30. Dec, 2019

I will start by wishing everybody a very Happy Christmas and a wonderful new year. As usual we spent it quietly on the boat after a couple of hectic weekends visiting family. We kept our hand in doing locks helping our friends Col and Mags through Foxton and then Braunston. They had decided a return to Swan lane after a short sojourn at Pillings Lock, This was our happy reunion. It was not the best time of year to travel and poor Col had more than a few hairy moments on the rivers which were in flood but he made it back safe sound and ready for a pint in the Brickies.

On to a more serious note as some of you know I have decided to stand for the CRT council, there are 4 places for private boaters and 34 of us have stood, which I think is great and shows that many people have a vested interest in representing the boating community. Unfortunately the list is in alphabetical order so I am last as my official name is Helen Wright although I use Bilbie on facebook. I just hope people will keep reading right to the bottom.

Of course I would like to be elected.

So to help my campaign I am going to set up a separate facebook page and hope that people will use it to ask questions, tell stories and debate what boaters require from CRT.

For those of you who don’t know me or my background I have in the past been a local councillor and the Mayor of my home town of Ripley. I have served on various committees in many different roles. I was the main union rep at Denby Pottery and organised the combined management/union health and safety committee. Since leaving Denby I have been involved in organising events at our wharf where we reside in the winter.

My boating background started in 2010 hiring boats and in 2013 we bought our beloved Avalon Two. 2014 we moved on board fulltime and have never looked back. We spend our summers cruising the waterways and our winters in Coventry.

If I was elected I would strive to improve the communication between CRT and boaters and ensure that boaters needs were taken into account when decisions were made that affect the towpath and canal side developments.

When the towpath is improved for walkers and cyclists the needs of boaters should be addressed and mooring rings/bollards or arnco should be included in the work.

I am very concerned about the apparent removal of boater facilties and would like to ensure that those we have lost are replaced and improved. More people are taking to the waterways and an increase in facilities would seem to be the sensible way to go.

We have to be practical in understanding that CRT do need to find other funding streams but whilst doing this they should not push boaters and boats into the background which seems to have happened with the website which I think most boaters will agree is a nightmare to navigate when looking for boating information.

I want to hear peoples issues, ideas and solutions to problems and this will allow me to present a well rounded case to CRT when representing my fellow boaters.

I hope I have your support when the voting opens on the 20th January 2020

4. Nov, 2019

Since the beginning of May we have done

713 miles, 361 locks, 108 movable bridges and 7 miles underground in tunnels.

 We have drunk a lot of beer and had some wonderful food. Not to mention seeing parts on the country we have not seen before, and meeting some fascinating and wonderful people.

But I will start with the wildlife, as on the last leg of our journey we were treated to a myriad of creatures, and all in one day.

It started with a glimpse of the elusive kingfisher darting across our bow. Then to our joy, soaring above us a pair of buzzards, then another pair, hang on these weren’t buzzards but their close cousins the red kite. This was a real spot, as red kites don’t normally get this far north being concentrated in the south west and Wales. But we could clearly see their beautiful forked tales and creamy under wings as they enjoyed the thermals above our heads.

A fox nonchalantly sitting in a field on the offside was the next spot, it sauntered along the bank and then took a gentle walk up the field and out of sight, but not before the Captain had managed to snap a few pics.

Back to the raptor theme, and a Sparrow hawk landing in the bushes as we cruised by, and then a kestrel took flight from its lofty perch.

The last spot of the day, was it a Jay? no a woodpecker in all its green and red glory.

We were on our way to Crick when we spied all these wonders of nature, it was a leisurely cruise and we passed many moored boats, on tick over, as etiquette dictates. We passed a hire boat which was only moored by its centre line and it rocked and rolled as we passed slowly by. This rocking and rolling was caused by the water displacement pulling the boat backwards, and then forwards as we crawled by. This backward forward movement causes the centre line to tighten and pull the boat over and towards the towpath, and then release the tension causing the boat to rock.

The Captain did comment on this as we went by, but everyone has their own ways.

We found lovely moorings in Crick, and as we needed some shopping we decided to take a gentle stroll into the village. As we set off a hire boat was trying to moor, and we being the friendly and helpful type went to help. And so pleased we did.

The Captain and crew of Scotts Wonderful Waltzer were from the great USA, and it turned out to be the boat we had passed earlier moored only by the centre line.

The Captain pulled them in and got chatting to Lev whilst I introduced myself to his crew, wife Rachael, mum Aileen and Herb. They were from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Mexico, but now live in Pittsburgh. They had hired the boat for a week from Market Harborough and were hoping to get to Braunston before turning round.

It turned out that they had been instructed by the boat hire guy to only use the centre line to moor, so the Captain gave Lev a quick mooring lesson and then we walked into Crick together.

The Captain unfortunately also had to tell them their hope of getting to Brauston and back to Market Harborough in 3 days was undoable. So instead suggested going as far as Long Buckby and the New Inn.

We walked into Crick with them, and after getting some shopping joined them in the Wheatsheaf for a couple of pints. Lev has a boat in the US so has experience of life afloat. They all seemed to be enjoying their holiday and we hoped to see them next day.

We passed them on the water point as we left and there was no sign of them as we descended Watford locks so, I thought they had decided to stay at Crick.

Down the locks and on to Norton Junction at Long Buckby, we found good moorings before the junction, and settled down for the afternoon.

Happily we were soon joined by Lev and crew and we helped them moor behind us. The afternoon was spent showing them first our boat and then we had a look at their hire boat. We chatted and got to know about each other. This continued later in the New Inn, and I tried to teach them some Derbyshire phrases including ‘Ay up mi Duck’, they just couldn’t see how this could mean ‘Hello my dear’. The very large pickled onion on Herb’s meal also caused some raised eyebrows, but I don’t think they were that impressed tbh. I wish I could cover everything we found out about each other and the differences in our cultures, but it would be a blog all on its own. We had a great night.

Next day we parted company, and as we went through the junction and turned right for Braunston ,  they winded to head back to Market Harborough. It was great to meet them all.

Only a quick mention of Braunston ,we came down the locks with NB Venus in Blue Jeans and managed to have a quick conversation with Sharon Tipp off NB Lady Claire, who we had met on the GU a couple of years ago and was going in the opposite direction. The Captain had promised me tea in the Boathouse pub, and I was really looking forward to it as the choice in there has always been excellent, and the 2 for 1 offer good value. I was extremely disappointed to find this had all changed, and the new menu is terrible, with very little choice, and a tad on the pricey side. But I will say what we did try was very tasty.

Our decision to return to Coventry for the following Wednesday was influenced by beer of course. The Windmill had their winter beer festival starting, and its one not to be missed.

So after a shopping stop in Rugby we pushed on. I must mention the terrible state of Hilmorton locks. I have never seen so much red and white tape as there was on there. These locks are side by side locks, and all 3 off the offside locks were out of action and festooned in so much tape it was a right sight.

I had a chat with the lockie on duty and was pleased to hear that the problems with the locks were being dealt with that week, so hopefully now they are all open and there is no red tape in sight.

Of course we had to stop off at Hawksbury Junction and try the Greyhound, we are never disappointed in there and the beer was as good as ever, and the food (although we did not try it) looked lovely.

We made it to the basin in Coventry by Wednesday and had a lovely time at the Beer festival. We returned to our home in Swan Lane on the Friday. It was a little sad as a lot of our fellow moorers and friends have moved on to pastures new. But we were soon cheered up by the welcome from Theresa in the Brickies, our local pub.

So now we are back and my job hunting has started in earnest, but it is not going well. All my attempts to contact PMP  (the agency used by Amazon) were in vain, and when I did manage to speak to someone they gave me the wrong information. It’s been quite stressful, and although I have now managed to sign on with them again, they don’t have the shifts I want (only weekend shifts available and I don’t want to work Saturdays). So I was a bit in limbo. The limbo didn’t last as I decided to phone Andri at UTL, and, he found me a job starting immediately. I couldn’t be doing with waiting for PMP to decide to contact me.

Also on our return 3 things happened, the thermostat in the emersion heater broke, we ran out of gas, and I managed to wash the Captains car keys when he needed them. Hey ho these things happen.

One final note I am hoping to stand for the CRT council elections as a private boater later this year.

4. Nov, 2019
16. Oct, 2019

We have decided to get the good ship Avalon Two painted.

It is in need of some serious TLC, but whilst we had the cats, Sam and Bubbles, it was difficult to sort out as we will not be able to live on board for about 6 weeks. Now we have no furry friends (sad face) we can start with the planning.

The first problem was to find a boat painter with the right dates, and a reasonable price. We tried a number of different boatyards for quotes and dates. The prices quoted varied greatly, and some of the dates offered didn’t fall in with our plans. But eventually we bit the bullet and chose Chris of Oxon boat painting. We know Chris personally, which is nice, and we are sure he will do a great job.

We have decided to go grey rather than blue, so Avalon Two will look quite different but we will not be changing her name.

Whilst she is being painted we are planning to descend on my kids, 2 weeks each and then go on holiday for a couple of weeks.

Now back to our travels. We left Pilling lock and headed for Leicester. The last 4 locks from Birtsall to the mooring at Castle Gardens were in a terrible condition, with a lot of the paddles being out of order and the gates leaking badly. I have reported this to CRT, including emailing the regional director with my observations. I have been told that repairs are to be undertaken during the winter, so fingers crossed next year things will have improved.

We met up with Heath and Jennifer and went for a curry at the High Cross, a Wetherspoons, but not before a stupid cash machine ate my card. Now here is one of the problems that us boaters encounter, that you living in houses may never think about. My new card will be posted to my postal address in Derbyshire in 6 working days, we will not be returning to Coventry for another 4/5weeks, which is where my sister will post it too. I could have asked her to post it to a friend we would be meeting up with later in our cruise, but she is now on holiday for 2 weeks. Makes it all rather complicated really. But a quick call into the bank and I was able to withdraw enough money to tide me over. It was lucky we were in Leicester, as so many towns have had their high street branches closed down. It would have been the bank of Captain in that scenario

On leaving Leicester we followed a no name single hander boat, and a share boat NB Living Dawn up the locks, me being me I jumped off and helped where I could, unfortunately the single hander did not seem to understand boating etiquette, and seemed happy to let the poor lady crew off the share boat do all of the work.  He just stood holding his boat with his windlass in his hand he never stepped forward to wind the paddles up or down.

We moored at Kilby Bridge for a couple of days due to the weather and called in at the Navigation pub. Before setting off we watered up and got rid of our rubbish, and the Captain held back and let the single hander, who had moored behind us, go and get ahead. He didn’t want me doing all the work on the 12 locks ahead of us.

As we set off we spied a boat heading our way and decided to wait for them at the first lock. The single hander had the same idea and was waiting for us, however a little white lie and we said we had agreed to pair up with the boat behind.

This turned out to be a hire boat, with humans Rob, Kim and mother in law Jan, and two very sweet but nervous greyhounds. Kim and Rob were experienced boaters which made doing the locks with them a pleasure. However the single hander took the yet again, and was happy for me and Kim to do the majority of the work. I did find out, that although he had had the boat for 2 years, he had being fitting it out and he only been cruising for about a week. He will soon learn the ways of the cut. On the last 2 locks Kim went up and set them for him only leaving him to shut the top gate as he left, but on the first he couldn’t manage this, but surprise surprise he shut the very last gate of the 12 locks. Maybe because there was a lovely big CRT notice on the gate instructing boaters to shut all gates and paddles on leaving.

After the 12 locks, and in the pouring rain, we made it to Foxton Locks and moored outside the pub of the same name. Although it was still raining we had to go to the pub after such a busy day, but bypassed the Foxton Locks in favour of Bridge 61, a proper boaters pub, although on this visit they had no darks on for the Captain he made do with a bitter, Thomas Lift from Langton Brewery and I was happy with San Miguel.

We cruised down to Market Harborough and a date with our friends Dave and Sandra Biddle. This however depended on their daughter not going into labour. Everything went to plan and we met them in the Beerhouse for a few pints before having a very nice curry in the Avatar. Their daughter was having a C section next day, so they were looking after their little granddaughter whilst she was in hospital, so an earlish night. But not before we had made plans to wet the baby’s head on their boat a couple of days later. A beautiful baby boy was born next day. Mother and baby doing fine.

We returned to Foxton and Bridge 61 where the Captain discovered they had been hiding bottles of Bullseye Stout, also by Langton Brewery in the fridge so he was one very happy bunny.

Dave and Sandra moor their boat in a small wharf by the Foxton incline plane, loving called the swamp by its residents. They used to have a 58ft NB called Captain Hastings, but have downsized to a 42ft sea otter called Hercule, it is very cosy. We enjoyed a few bottles of very nice red wine called ‘The guv’nor’, whilst the Captain tucked into Hobgoblin.

Then back to Bridge 61 to finish the night off.

The heavy night on the beer did not help with our plans for the next day, which included doing the 10 locks of the Foxton staircase, but we got up and got going. These locks are the first I ever did and are a marvel of engineering, as was the incline plane which sadly is no longer there.

You have to book in with the lockies when you arrive, because it is only one way working up or down and there is only a passing pound in the middle. We got to this after 5 locks and were asked to wait whilst they bought a boat down. We swapped in the pound and they carried on their journey down the locks, and us up the locks.

The next few days and the weather was wet so not much cruising for us, so time to catch up with the blog and things.

Not too sure of our next plans, but I have started looking for jobs as it will soon be that time again.

1. Oct, 2019

Life on the water is usually drifting from one place to the next, without any thought of where we are going to be next day, or the day after.

But not at this time, as we had people to see and things to do.

Firstly my sister’s birthday, and she had planned a meal at the Great Northern at Langley Mill. Now normally we would go up the Erewash and spend a few days in Langley Mill basin, but we decided to give it a miss due to other commitments, and this meant catching the bus from Nottingham. Not a problem we like to stay in the city for a few days. Anyway more of that later, as we are still on the River Trent and about to leave Newark.

From Newark the Trent took us to Gunthorpe for the night. The weather on the second day was given out as very windy and wet, so we stayed put. On the mooring we met the Captain of NB Border Reivers, he comes from Codnor, a village near to my home town of Ripley. After chatting for a while it turned out we had friends in common, what a small world it is. The Unicorn is the pub at Gunthorpe, and being a Marsden’s it usually has Hobgoblin on for the Captain, and he wasn’t disappointed.

The following morning, and as we never get up very early, Border Reivers had already left. We headed to Holme Pierrepont  lock  alone, but were joined in it by 2 large GRP boats, or as we call them Gin Palaces.

 As they are quite a bit faster than us we let them leave the lock first, but they fiffed and faffed about and took ages, we were pleased to see them turn into the marina at the top of the lock and off we went. But it must have been a flying visit, as they soon caught us up and overtook us. Not a problem we were in no hurry.

This however meant they reached Meadow Lane lock first. This lock takes you off the river and on to the Nottingham and Beeston canal, and on through Nottingham. You would have thought that they would have gone up the lock well ahead of us but no, the 2 boats were moored on the lock pontoon and the captains and crew seemed to be messing about with.... I dont know what.

They had set the lock and opened the gates but showed no sign of going in. We hovered for a while wondering if they wanted us to go in first, but was given no indication of this, so we had to cruise by and turn in the middle of the river and wait. As they were using all of the pontoon the Captain couldn’t even let me off to see what was occurring. Eventually, after what seemed like an age, they went in and I was able to get off to see what was happening.

They were a friendly bunch, but just so slow. I had a chat with their Captains, they were heading off home to Sawley marina and their summer cruise was just about over.

We got through the lock and cruised to our favourite mooring spot outside Sainsbury’s, and we said hello to Sam’s bench. Sam was our old lady cat who passed over the rainbow bridge earlier this year. We called it Sam’s bench because in the hot weather last year, during our stay in Nottingham, she took up residence on a bench opposite the boat to stay cool. Some people thought she was a stray and wanted to take her home, so the Captain composed a note and stuck it on the bench explaining that she was a boat cat, and not lost or a stray. She had many visitors that week.

Shattered we went nowhere that night, and that’s where the name of this blog comes in. I was chatting on facebook with Penny, the crew on NB Mariah, they were in Langley Mill waiting to go in to the dry dock there.

As I said at the start, Di had booked the meal at the Great Northern, which is next to the basin, I said we would stop by and say hello when we got off the bus. We had a great chat with Penny and Joe, and their story was similar to ours how they came to be boaters. Then she asked if I was on a boaters group called ‘Box of Frogs’ I had never heard of it, so she added me, and they seem like a great bunch.

After a very good meal with all the family it was time to say goodbye and head back to Nottingham. We called in the Olde Trip, which is always worth a visit, and then spent a quiet night aboard

We stayed in Nottingham for an extra day, as we had some time to kill before our next engagement at Pillings Lock with Col and Mags. We met the Captain off Border Reiver again and caught up with some bits and pieces.

At Trent lock we usually go up the lock and moor on the Erewash canal, but as we were just passing through we managed to find a space on the pontoons below the lock. We still had a walk to the Steam Boat, and once again it did not disappoint the Captain, Dark Drake stout on from Dancing Duck brewery. One very happy bunny.

Next morning and we needed water, but the water point near to us didn’t work, not happy, and I contacted CRT to see why not, I am still waiting for their explanation. As we were also due a pump out various options were discussed, and eventually it was decided we would go up to Sawley for water, and then onto Shardlow for a pump out (it’s cheap here). This did take us out of our way but as I have said we had plenty of time.

Back on the right track we moored up at Kegworth Deep Lock, with the sound of aeroplanes and a weir for company.

Loughborough next day and shopping at a new Lidl store close to the canal before mooring up for the night.

Friday and Pillings Lock marina, we had booked in for a couple of nights to be with our friends Col and Mags on NB Regal Romantic, they had moved there from Swan Lane just after we left for our summer cruise.

We got there at lunch time, and after the Captain had expertly guided us into the mooring spot next to them we went off to explore, however we didn’t get that far as we found the bar. Birra Moretti for me and Col, cider for Mags, and Hobgoblin for my Captain. So we were a very happy bunch, sat in the sunshine with any idea of a look round the marina forgotten. The afternoon passed quickly, and after a very nice meal we retired back to their boat to say hello to Henry, their extremely friendly and lively dog. Plans for next day were drawn up, and the night drew to a very pleasant close.

Not up to early next day and a trip into Loughborough, we looked round the gardens, with its huge bell tower commemorating those who died in the 2 world wars, a look round the aviary and a walk round the town and market. We retired to the Wetherspoons, The Moon and Bell, before heading off to the Organ Grinder, the Blue Monkey tap house, and then final drink in the LLyods bar, The Amber Rooms as I fancied a gin.

To finish the night off we picked up some nibbles at Tesco, and then jumped in a taxi back to the marina and our boat. A rousing Last Night of the Proms just finished the day of nicely.

I know they would have loved us to stay and moor at Pillings Lock, but our heart belongs to Swan Lane, and so next day we resumed the final leg of our journey home. It was a sad farewell, but we will see them again soon.

Our next engagement is in Leicester with our friends Heath and Jennifer, but that’s for next time.