts Lock mooring is the place I come back to. It shelters me in the winter, it allows me to pretend I have a garden and it allows me to belong to a community. When I am here I don't have to worry about moving on every two weeks (or less). I know each night who will be mooring next to me and I know I am safe here.

I admire those hardy souls among the boating community who have cast off their need for a place and travel free of attachments. Perhaps I will do the same one day but I know I am not ready for that yet. Meanwhile I click my heels and say..."There is no place like home."

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Home!

Well, we made it back to our home mooring after nearly four months away.
It is a bit of a jungle but it would have been a lot worse if my wonderful neighbour Nev Wells hadn't cut the grass for me. This is a picture of further up the mooring where it hasn't been cut for only 6 weeks..

But this, thanks to Nev is what mine looks like:


I have found a new and strange growth and wondered if anyone can identify it?


Happy and sad to be back. It's been an incredible adventure and endings are almost always tinged with sadness. But I also feel really good that after such a long cruise I have brought Bonny, the boat and myself back safely.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Lessons learned.


I have been reflecting on my cruise as I approach the end of this particular adventure. I have learned some lessons and thought I would record them here, mostly to remind myself of them when memories of the wisdom gained begins to fade.

1. Don't set targets.
On previous cruises, I decided each day where I wanted to get to, by what time and would record the locks and miles done. The problem with deciding in advance where I would stop was that I would become increasingly anxious as my chosen spot grew closer, in case something would prevent me mooring there. I sometimes spoilt the journeying by worrying about the destination. The recording of times, miles and locks tempted me to become impatient if anybody held me up and occasionally I would take silly risks at locks as I had put myself under a time pressure. Giving up wearing a watch really helped with this one.

2. Be an explorer.
Connected with the point above, I have learnt not to pass by somewhere that I fancied stopping at. I have found unexpectedly beautiful walks and met unexpectedly friendly people when stopping on a whim. Of course you have to have enough time to be able to do this. So I deliberately allowed masses of time to travel a relatively short distance.

3. Embrace the unexpected.
Again linked with the above point, I found things happening on my cruise that threw what plans I had made into dissaray. I was delayed at Newbold for a while because of a stoppage at Hawksbury. It allowed me to rest. I also found a wonderful walk (from behind the Church if you are ever there). I was tempted to fret about the delay but largely managed to relax about it as fretting would not have encouraged CRT to mend the lock gate any quicker!

Even a very sad occurance can have a silver lining. My friends Roger and Shirleyann joined me for a cruise on the Thames. However Shirleyann's mother was taken very seriously ill, forcing Shirleyann to jump ship and fly immediately to Canada. Roger stayed behind and cruised back to Banbury with me so he could take all their stuff off the boat when he had fetched his car. Last year Roger and I had had a falling out during another cruise and I felt that it had coloured our relationship since. This time, with the two of us thrown together without Shirleyann to mediate, meant that we had a chance to mend and deepen our friendship.

4. Let snugglers be.
This is still a work in progress! Snugglers is a term I coined for boaters who find me moored out in the middle of nowhere, miles from anything and decide that what I really want is company and so moor right by me - they snuggle up to me. I don't mind this when there is limited mooring or I am moored at a recognised site. But I found it certainly intrusive and sometimes even an aggressive act to invade what I saw as my personal space when there were plenty of other spots to moor. What this cruise has taught me is that my personal space is my boat and not the outside world. I actually have all the privacy and solitude anyone could ever need. If another boater has the need to moor close by for their own sense of security, then who am I to object?

5. Don't underestimate myself.
I have discovered through cruising that I can achieve more and be more than I ever imagined I could. I can cope physically and emotionally with tough challenges and the only limits were the ones I placed on myself. There was an advert that had the tag line "Don't let your fear stand in the way of your dreams". Well amen to that!

It occurs to me as I write this that these cruising lessons aren't bad ones for life in general!

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Vindicated!!


I shall be grinning like a loon all afternoon and I can't resist telling you why!

I tackled the 11 Atherstone Locks this morning. Being the time of year it is and with the Atherstone locks notoriously slow to fill, I decided on an early start. So after a woodland walk with Bonny, I cruised to the top of the flight, reaching it at about 7.40am. On the way I had passed a working boat and butty moored with the crew of five having breakfast.

As I was waiting for the top lock to fill a man came hurrying up to me and with no introduction said "Are you going down the flight?" I bit back any comment about it being bleeding obvious as my boat was here and I was working the lock! I just smiled and said yes. "And are you single handed?" Again I said yes. "Oh for heaven sake. Well I suppose we will have to help you then", he huffed. Since he didn't even have a boat with him and he was cross examining me with no explanation, my patience was starting to wear a little thin but I just said, "Well, you will have to catch me first!"
"That's not funny, we are in a hurry, we have to get a boat and butty down the flight".

I worked out from the last comment that he was from the working boat I had passed. Had he approached me in a different way I may well have offered to let them go first. But since he was huffing and puffing and assuming that I was going to hold them up, I merely said "Probably should have got up earlier then" and steered my boat into the lock.

He went ahead and opened a paddle at the next lock so it would be full when I arrived. I thanked him but he was still irritable and said that 'as Captain, he will have to see me through as quickly as possible before getting his boats through.' I was very tempted to tell him he wasn't my captain! Anyway, I got down the first 2 locks and he had said he would be back to 'sort me out' for the next 2, but there was no sign of him so I carried on and set the locks (they were all against me and nothing coming up). When I got through I climbed back up, closed the gates and raised a paddle on the top gate so the lock would fill for them.

Captain Irritable caught me up on his bike and thanked me for setting the lock for them but told me not to bother as it will make me slower. So I carried on working down the flight and much to my relief I saw no more of the working boat crew. After lock 5 I decided to stop and visit the supermarket and then I wouldn't be in Captain Irritable's way any more. I was surprised that by the time I had moored, got my shopping list done and locked the boat up, they still hadn't passed me.

When I started again I met a boat coming up lock 7. We chatted about the flight and I mentioned my experience with the working boat. "Oh, it's you", said the other boater. He then told me that he had met the working boat with its butty and got chatting as you do. Captain Irritable (who wasn't any more) said that his heart had sunk when he found a single handed woman in front of him at the top of the flight. He thought he would be seeing 3 boats down the whole flight instead of 2. "But," he said, "She went like lightning and we never saw her again after lock 2. She even had time to set a couple of locks for us".

Ha, ha!! It just shows how dangerous it is to make assumptions when you know nothing! He just assumed that I couldn't possibly work a lock as fast as his crew, let alone faster. Well Captain Irritable, you met your match this morning!

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Some favourite mooring spots

Now I am safely the right side of Hawkesbury Lock and on the canal that will lead me home, I have been reviewing my 100 plus days cruising so far.

I thought I'd share some pictures of my favourite mooring spots found on this cruise and say why I liked them so much. So, in no particular order...


This was one of our first stopping points when we started our cruise in April. I loved Wolseley Bridge on the Trent and Mersey because Bonny could run free and chase squirrels. She was safe because we were on a narrow strip between river and canal and so she couldn't go too far.





This was the view from our mooring near Congleton on the Macclesfield Canal in April and Bonny loved the walks by the river in the valley.



I said in no particular order, but actually they are in month order. This was the Ashby Canal near Hinkley in May. We loved this mooring for the walks and the peace and quiet.



If I had to pick an absolute favourite mooring then this would probably be it - Barby on the North Oxford. Firstly because it was entirely 'snuggle proof'. In other words nobody could moor right in front or behind. It always amazes me how, when I find a really remote mooring, in the middle of nowhere, another boater will immediately think that what I lack is company and will moor uncomfortably close. But not here at Barby!

I also loved it for the variety of walks. The above is a view from the top of Barby Hill.



This mooring near Aynho Wharf was nothing special except for one huge advantage - when the temperature was over 30° on 1st July, it provided good shade almost all day. Bonny and I don't like being too hot so we were very grateful for the trees.


This is Somerton water meadows on the South Oxford and, apart from Barby, was the only other entirely snuggle proof mooring that I found, thanks to thick bushes either side of a strip of Armco just big enough for my boat!

Lastly I discovered a huge love for The Thames on this cruise. At least the part that we explored up to Lechlade. The locks were easy and beautifully kept, the river was mostly wide and easy to navigate and I discovered the concept of 'wild mooring'. Rather than being limited to the canal towpath, on this stretch of the river you could just pick a field and as long as you could get the boat in close enough, you could moor. Here was my first attempt at wild mooring:


This is not an exhaustive list of brilliant places to stop that I discovered on this cruise, but they show the sorts of moorings that fill my soul with joy!


Thursday, 20 July 2017

My luck couldn't last forever


Ho hum, what a difference a few days make. All was going swimmingly until a boat rammed the top gate of the Hawkesbury Junction lock. They hit it so hard they have broken part of the gate off!

The lock has been closed for repairs since Monday. I would have been using it today, to get onto the Coventry to continue my journey back to my mooring. Fortunately, thanks to a lovely ladies canal Facebook group I belong to, I was warned about the stoppage while I was still south of Rugby. I was particularly grateful because, although there is about 4 hours cruising between here and Hawkesbury, mooring is very sparse.

Yesterday I moored in Rugby and did a much needed supermarket run. I could have stayed there but I hate the noise, smell and bustle of towns so I cruised to the suburb of Newbold. It's a good mooring in terms of rings, water and rubbish dumping but there is very little TV or internet reception which makes the day rather long and boring. Add to that the rains have finally caught up with us, it is becoming a frustrating delay.

But I am lucky. Had I not been forewarned I would have continued to Hawkesbury only to find over a 2 mile queue of boats waiting and nowhere to moor!

The latest news is that yesterday they were making a new part for the gate and hope to fit it by lunchtime today. I think it will then take at least another day to clear the backlog of boats through. I do hope CRT have thought of that and will send a lock keeper to help!

I haven't been that impressed with how they have managed this. It took the best part of 3 days just to drain the lock (and as it is only a stop lock the water only falls a foot or so). The communication via the website is very slow and also inaccurate. When I phoned for an update I spoke to a very pleasant woman who was sympathetic. However since they mostly use contractors these days, she couldn't tell me anything! CRT have to wait until the contractors choose to update them. Progress is slowed further by the fact that these workers down tools at 4pm sharp! There is no sense of urgency at all.

So a lesson in patience for me. I am fortunate in that I allowed plenty of time to get back to Fradley before I need to work. As long as the lock is opened in the next day or two I should be ok. Really feel for those hire boaters who paid over £1000 for a weeks cruise and spent most of it parked by a motorway! That's the boating life for you.