Wednesday, 18 May 2016

First day of organised "appointments"

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

The immaculate FMC Josher "Holland" owned by a friend.
So one consequence of yesterday's long day it seems is that I have become somewhat sun-burnt.  I must admit I never gave the possibility a second thought, but clearly I was outside a very long while, and although it was not an exceptionally hot day, much of it was indeed sunny. We live and (don't always!) learn, it seems

Sharing with "Hyperion" in Dudswell bottom lock.
When we first bought our first boat "Chalice" some 11 years ago it was always based in the area we are now boating through, so most trips inevitably involved the stretch of canal either North or South of Tring summit.  However as our home moorings have progressively moved to the North we now only boat the waterway close to our home town only occasionally.  In fact our last trip over Tring summit was a full year ago, when we were taking "Sickle" to last year's Rickmansworth festival.  Incidentally, currently repeating that trip would be a challenge, because although myself, Cath and Odin the dog could just about fit into "Sickle's" back cabin, the arrival of our second dog Max is probably a step too far, and we have not yet worked out a way the four of us might share that small space.  We have far more space in "Flamingo's" very large conversion of a full working boat hold.

"Bushes" lock, Northchurch
So today we found ourselves in the slightly odd situation that on Saturday it took us just about an hour to drive from our home in Bekhamsted to where"Flamingo" is moored in Northamptonshire, but that we have spent about the equivalent of three full cruising days to get back there!

A few unexpected things happened with the engine across Tring summit, but these seemed to largely resolve themselves before we reached the first downhill lock at Cow Roast - just as well because such work that the engine may eventually require is far beyond my basic mechanical abilities.

Top "Gas" lock, Berkhamsted
At Cow Roast Phil on the fuel boat "Hyperion" who we passed facing in the opposite direction advised us he was about to turn and head South again, so we waited for him to join us in the lock before continuing. Phil only had one further boat he knew he needed to top up with diesel on his return through Berkhamsted, so it was no bother to wait while he did that, (surprisingly quickly in fact), and we then worked down into the centre of Berkhamsted with him.  Unlike yesterday's struggle though pounds North of Tring summit that were heavily depleted of water, today all but one of the pounds were fully up South of the summit, (the exception bring the one from "Bushes" lock to top "Gas" lock - which often seems low.

Bottom "Gas" lock, Berkhamsted
At Berkhamsted we stopped for the first of several appointments over this trip - I was able to quickly walk to my doctor's surgery, where a nurse removed the stitches from the operation on my left shoulder two weeks earlier.  Because it was keyhole surgery there were only three very small incisions , each fastened by a single suture.  The  nurse advised all had healed well.  We also had an interesting chat because her son is looking to buy a boat to live on in the area - I was able to give her some information on how much more difficult that is becoming for some people, and suggested he needs to do some serious research before committing to the lifestyle!

On our own again - Broadwater lock, Berkhamsted
Cath then did a supermarket shop, whilst we negotiated with home about how son David would join us on board - it needed the collaboration of son Michael to drive him down with masses of stuff, as, like Cath he would be performing that evening with New Moon Morris at the Rising Sun pub.  We decided Cath and I must move the boat down a couple of locks more for access to the pub, and David would be delivered to us there.

Our overnight mooring.
Maybe Cath will add something about their dance session, but to explain a little in the world of Morris dancing it is often the case that if one "side" is dancing at a venue, they invite along one or more other sides.  In this case "Wicket Brood" from St Albans invited "New Moon" from Ivinghoe.  The same had happened last year, but Cath had been unable to attend that time.  Today our journey had been carefully planned to make it possible - the second arranged "appointment" of this trip.  I even got brave and joined in some parts on melodeon, but frankly I was pretty naff!  Stage fright, I guess - I had played the tunes reasonably well at a rehearsal little over a week earlier, but my brain and fingers had other ideas tonight!

This video has appeared which gives a good, if brief, impression of the festivities at the Rising Sun

Bulbourne Junction to Berkhamsted
Miles: 6.2, Locks:8
Total Trip Miles: 51.7, Locks: 40

Monday, 16 May 2016

Bloomin' Hard Work

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Three Locks
What a day - and not always in a good way!

We knew we needed to make good progress today, to avoid excessive pressure the next day, by which time I needed to get to Berkhamsted for a scheduled nurses appointment.  However we looked to have enough time if not severely delayed, and made a reasonable start, but  little knowing what lay ahead.

Very drole!
Our first locks of the day were what is generally referred to as  "Soulbury Three Locks", but which working boatmen actually knew as the "Stoke Hammond Three" - not unusually for names of canal features they are not actually that close to the places bearing either name!   Here we saw our first volunteer lock keepers of the trip, and very good they were, and we progressed quickly up to the picturesque "Jackdaw pound", that leads down to the outskirts of the paired towns of Leighton Buzzard and Linslade,  En route we passed the fuel boat Ascot travelling breasted up with its butty "Beverley", (actually a former pairing with our "Flamingo") .  Unusually the owner had the motor boat on the right of the pair, so in order for him to stay in deep enough water, the butty was well to the centre of the canal.  As we passed, although still a massive way from the "off" side, "Flamingo" tilted heavily over as it explored the surprisingly shallow waters.  I should have taken this as a warning for the rest of the day, but didn't think too much about it at the time.

Passing breasted working boats in the Jackdaw pound.
In Leighton Buzzard we needed provisions, but unusually all the visitor moorings from the supermarket to the bridge were taken.  This was not a problem, as we needed to fill the water tank and empty toilet cassettes, so we went through to the service area, and Cath had ample time to do a quick top up of provisions, whilst I attended to things domestic.  If CRT are paying any contractor to clean the sanitary station at Leighton Buzzard, then they are getting a poor service for their money.

A heron at Ivinghoe locks contemplates a relative lack of water!
We had just entered Grove lock, and started to fill it, when we saw that a boat we had seen in Leighton Buzzard was now following us, so we quickly stopped the process, reopened the bottom gates, and let the other boat join us.  This was about the point life started getting hard!

Delightful lighting effects near Cheddington

In the notoriously bad pound between Grove lock Cath had gone ahead to set Church lock, when I was not paying enough attention to where there is enough channel for a deep draughted boat.  By the time I realised I was grounding, I was particularly impressively stuck!  I was many yards from any bank, (in fact not actually that far off centre of the cut), but it is incredibly shallow on the non towpath side, and, as I was to discover the bottom is covered in hard slabs, and not forgiving at all.  No amount of poling or use of the engine would free me at the back, although the front was swinging free, but fortunately Andy on the other boat was able to eventually get to a position where he could help drag me off.  I'm extremely grateful for his efforts, and the delay was considerable.

Swing bridge near Cheddington
Hoping things might improve they never really did after that!  Above Church lock the long pound to Slapton was maybe nine inches down, and trying to work out where any channel was in the middle proved hard.  I could be close to where you might assume it to be, but was intermittently switching from grounding on the left, with boat tilting to the right, to a grounding on the right, and tilting to the left.

Thereafter every pound to Marsworth, yes, every single pound was down by anything between six inches and a foot.  Hence even if we could plough slowly along them, we could seldom get the boat anywhere near the side at locks, causing much complication with the dogs, and continually increasing the delays.

At the bottom lock of the Marsworth flight we caught a boat towing another, so had to wait for them to lock through.  As the pound below these locks was also well down we had not been able to get to the edge, so having reset the lock, I was alarmed to return to the boat, and find it now tight against the bank.  Unfortunately the flush from emptying the lock had temporarily raised us up, washed us over to the bank but then dumped us down on more solid material again once the flow stopped.  Once again we had become well stuck, and we hadn't even been going anywhere at the time.  Again we are grateful to local boat owners who arrived with poles to help with the inevitable pushing and shoving that followed.

The ever delightul Marsworth, but impossible to moor Flamingo.
Our plan had been to moor in the long pound beside the reservoirs between the two bottom locks of the main Marsworth flight, but that pound was itself about a foot down, and wherever there was a potential space, I couldn't even get within a boats width of the bank.  We simply don't carry a plank that long!

So, completely knackered, and having already taken hours longer than expected we were forced to carry on up the next six locks at Marsworth to Tring summit, with sunset arriving and passing as we did so.  Every pound of this flight was missing nine inches to a foot of water, with the worst ones at the top.  I could not have got up it on my own, as I could not have got on or off the boat, but with me staying on, two of us did eventually get there.

Completely trashed by now, we moored at the first spot available in failing light, and somehow Cath still managed to produce a delicious meal.  There has been much criticism of maintenance standards on the Southern Grand Union in recent months, and, until today, I was not sure how exaggerated they were.  If our experience is typical, not one single pound anywhere between Grove Lock and Tring Summit had enough water in it for deep draughted boats. I make that maybe 17 different pounds, totaling 7 or 8 miles.  If the rest of the trip is like this, I think I could quickly tire of historic boat ownership!

Stoke Hammond to Bulbourne Junction
Miles: 14.2, Locks: 22
Total Trip Miles: 45.5, Locks: 32

Sunday, 15 May 2016

A Somewhat Longer Day Than Anticipated

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Descending the Stoke Bruerne flight
As Cath explained in yesterday's blog, our trip down to Rickmansworth is slightly unusual because we have something like five appointments to keep along the route, and with no other transport than the boat, we must arrive in certain places by certain times.  So, although we don't want it to be a mad rush, the first few days travel require that we get to at least a certain point each day.  We don't have a lot of experience in boating in "Flamingo" with just the two of us, and far less still of trying to keep two energetic dogs in check at the same time.  Also my newly operated on shoulder is very painful, and almost certainly I should not be working locks, leaving Cath to do them all, so it is inevitable we are slower than we would usually have been in the past.

Cosgrove lock, where there was a queue in the other direction
A further barrier to fast progress is "Flamingo" itself.  "Flamingo" is a heavy boat, and whilst it goes along well enough when underway, it is considerably slower of the mark than either "Chalice" or "Sickle".  However the main reason you do not rush with "Flamingo" is its great reluctance to stop in a hurry.  I have never known a narrow boat take longer to stop, and with "Flamingo" you can give it all its got, and still find pulling up alarmingly slowly.  We don't really know why, but suspect the propeller is not the most ideal one for that boat, engine and gearbox.  We don't actually know the diameter or pitch of the propeller, never yet having docked "Flamingo".  So at the moment locks are entered very much slower than we would with other boats, and blind bridges approached with greater caution, all resulting in slower progress overall.

Our old boat "Chalice" looking well cared for.
Anyway today's minimum place to reach was Stoke Hammond, and we have achieved that, albeit taking longer than I probably expected.

Today was mostly new territory with us for "Flamingo", which we had previously never previously brought further South than four locks down the Stoke Bruerne flight, but is of course a stretch we have covered numerous times in our other boats.  A near 72 foot boat that is slow to stop somehow makes the whole journey rather more "exciting".

The very shallow lock at Fenny Stratford
I usually try not to post to much about what can go wrong when one meets other less experienced boaters, but today we have certainly been treated to a few things that made life somewhat harder on occasions.  I am well used to being waved past steerers of slower moving boats that we have caught up, who then don't then let you pass easily, so often I will decline going past if it looks in any way likely to become risky.  However, today I was waved past by a hire boat steerer at what was actually a very good spot to go past, (they often are not!), but it takes a while to get a 72 foot boat past one of maybe 60 feet.  All was going swimmingly well until I was half way past when he then speeded up again - there was no real panic because there was still a clear view ahead, but as I tried harder and harder to draw ahead of him his front end swung across to the point it was rubbing our back end.  It really doesn't have to be made that hard - if you wave someone past, make it easy for them to get past quickly, please!

Distinctive double bridge at Stoke Hammond lock.
However on a wide straightish section by Linford an approaching boat switched across to the wrong side of the canal as it was already quite close to me, and firmly held its position, leaving me no option but to reverse hard, and hope they took avoiding action eventually.  There was no collision but we ended up on the mud and in the bushes.  "Sorry" said the steerer, "Woman, driver, I'm afraid - I think I need more practice".  I was forced to agree with her about needing more parctice, but as I tried to extract us from the mud, I did wonder why neither of the people stood by her had intervened, particularly if either was more experienced, but had allowed her a go at the tiller.  I suppose I have to laugh it off, but we have quite a lot of scratched paint as a result, and I didn't really think the the "lady driver" excuse good enough!

Strange effect with Max's ears as the photo  captures him mid leap!
Otherwise it has been a good day, with good weather, and we and the dogs have thoroughly enjoyed it.  When we finally moored up Max decided Odin was definitely going to play bouncy chasing games, and he didn't let him off the hook until both has had a very active run about.  Max is definitely getting a lot "younger"!

Moored for the night just above Stoke Hammond lock
Stoke Bruerne (Long Pound) to Stoke Hammond
Miles: 21.2, Locks: 8
Total Trip Miles: 31.3, Locks: 10

Saturday, 14 May 2016

In Need Of A Holiday!

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Cath)

We seem to have had life working at odds with us recently. I won't go into the details of the problems of getting my late mother's solicitor to release her will to me; or the fact that the executors' bank account that my brother and I set up together has been lost by the bank - and that all proof of my brother's passport and bank statement has now been shredded; or the fact that the estate agent can't get into my mother's house with the keys that we supplied (that we checked before we handed over). Or, indeed, that the Tesco delivery that we set up for last night, so that we had food to bring to the boat for our trip was cancelled because the van broke down, and couldn't be rescheduled until well after we had to be on our way.

However, we really, really needed to go boating. Life has been difficult for a while, not seriously difficult, but hard work. So we had band practice last night (if you're around, come and see New Moon Morris dancing and playing music in Stoke Bruerne at the Family Festival in June), we got up early, packed bags, packed some food, and set off to the boat.

Max has gone all puppy-like - hard to photograph well, though!
Max, who was my mother's dog, has been transformed over the last 10 weeks. He's lost weight, his coat shines, and he's built up a lot of fitness. He still needs to lose a lot of weight, but suddenly he's behaving like a puppy. He won't be five until August, but when he came to us people thought he was twice that age. Today he's been gamboling up and down the towpath, racing with Odin and clearly enjoying life.  Without a doubt my mother loved him, but what she needed, and what Max needs are not necessarily the same thing.

We got to the boat, loaded the huge amounts of stuff we need on the boat - huge amounts of dog food, melodeons, a bit of food for us, and left High House Wharf at about 2:30.  We took turns at steering, and doing sorting out of things inside the boat - stowing food, dog food, clothes - dusting after the weeks since we've been there.

Four hours later we moored in the long pound at Stoke Bruerne, and I rang Trevor, who I needed to see about the schedule for the Family Festival.  He turned up quickly at the boat, we had a helpful and productive chat, and then we headed for the pub.

Arrived at Stoke Bruerne on first day (The brasswork needs polishing!)
I'm on holiday, for the first time in a while, and goodness knows, I need it after the year that we've had so far. It's a bit of a weird holiday, with a tight schedule. Alan has to have the stitches out of his shoulder surgery on Tuesday so we have to be in Berkhamsted for that - as well as me needing to dance with New Moon Morris at the Rising Sun pub that evening - we will also be picking up our son David for the journey to Rickmansworth - since he is musician, and occasional dancer with New Moon. On Wednesday both Alan and I have physio appointments in Hemel Hempstead - Alan for his shoulder, me for the borked knee that I managed in Braunston at the historic boat festival last year. I also have a bank appointment to set up a new account to allow me to administer my mother's estate.  After that it's a potter down to Rickmansworth.   Hopefully we can meet with some of our boating friends there for a 'slow and steady' session of folk music.

Weedon to Stoke Bruerne (Long Pound)
Miles: 10.1, Locks:2
Total Trip Miles: 10.1, Locks:2

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Trying Out "Max" As A Proper Boat Dog.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)
Monday 18th to Wednesday 20th April

Joshers "The King" and "Lynx"
So after all the things that have largely kept that away from the boats so far this year, and having unexpectedly acquired a second dog, (see previous posting), we needed to find out how "Max" would cope with going boating.  "Max" has already spent brief time on board on the mooring, and coped well, although having arrived with us considerably overweight, he has occasionally struggled with the flight of 5 steps to climb out of "Flamingo's" cabin, and needed an extra shove from behind for the ascent - he has little trouble getting in, gravity playing its part in that operation!  (Because "Flamingo" is a deep hulled "Town" class working boat, it is over 4 feet to go down inside the cabin - far more than on a modern leisure boat).

"The King" (right) was originally a steamer.
We decided a trip down to Stoke Bruerne was in order - this would give us about 10 miles of lock-less cruising to see how he reacted to the moving boat, but would also take in the long Blisworth tunnel.  "Odin" has developed a bit of a fear of the tunnels, (blame the trip we did with him just in front of a 20 horsepower Bolinder!), and we wondered if "Max" might pick up on this.  Unlike Braunston tunnel, at Blisworth it is not really practical to walk dogs over the top, as most of the route at Blisworth follows a fairly busy road with no path, whereas Braunston is a track without vehicles, other than one quick road crossing.

Waiting for the second lock down the flight.
There were no problems at all for the run to the tunnel, and when we got there I steered, whilst Cath went in with the dogs, and played melodeon to avoid giving specific attention to either dog, whilst actually being with them actively doing something.  Considering "Odin's" insecurity about tunnel passages, both dogs were calmer than might be expected, although neither settled completely, I think.

On arrival at Stoke Bruerne "Max" got very excited - this was something new - getting on the boat at one interesting place, but now arriving somewhere new and at leat equally interesting.  He really seemed to be enjoying it, and, of course if "Max" was enjoying it, then so was "Odin"!

Navigation pub in the background
A walk down the lock flight quickly followed.  "Max" is already starting to behave like one would expect for a fairly fit dog over only about four and a half years of age, and there was positive bounce in him. He seems a "younger" dog than he did on arrival less than 2 moths ago. Over short distances he is much closer to being able to keep up with "Odin", although we rather feel that "Odin" is not going fully into "top gear" very often, to give "Max" a sporting chance!

Dogs at rest - Max (left) & Odin (right).
The "barn" area at the end of the Navigation pub allows dogs in, and we are finding it consistently better for food than the Boat, better meals, better value and better choice, (although their main vegetarian options have changed, and not necessarily what I would otherwise have chosen).  The beer was also very good, so although I would normally prefer to support a family owned pub over a "Pubco" one, the Navigation currently generally has the edge.

On the way back up
A secondary objective of this trip was that Cath was booked in for a "Partnership" related Canal and River Trust meeting on the Tuesday, and this was supposed to be at Stoke Bruerne, so we thought it a nice touch to arrive by boat.  However she learned after arrival that it was cancelled, leaving us with no other commitments beyond chilling out, and eventually getting back to our home mooring.

We had already decided that "Flamingo" would be taken at least part way down the locks to turn it, (not being possible at the head of the locks), and as we set off to do this on Tuesday, I was quite keen to push a bit further South, to, say, Cosgrove.  However I don't think either of us have fully appreciated just how exhausted recent events have left us, and in the end we sensibly decided to turn at the first available pound, after you have passed 4 locks down the flight.  Four down-hill locks, followed by a passage back up through them should easily establish how "Max" would behave.  In fact he didn't disappoint at all, and at each lock Cath tethered both dogs somewhere safe as we locked though.  Both were so comfortable with this, that on the passage back up, "Odin" was recognising the point he had waited at each lock on the way down, and asking for them to sit in the same place going back up!

Filling up with wsater.
A leisurely fill with water outside the Boat caused us the impromptu decision to have lunch there.  The one thing that can be relied upon is their baguettes filled with cheese and mushrooms, and they didn't disappoint!  (Why can't other places be quite so generous with their mushrooms - it is not as if  they are a major factor in the cost of producing such a meal, is it?).

We decided to spend another evening at Stoke Bruerne, and not set off home until the Wednesday.  We walked the dogs again, this time up over the tunnel mouth and across fields, before walking on leads back down the road to the bridge at the top lock.  "Max" is very good on a lead, whereas "Odin" still needs to be reminded he has to walk to heel.  We really should walk on pavements more often to drum the correct behaviour into "Odin".

I still can't quite believe how long it looks!
We made a lazy start back on the Wednesday.  As I entered the Southern end of Blisworth tunnel, a boat entered the Northern end about the same time.  The tunnel basically comprises three different sections of roughly similar lengths.  The southernmost third, and the northernmost third are the original bricked strucure, whereas the middle third is an all new pre-fabricated concrete bore of larger dimensions, when that part was completely rebuilt in the 1980s.  By any reasonable logic, if boats enter at both ends at the same time, they might be expected to pass in this middle section, and to not do so means one boat must be travelling twice as fast as the other, or even more.  I have no idea what the other boat was doing, but I passed the first two thirds of the tunnel, and was well into my final third before I eventually met it.  It's steerer suddenly pulled some move involving lots of reverse, and its bows swung across my path, as I was committed to passing.  I feared a loud bang, but somehow he recovered it, and we just "kissed"!  As he passed he said "sorry, I hit the wall" - but I was just relieved that the dogs had not been wound up by what might have been quite a big bang!  When we emerged Cath said both had been very calm, and she had been unaware that anything had gone on.

At least 5 former working boats in this picture
Later on, unexpectedly we passed our friends Simon and Ann moored up on their boat.  They had come up the Nene and Northampton Arm, which is why we had not seen them before.  After a bit of a struggle we moored up some distance from the side, and put out a plank.  "Max" decided he didn't need the plank, and just leapt for the bank anyway.  He may be overweight, but he is still up for trying quite a few athletic stunts!  After teas and a chat, we realised we needed to move on if we were not to be too late getting home.  Cath walked the dogs to the next bridge, but it was "Odin" rather than "Max" that was reluctant to get back on - "Max" got on with very little bother.

"Midlands and Coast" motor "Jubilee" in background.
It is always a bit of a struggle to reverse "Flamingo" into her home pontoon berth - there really isn't enough width across the cut to easily get between the boats that moor on either side.  Still, no strong winds today, and after a poor start, we got in easier than I at first expected.  All to do then was shut everything down, pack up, load the car, and head for home.

Yes, this boat really is based on a shipping container!
Has "Max" passed out as a boat dog?  Well it is hard to see how he could have done or behaved any better, so I think we would say it is all very positive so far.  Three days, two nights and eight locks of course is not a definitive test, but we think it is looking very positive indeed.  There is not a lot of space on the floor of our bedroom now though, and we have to be very careful what we are stepping on if we get out of bed in the night!

Simply add a basic hull, and front doors!

High House Wharf, Weedon to Stoke Bruerne & Return
Miles: 21.3, Locks: 8, Dogs: 2 (both at start and at finish!)

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

2016 To Date - Life Gets In The Way!

Normally we would expect to have published quite a bit of canal or boating related activities in a year before we get to mid-April, but the start of 2016 has seen us do little more than visit the boats occasionally to check that all is OK.  We did manage to stay aboard "Flamingo" on her home mooring a few weeks ago, but any trip out has until now eluded us.

I have been awaiting cataract surgery for many many months.  At the start of 2015 I had a major scare with what proved to be a detached retina in my right eye, and although Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital seems to have done an excellent job on what was a pretty close run thing, I think, it is not unusual for a rapidly developing cataract to follow retinal surgery.  I was initially scheduled to have a cataract operation last May, but the JR decided that my retina still had fluid behind it, and that the cataracts could not be dealt with for 6 months at least.  This has had a fairly dramatic effect on both our lives, because although I was told I could continue to drive based solely on the vision in my other eye, I quickly decided that night time driving was not safe, and imposed a self ban on doing so - if you are used to driving at any time, it is hard to explain just how restrictive it is!  Fortunately driving in good lighting conditions has remained fine throughout.

After losing my first operation date to the junior doctors strike, (which, I stress, I fully support), I finally got dealt with in early February, and was given a clean bill of health in early March, but still needed to wait at least a further 6 weeks before I could be tested to get glasses that actually match the fixed focus eyes I now have.  I now have the test completed, but am awaiting the specs!

In the meantime I am waiting for an operation on the shoulder I managed to damage severely when I fell into the cut shortly after the original eyesight problem, but before getting the diagnosis of the detached retina.  The shoulder causes me considerable grief, often interrupting sleep, and the operation has been so long in being scheduled that the original pre-operative assessment I had already had done has been declared invalid, and has just had to be repeated. (Polite suggestion to NHS, if your resources are stretched - don't schedule a  pre-op assessment until a date for the operation has been allocated!).

However my health became a secondary concern back at the start of March.  We were on the boats for the visit already referred to, when we were made aware that the Police were attempting to locate Cath.  Shortly afterwards they did get hold of us, and we received the shock news that Cath's mother Ann had been discovered dead in her home by neighbours concerned that the curtains had remained drawn during the day.  The Police had no further details, but we knew that Cath's mum had both a dog and a cat, and we must get over to her house to find out what the situation was.  It took us some time to be able to leave the boats, (I was busy working on "Sickle"), and the trip from hell then ensued, as we encountered closed roads on a route not familiar to us, only to be sent on a long diversion by the sat nav that eventually bought us back to exactly the same closed roads.  It was getting very late by the time we finally arrived.

I can't over-stress how wonderful Cath's mum's neighbours have been, both at the time, and subsequently.  Yes, they realised something was up, because the curtains were still drawn, and having possesion of keys, had made their way in, and found Ann in the kitchen, obviously deceased for some time, but with nothing disturbed whatsover.  The coronor had attended, and her body removed.  Obviously we would need to take her dog "Max" away, but were not well placed to take the cat.  However a neighbour was happy to feed the cat on a regular basis, whilst we tried to re-home it.  We finally made it home, well frayed, whilst Cath started trying to work out how to let family an friends know.

A sudden death at home always requires an autopsy, and we soon learned that Ann had suffered a "bilateral pulmonary embolism".  At least this appears to generally be something so immediate and dramatic that the victim will have known very little about it - something we have been able to take at least some comfort from.  What has been so shocking is that we had seen her two weeks previously, and she had seemed generally in better health and more upbeat than for a while.  Cath's brother has actually visited the day immediately before her sudden death, and felt the same - we had planned to be there a week later for Mother's day.  We have had several family deaths in recent times, including Cath's father a year or so back, and Cath's step mother late last year, but I don't think any have had anything like the impact we are feeling from this one.

March inevitably was lost largely to organising the funeral, and to start to think about how we deal with a house and contents that is not particularly local to either us or to Cath's only UK based brother.

Finally into April but with me with an impending operation, we can at last start to think about spending some time on boats and boating, although we still have much to do elsewhere.

"Max" the dog has lived with us for a while previously when Cath's mum broke a wrist in a fall, so we knew roughly what to expect.  He and "Odin" get on very well, although "Max" has arrived with us with enough excess weight on that he finds it very hard to keep up with "Odin" - he is now on a strictly controlled diet to lose weight, but not too fast.  We are deeply impressed that he can remember house rules from last time, (no attempts to climb on furniture this time!), and just how hard he is trying to fit in.  He really is doing superbly.

However, never having been boating, how would "Max" adapt to that?  Well that has been a prime purpose of our visit to the boat, now we have finally made it back here.  Of which more in the next post.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

A Working Boat Yard For Historic Boats

(Boats  Sickle & Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Very, retrospective post for 19th to 25th October 2015

Brinklow Boat Services just has to be one of the most interesting plaes to visit if you are in to historic boats.  We were privileged to spend a week living on board right in the heart of it for just over a week last October.  You are unlikely to find as many historic boats all together in one place unless you visit one of the organised shows that occur from time to time.

I'll largely let the pictures tell the story.

Enterprise and Greenock

Planet, one of the boats we considered, now with new back cabin

Sickle grounded on the cill to the floating/sinking dock

With Sickle inside the dock is slowly sinking

Because water is pumped in at this end it sinks first

View out from Sickle in dock - a lot of washing down was required once out!

Sinking the dock to get Sickle out - David assisted with bucket on rope!

The tide is coming in around Sickle

Despite moving a lot of ballast Sickle also gets stuck on the way out.

Planet, Flamingo & Aurora (on the side)

Planet, Flamingo & Aurora

Denebola, undergoing steelwork and replanking of wooden bottoms

Not a lot of room - Severn Dolphin to the right of Flamingo

Star & Laurel

The end of the arm with Reginald and Bordesley

Capricorn has recently had 8' of its former length added back using original sides.