Friday, January 13, 2023

An interesting 6 months...

Well, it's been a while since I last put electronic pen to paper, and a lot has happened.

I last posted as we arrived at Pillings Lock Marina, we stayed there a few days then set off downstream, back out onto the Trent to meet friends Caroline and Ian (NB Calan Lan) and headed off down the Trent towards Nottingham

Following Calan Lan down the Trent on August 6th

We moored in Nottingham near Sainsbury's for a couple of days, intending to head on to Newark.

But it was then that the plans all fell apart. Ian had had a problem with an eye and had to head back home to Scotland to deal with it, and Mags hadn't been her usual self for a few days. So we decided to head back to Pillings while they stayed in Nottingham.

Mags was due her bi-annual ERCP and stent replacement in September, and I thought it likely that she could have have an infection in her bile duct due to a blockage, it's happened before. So I got in touch with the team at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and arranged an appointment to get the procedure done. 

But we didn't get that far. Mag's health deteriorated rapidly to the extent that I had to call an ambulance to get her to A&E in Leicester, where it was touch and go for a couple of days. 

They got the infection under control though, and she was transferred to a medical ward in Leicester General Hospital to recover. It took a long time though, and she spent 6½ weeks in total away from the boat. Final rehab was at Loughborough Hospital, so at least she was local for the last couple of weeks. They were reluctant to discharge her to the boat, concerned about whether it would be a safe environment for her, but we managed to convince them and she returned home on October 12th.

Homecoming, with three Occupational Health people and the two ambulance crew in attendance!

Meanwhile, while Mags was away, I'd invested in a project. I'd always hankered after a proper Dutch barge, a Tjalk to be specific. Beautiful lines on these traditionally built vessels. Anyway, opposite our mooring and for sale was Hendrika, a 46 x 10 foot barge, launched in 1904 near Amsterdam.

I had a chat with the owner, we negotiated a price and I arranged a survey at Redhill Marina.

Out of the water for a look-see...


As you can see, she's been over-plated but the surveyor reckons it is well done. In fact there was very little he had concerns about, the hull and running gear are sound but some of the services didn't work so he couldn't check everything.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that we now have two boats. I've spent the last three months gutting the dated and quirky Dutch fit-out, and installing a new interior more suitable for living aboard. Of course, there was quite a bit of remedial work to do that only became apparent when she was empty... but that's another story.

I'm nearly there now, but, as you know, boats are never totally finished, there's always some little job that needs doing or something that can be improved. But I expect that she'll be ready to move onto in the next week or two. I'll be waiting till the Spring to tackle the tired paintwork, haul her out again for shot-blasting the hull and applying 2-pack epoxy, and then getting a folding wheelhouse constructed. Meanwhile we'll probably stay here in the marina, maybe toddling off for a few days if the weather is clement.

So... it's impractical for us to keep two boats, so Seyella will be going on the market. We'll be sad to see her go, she's served us well these last 16 years, but it's time for a change.

I'll be looking for around £56,000.  So if you know of anyone looking for a well equipped live-aboard 57 foot narrowboat point them this way...

More updates will be forthcoming, including pics of Hendrika. Until then, TTFN.

Monday, July 25, 2022

A day in LuffBruff then into the marina.

 On Saturday we moved on from Kegworth to Loughborough, leaving before 10:00.

We'd moored on the lock cut, at the end of it the navigation rejoins the river, on a fine broad reach heading towards Zouch.

Arriving at Zouch Lock we had a pair of boats coming down, so that saved me a job.

At the end of Zouch Cut there's a series of weirs to control the river levels, two conventional, fixed ones followed by a rotary flood control sluice.

Heading past Normanton on Soar, the steeple of St. James rising above the trees.

The canal and river separate again outside Loughborough, the river runs around the town to the east, while the canal heads through. 

Bishops Meadow Lock.

I'd just missed out on sharing the lock with a boat ahead, but a chap filling up on the water point gave me a hand with the paddles and gates.


 One more lock to do, Loughborough Lock, and I was surprised to see one gate open invitingly.

The couple ahead had kindly chosen to wait for me to join them.

We moored near each other near Chain Bridge and had a chat. They actually live in Australia, although he's from Cornwall. But they're taking a couple of years out to continuous cruise over here before going back to normal life.

Taking a day off yesterday allowed me to get a bit of shopping in and do an engine and gearbox oil change. I do the engine every 250 hours, but the time interval has got longer now I'm not running the engine when we take a day off.

We had a few spots of rain overnight but it had faired up this morning. It was gone 10 by the time we got going, but we were in no rush.

Leaving the very quiet Belton Road moorings.

I'd planned to get into Pillings Lock Marina around 11:00, giving me time to get set up before I went to get a hire car. But I thought we were going to be delayed a bit...

Just room to squeeze through...

Arriving at the marina it was a little challenging getting tied up, with the blustery wind and the short pontoons, but I've done it before (it's often windy here) so know the moves.

We'll be here for a few days now. Family visiting.

Locks 3, miles 8½  

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Through Shardlow and the Trent and the Soar

 I was on the move at 07:00 on Tuesday, knowing it was going to be another hot one. And it was.

I hadn't noticed before, but the fields approaching Willington show traces of medieval ridge-and-furrow farming.

It's probably the parched grass showing the ridges more clearly than normal.

The moorings through Willington were surprisingly quiet.

Fire damaged, I hope nobody got hurt...

Not far from Willington is Stenson Lock, the first of the broad locks heading downhill, and the deepest at 12'6". With no-one else about I took it slowly, leaving after taking a half hour to fill it end empty it again.

It's about an hour to the next, Swarkestone, and I passed my first boat of the day, after 2½ hours, on the way.

Swarkestone Junction is just above the lock, where the Derby Canal branched off up to - yes, Derby of course! It joined the Erewash Canal at Sandiacre, and if restored, would make a pleasant, short circular route.

Swarkestone Junction and Lock.

The Trent valley is wide and flat along here, with fine grazing and arable land on the flood plain.

I called it a day after 4 hours, pulling in a mile above Weston Lock in the shade of trees. Even in the boat under the trees it was very hot, Amber had a poor night, not able to get cool. I took her out three or four times through the night, it was marginally fresher outside.

With the hot weather finally breaking I had a bit of a lie in yesterday, before getting going a bit after nine.

It was 20 minutes to Weston Lock, and on the way I had to keep clear of a couple of wide beams heading the other way. At one time you'd never see them further up than Shardlow, but since Mercia starting berthing them you see them as far up as Willington.

WB New Dawn heading my way...

Approaching Weston Lock

I'd just got the lock set up when another boat arrived, so I was able to share the three locks down to Shardlow with Graham and Sue on Endeavour.

There were more boats about than the previous two days, folk making the sensible decision to stay put while it was so hot. So we met boats at all the locks which made passage a little easier.

That's a big field!

In Aston Lock

We parted company at Shardlow Lock, I closed up while Graham and Sue toddled on to moor, looking forward to a pub lunch. I pushed on, mooring up above Derwent Mouth Lock for the rest of the day.

Shardlow Lock and the Clock Warehouse.

In the evening our long-time friend Carol walked around from Shardlow Marina to spend an hour with us, catching up. She bought a sail-away wide-beam 5 years ago and has almost finished fitting it out. To a very high standard, too. A very handsome boat.

So, back to today. We woke to a grey, cool morning, with a hint of dampness in the air which turned to full-blown drizzle but the time I moved out at nine.

Leaving Derwent Mouth Lock and the Trent and Mersey Canal behind for the time being.

Out on the wide waters of the Trent just downstream from the confluence of the Derwent...

...then back into the confines of Sawley Cut.

Not really that confined though.

CRT lockie on Sawley Locks

I turned onto the backwater to use the services, then headed back out towards Soar Junction.

Ratcliffe Power Station framed under the railway bridge.

Soar/Trent Junction

The Erewash Canal heads off under the bridge to the left, Cranfleet Cut takes the Trent Navigation north just left of centre, and the Soar joins from the right, in front of the power station chimney.

Through Redhill Flood Lock (open) and past Redhill Marina the river curves past lines of moorings and arrives at Ratcliffe Lock.

A couple of boats were dropping down so I had a pause before I could go up, helped by another chap waiting to go down.

Then it was out onto the wide reach to Kegworth.

Kegworth Flood Lock

I dislike Kegworth New Lock, it's deep and slow to fill, but I was lucky to be helped up by the crews of boats waiting above.

I called it a day on the lock cut only two or three hundred yards above the lock.

It's supposed to be showery tomorrow so we'll probably stay put. I've got an engine service to do anyway.

Locks 9, miles 19½ 

Monday, July 18, 2022

Pressing on.

Having caught up with the shopping and enjoyed a take-away on Saturday evening there was nothing keeping us in busy Alrewas, so I pulled pins and set off through then village to drop down Alrewas Lock onto the short river section.

A quarter to eight on a Sunday morning. A glorious way to start the day, but others had the same idea and at least three boats were on the move before us!

The red sandstone of Wychnor St. Leonards glows in the morning sun.

The hamlet is listed in the Domesday Book, and the earliest portions of the church date back to the 12th century.

Beautiful clear water.

We pulled in just past the small footbridge above Wychnor Lock. That'll do for the day!

After a lazy day yesterday I wanted to push on, but with the temperature expected to climb into the high 30s it meant an early start. So we were in and through Wychnor Lock by 07:45.

A boat was coming up as I arrived and another was waiting to go down behind me.

This set the pace for the rest of the 5 locks passed today, apart from the last. I didn't have to fill them or close the bottom gates until I got through Burton on Trent.

Barton Marina.

Below Barton Lock I filled the water tank, made a brew and we toddled off, past Branston Water Park and in to Burton.

It looks very peaceful but what you don't see (and hear!) is the busy A38 on the right and the gravel quarry wagons on the left!

Beautiful Tattenhill Lock near Branston Water Park.

Heading into town there's an awful lot of commercial building going on. New warehouses popping up like mushrooms after rain!

Shobnall Basin, at the top of the Bond End Canal.

The top hundred yards or so of the canal is Shobnall Marina, the remainder down to the River Trent has been built over.

The last of the narrow locks, Dallow Lock, and I had to do this all on my own!

Not exactly "proper", you might say, but there's no denying that steel lock gates last longer.

Wooden ones have a life expectancy of around 25 years... 

Below the lock is Horninglow Basin, the limit of navigation for broad-beamed craft when the canal was built. Below here we've 6 wide locks to the Trent. 

When Brindley surveyed the route he decided, much to the Trent Navigation Company's dismay, to build to broad gauge from Wilden Brook to Burton. An Act had been obtained in 1699 to make the river navigable up to Burton, and the leaseholders ran a monopoly insisting that goods be carried only on their own boats and unloaded at their own wharves. They enjoyed considerable commercial success, but the seasonal variations in water levels was always a problem. Then Brindley's canal opened in 1777... They tried to get him to start his Trent and Mersey Canal in Burton so traffic still had to use the river navigation, but he was having none of it. In fact, to rub salt into the wound, the canal up to Horninglow was built to take barges, in direct competition to the river.
Only 30 years later trade on the river had declined to such an extent that the then owners, the Burton Boat Company, admitted defeat and closed the navigation. 

The River Dove looks low but still inviting for a paddle.

We moored only a half-mile or so past the Dove Aqueduct, in  a mainly shady spot, just where I'd intended. Four hours and it was just getting very warm.

Locks 6, miles 10.