Monday, 29 June 2015

Off to the Braunston Show

Well, the weekend finally arrived. The best free show on the waterways. Well, probably the best free show anywhere, in my opinion.
After moving out to bridge 88 we settled in to wait for the weekend. The Captain caught up with some jobs, like painting the plank and poles, as well as varnishing the porthole inserts. All jobs he promised to do before we left Stone. Still, they are done now.
Saturday, and the sun shone. We walked in to Braunston in time to hear the boats in the old arm firing up their engines. Bollinders, Nationals, etc. all with their own distinctive sound. It is amazing to see them jockeying for their turn to leave the arm, turn under the bridge and start the parade through the village.
Star of the show of course was President, the last of the Fellowes Morton & Clayton steamers to be still under steam. She led the parade, hooting as she went with her crew in traditional dress as befits  her status and home at the Black Country Museum in Dudley.
There were in all over 80 old working boats present, from 70 footers still in working trim to a selection of tugs from all over the waterways.
All credit must go to Tim and his gang in Braunston Marina for organising such a wonderfull event, no mean feat.
After the parade there was, of course, the beer tent, with music, accompanied by the sound of the boats backing into the arm after the parade finished. It was, as always, a wonderful weekend.
I will let the pictures tell the story.
After the show we made our way to 'the Boathouse for a meal, where, we caught president making a lone run through the village for the film crew. On board were Timothy West & Prunella Scales, no doubt destined to appear in a future TV programme. They even allowed him to steer, would you?

Sunday, 21 June 2015

The Dash to Braunston

Since my last post it has been three long days cruising to reach Braunston by Monday evening.
We left the mooring south of Fradley around 7.00 am and cruised through the rain to reach the bottom of Atherstone locks just as the sun appeared.
6.45 on Sunday and we were on our way up the flight, getting to the top just as the volunteers came on duty!. After a stop for coffee and a trip to Aldi, we set off again, through Nuneaton, and moored at Bedworth, for a well earned Sunday lunch on board.
 The last lap was through Hawksbury and on as far as bridge 88 by early evening. We would have made it earlier but for delays by bridge works at Easenhall. This work was scheduled for winter two years ago, cancelled at the last minute, and now being done at the busiest time on the canal.
The pace has now slowed somewhat as we have spent the last few days with friends who are on the marina camping field in their motorhome.
We have had a weekend of celebrations, saturday being our wedding anniversary, (45yrs) and Sunday being the Captains birthday, (not allowed to say!)
On our way to 'The Boathouse' for lunch we saw a fine foden steam lorry turn into the carpark. A Reminder of a distant age.
Another similar reminder is the historic boat show in Braunston next week. We have spent the last few days in the marina taking advantage of the 240v and water tap to hand, however we have to move out on Tuesday to make way for the large number of ex working boats expected for the show.
We plan to moor out at bridge 88 and walk in to see the sights.
This will be the subject of my next blog, with hopefully some good pics. It is always a superb event.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Back to Normality

after the trials of our train journey back from the south it is good to be back on board and ready for a dash to Braunston.
First though, we contacted Garry & Della on board Muleless who we knew to be in the area. Tempted by Thursdays 'curry club' in Wetherspoons, they cruised down from Stoke to meet up in 'The Poste of Stone'. We all had a great time, catching up with all the news and generally making merry till almost chucking out time.
Back on board we grabbed a few hours sleep before leaving our pier at 6.45am (yes, that time really does exist).
It was a long day but, with the sun shining we had a fine cruise as far as Streethay on the Coventry Canal. The Trent & Mersey canal follows the river Trent most of the way to Fradley junction and there are some fine views across the valley with Cannock Chase very prominent on the far side. Passing through some woodland we spotted a huge number of Rhodedendrum bushes, all still in flower. They must have been part of the gardens of one of the many old halls which existed in the area. The occasional secluded lock on the way just adds interest and they are not particularly hard work.
As we moored up in secluded countryside the rain which had been forecast arrived and we were glad to be cosy inside after thirteen hours on the move.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Strangers on a Train

No murder involved in this one, but you sometimes feel like it! When I started this blog I said I would not put personal stuff on it or use it as a rant. So, best look at this as an observation of the vagaries of human nature.
After the launch on friday we popped south for the weekend to catch up with the family and leave the car safe in the garage. We had a great time but looked forward to getting back to our cruise.
It is amazing how cheap you can get train tickets online but why are your fellow travellers such a random bunch? They seem determined to take up two seats each, either putting a bag on one or sitting by the aisle blocking the empty one. If you need the seat they refuse to make eye contact with you and only reluctantly let you sit when asked. It's like you're from onother planet.
My theory is that people have lost the ability to interact with their fellow man.
The captain thinks it is because they see the train as their own personal space when they do the same journey every day. What do you think? (Answers on a postcard please). For us and all you fellow boaters, this is an alien concept. We are all happy to chat with perfect strangers at the drop of a hat. It comes as a bit of a shock to find that a lot of people have lost those social skills.
Anyway, we are back on board and heading for Braunston tomorrow to meet friends next week.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

I Name this Ship

Since my last post we have been on a bit of a mission. Our friends, Colin & Katie, who have been fitting out a widebeam at the Colecraft yard in Long Itchington, announced that the long awaited launch was to be on the fifth of June at the marina in  Braunston.
We had five days to get Oakapple back to Aston, where we planned to leave her for a short while.
In truth, not particularly arduous,  but we did have to cruise through some of the showers of last week to maintain the pace. On cue, we arrived at Aston on Thursday ready to drive to Braunston on Friday morning, (a very early start), for the big event.
By 9.30 there was quite a gathering eagerly waiting the arrival of the star of the show. First the huge crane backed down alongside the arm, followed half an hour later by the boat on top of its lorry, complete with escort vehicle. She looked enormous. After some nifty juggling of the craft in the marina, the guys set to with strops and all the gear to lift the 37 tons of boat and swing her round, just clearing the trees, and lower her gently into the water. A round of applause as she bobbed up and down exactly on her designed waterline. Phew!!!
After a brief naming ceremony with a bottle of Champers supplied by yours truly and some last minute check by the boatyard guys, she was ready to be very gingerly inched out onto the canal.
With an abundance of experienced crew available, she was taken on her maiden voyage up the six Braunston locks to a mooring before the tunnel.
Colin was generous enough to offer my Captain a turn at at the wheel, which he found very different to what we are used to, and was pleased to hand her back to her owner. Of course, being 12ft wide she has to book a passage through the tunnel, unlike us skinnier vessels, so she is now waiting for her turn on Monday morning.
It was an exciting day and a unique experience. The new 'Fratie' is a lovely boat and we wish Colin & Katie many years of happy cruising in her.