Saturday, 15 May 2021

Hawford

 Today's Canal - Droitwich

Overnight there had been plenty of heavy rain but when we set off at 9 o'clock it had reduced to a very light drizzle. 

When we visited last, we saw that the swan on the island in the middle of the marina was sitting firmly on her nest with no sign of a brood. Last night, when we filled with diesel, we saw her partner showing the littles how to forage for food. They were nowhere to be seen. Were they sheltering under the parent? The partner was at the far end of the marina so perhaps today's lesson was more adventurous.


Which way did we choose at the exit from the marina? Ah yes, we turned right towards Droitwich and then the junction with the Severn at Hawford. We are a little concerned that with plenty of rain the river might close again - it was shut for a short time at the start of the week. In any event the rain today meant that it was not worth taking more than an odd photo - and it is familiar territory.


We continued along the now familiar route, first the two-lock staircase and then under the M5 to Vines Park. This time the Barge Lock has a few inches fall - ten days ago it made a level. A mother with two small children enthusiastically2 joined in, opening and shutting gates and the swing bridge. She kept telling them 'this is a real adventure'!

As we passed Netherwich Moorings, all of the visitor pontoons were completely empty - so much for our concern last night!

As we left the town the rain became very much heavier but did ease up by the time we arrived at the top of the Ladywood locks. Alas, we did get rather wet by the time we left the bottom lock so looked for a mooring before the next lock. Not as easy along here as they are few and far between but we did spot a sort stretch, barely longer than our boar, with no reeds and which looked suitable. Despite having to hammer in pins to tie up, we were content to to have a break and enjoy some soup which had been brought from home.

By the time we were ready to set off again it was not practical to head up river so we settled for going only as far as the good mooing just above Lock 2. It was also dry for this stretch.


As we passed through Mildenham Mill lock there are several notices about rules for the local fishing. As we are no fisherfolk, we did still manage to interpret most of them but are still quite puzzled by what is meant by extreme baiting. No doubt someone will let us know.


The final stretch was dry and occasionally a tiny bit of blue sky could be spotted - just so long as we kept quiet and did not frighten it away. 

When we arrived at the mooring we were surprised to see no other boats there - last time it was almost full. No sooner had we stopped and lit the stove when heavy rain returned - we were glad we had made the decision to stop! But the forecast suggests that we might not be so licky in the next few days. Just remember: it is MAY.

The river indicator was flashing green to suggest that cruising along it is still safe. But what about in the morning?

6.8 Miles - 11 Locks

Friday, 14 May 2021

Very Short Trip

 Today's Canal - Droitwich Spa Marina

Mike had a dental appointment at 11 and although we had the car mostly packed before then it was still not far short of 1 o'clock before we set off.

The journey is now much shorter than from Cornwall but even so it was 2:45 ish before we arrived at the boat. We had half hoped to set off this afternoon just for a short way but first we needed to fill with water and then diesel. The marina  office closes at 4 so we off loaded the car as quickly as possible whilst filling the water tank and then cruised across the marina to the service pgadoint where we took on fuel, just in time!c

We now had to make the decision we had been putting off: left, right from the marina or stay here for the night on mains hookup. We calculated that, taking shorter route to Stourport (down through Devizes to Hawford) will give us better options later in the trip but that if we set off now we would not be moored until 6:30 at best, unless we were lucky with the Netherwich moorings. OK, so we had been lucky twice on our shakedown cruises but . . . 

So, back to the mooring it was! This at least meant that Mike could go into town for one or two items including the replacement water hose that we should have bought in this last time at home since one of our two (different lengths) gave up on our last visit. However, with a very short shopping list, how difficult can it be? Well, it was at the fourth attempt that he managed to find the tin of black shoe polish that Christine texted him to add to the list!

After that, on a rather pleasant April evening he went back to Salwarpe churchyard to fill in some gaps from his last visit. (OK, so it is actually mid May but so many people have commented that it still feels like April!)

Monday, 3 May 2021

Netherwich

 Today's Canal - Droitwich

Our plan last night was to return to the marina by late this afternoon, leaving us plenty of time to visit IKEA in Bristol, should we find that the part we need to complete the bedroom furniture units we bought last week is now in stock.

As a result we set off in good time, especially as the forecast for this afternoon was for rain and wind. But even as we started, there was dampness in the air.

All along the canal below Droitwich there is plenty of reed beds at the water edges. Much of this is kept as part pof the compromises that have to be agreed when a derelict canal, now reclaimed by nature, is turned back into a navigation. It dies back in winter and by early summer the width available for boats is much reduced. At this time of the year, a lot of the old growth breaks away and clogs up the sluices at the locks and overflow weirs. Mildenham Lock always seems to have one of the largest piles!

Along the Salwarpe valley there are numerous large houses - some farms but others well established residences, some dating back a good long time. They are mostly just a bit too far away for our simple phone camera to make much of, but we did get this one near the canal just before the Ladywood locks.

This photo was actually a mistake, pressing a button at the wrong time, but it does look as if iot was a deliberate arty piece!

There are also several former mills along the Salwarpe - this one can be seen between locks 4 and 5. We think it is Porters Mill and, if so, the remains of a water wheel can just be seen on Google Aerial view.

The bottom gates at Locks 5 and 6 have had an unusual treatment which we have not seen elsewhere. We guess that it is intended to reduce the amount of water being lost through the gates but if anyone knows whether it is ad hoc or a more extended experiment, do let us know!


By the time we arrived at the top lock the rain was rather heavy and windy. Christine spotted this small plaque on the end of the towpath side top balance beam. It commemorate the official re-opening of the canal in July 2011.

As we started on the long pound into Droitwich a revised plan was agreed. We would stop if possible on the Netherwich Moorings near the centre of the town - we expected to reach there before 1 o'clock. Then have lunch giving plenty of time to walk to the nearby shops to get some rolls for our journey tomorrow. This will mean that we make an early start on the final five locks, but they are all much easier to operate than the Barge Canal one's.

Whilst Christine went to Waitrose, Mike set about emptying water from the bilges - rather a lot had gathered in the sections which the automatic pump does not empty. We had actually sourced enough parts to make a small manually operated bilge pump but at the last minute we managed to forget to pack that box into the car when we left home! As a result Mike had to revert to the tried and tested method of laboriously using a mop and busker with a squeeze fitment. He had almost completed the task by the time Christine returned. We spent the rest of the day inside, drying out the wet clothes from the morning cruise!

4.6 Miles - 6 Locks

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Hawford and About Turn

 Today's Canal - Droitwich

After yesterday's very dull weather, today began very bright with largely blue skies. Even so, whilst in the sun it was warm shaded it could be noticeably chilly. By the time we had arisen had breakfast it was time to join the Zoom service from Devizes. A short while before, we thought we were going miss out as we had no mobile signal but it perked up in time.

Just as the service was coming to an end we received a phone call from Pete the electrician, responding to an email we sent last night - not expecting any response until Monday at the best! We were able to talk through what we have found so far. In the middle of the night, Mike woke and discovered that the heating was on. This prompted a blinding flash of what should have been the obvious - our controller (a modern design with all the possible bells and whistles!) functions very much like the one in our new house but very differently from those in all our previous places. The two main factors that possible had been the root of our difficulties are, firstly, that it has the choice of a 5-2 scheme or a 7 day one. In the former, the times and temperatures are set once for all the days in each part of the week. We had assumed that the 7 day scheme was similar but set just one schedule for all days, However, it actually has a separt3eschedule for each day of the week and all of them have to be set up separately!

The second issue is that we are used to controllers that essentially turn the heating on and off for the different times of the day, subject only to not exceeding a set room (usually hallway) temperature. However, modern controllers set both temperature as well as time and aim to keep the place heated to the temperature specified on each period. Hence, it is possible, along with a default frost setting, for the heating to be called for at any time of the day. If, as we prefer, the heating is off trough the night, the closest we can get is to set the night time temperature at the minimum frost temperature. Eventually we discovered the settings that had been entered when we first had the boat and - lo! - they were just about what we had now re-discovered! That cannot have been the whole story as, until we set everything again did it seem to do what we wanted . . . 

However, the chat with Pete the Electrician led us to conclude that the batteries probably are coming to the end of their life and that it would be best to replace them asap. (The pre-emptive maintenance that some folk keep urging CaRT to adopt - save that it is actually quite an expensive option and needs quite a bit of admin and monitoring)

We had also had second thoughts about our route for the remainder of Shakedown 2. Instead of competing the ring from Hawford by going down to Worcester we turn around at Hawford. Christine now has a longer list of things to look for at IKEA other than just one part that was out of stock when we went a week ago. Hence we shall have to allow more time on our trip back home.

By half past ten we were ready to set off - as we have already noted, it was a very pleasant morning - the high road bridge giving access to the tiny village of Salwarpe was just ahead.

The bridge is on a very sharp bend and takes some care to get through in one go.. We are gradually getting better - when we first moved the boat here it sometimes was a very messy move! The quantity of wake in this photo shows just how sharp the turn is, needing quite a few engine revs to make it.

It was only a 20 minute run t the top of the Ladywood five locks.

And more bright blue and fluffy white as we continued down.

At Lock 6 we thought that we were about to be offered a tow in the original style! Just like Thelwell.

At the bottom lock we missed seeing the lovely lady who lives in the former lock cottage - she is often out chatting to boaters and is a delight to talk with. Hope she is OK.

After the solitary Mildenhall Lock we looked for a mooring that is marked on Waterway Routes' map but in a somewhat tentative way. It is not a gold-plated mooring and needs pins but in a pleasant spot with an open aspect. There is only really room for one boat so we were releived to see it as an empty spot.

After lunch, Mike took a short time to start an experimental treatment of some of the unsightly rust patches on the roof. He sanded back to firm paint and then applied some good quality rust cure, hoping that the rain will keep away in three hours time so that he can put the first coat of paint on. The instructions say that at least one coat should be applied on the same day as treatment.

We then continued down the two locks to Hawford Junction where Mike took nb Alchemy out for a spin turn in the middle of the River Severn before coming back into the lock he had just left.

We were again fortunate that the isolated mooring spot where we had lunch was still free (a couple of boats had already stopped for the night on the better moorings above Lock 2) At least we can expect to be able to watch the Line of Duty finale tonight!

4.9 Miles - 10 Locks

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Salwarpe

Today's Canal - Droitwich

Mike began the day by going early into town for some bread and a few small items. After he returned to the boat and a welcome mug of coffee we prepared to set off. Even with the early start it was almost 10:30 before we edged out of our mooring and crossed the marina to its entrance.


The pair of swans which had just started nesting in the middle of the marina were still there and Mrs was still tinkering with the nest. We could not tell whether they have any eggs to hatch but they did look a little sorry for themselves - or is that just our imagination?

Which way would we turn out of the marina? Last time we went left and up the three locks to Hanbury Junction. This time we turned right  towards Hawford Junction on the Severn.

We were somewhat surprised when, just after passing under the Rugby Club Bridge (which also carries the road into the marina), we could that a queue had formed at the first lock. It was nearly half an hour before we could begin the descent in the two lock staircase - the top lock is rather slow to fill.



After passing through the short but very low M5 tunnel, we descended lock 7 but as we exited we became stranded in very shallow water  - probably silt washed down by the river that joins the navigation below the lock. Both the boat coming down behind us and another that arrived to ascend attempted to help us but we were very firmly stuck, too far from the bank to get off.  Whilst we phoned CaRT (and Christine found the chap who answered the phone to be very pleasant and helpful) the two boats went on their way but was asked the one going up to open the bottom paddles after they had gone through, in the hope that this might just lift us enough to get underway. A bit to our surprise this worked and allowed us to reverse into the mouth of the lock to straighten up and begin to crawl slowly as close to the towpath as we could manage. Even so, as we passed under the next bridge we tilted to quite an angle. Nevertheless we did make it to the next lock, about an hour later than expected.

By the time we negotiated the two swing bridges after the Barge Lock it was lunch time so we took advantage of one of the pontoons in Netherwich Basin.

We were not sure what to do next as there are few mooring opportunities before Hawford Junction and, by now, it would be getting a bit late to aim for that this evening. When we came this way last time late inn the day the moorings just before the junction were fully occupied. There are two possible options just before and after Salwarpe. We have not used either of them before so did not know how good they might be but we took the chance.

This family with a good brood of cygnets is the first we have seen this season. 

The weather today has been a bit mixed and so far dry apart from a few moments at the edge of a shower, but the clouds were beginning to be a bit darker all the time.

Although not especially brilliant, we did manage to come alongside the towpath at the first even if we did have to resort to mooring pins. As we moored we were a little disturbed by a slight unpleasant smell, but not as pungent as last trip.

Mike walked up to the village churchyard to take some photos but by the time he returned an hour and a half later Christine had noticed that the Mastervolt readings were very much awry. It is unclear whether the readings or the batteries and alternators are the problem. The morning may well bring a radical change of plan - we shall have to wait and see.

3.4 Miles - 5 Locks

Friday, 30 April 2021

Another short trip

After the electrician had visited the boat he found that a shunt attached to the Mastervolt system had blown. On replacement he found that everything appeared in working order including the starter battery which it seems was the immediate cause of the problems. he advised that we visited the boat as soon as we could to check it out again.

We had a delivery scheduled for first thing this morning and we were able to set off mid morning, arriving just before lunch. The boat appears to be in good form so we shall see.

Two different plans ended up in conflict: firstly, Christine suggested that Mike should take our Karcher pressure washer from home to try out and see if it made the task of washing the outside of the boat any easier or more effective. The second plan was to set off fairly soon after arriving so that we could make a start down the Droitwich to the Netherwich basin moorings overnight. From there we could pop to Morrisons, or other shops if needed.

Lunch was our first priority after which Mike set about using the washer - the more obvious benefit would be on the roof. As the roof has a rough non-slip surface it always tends to collect dirt and, sometimes, even algae growth. As with the small patio at our previous house in Cornwall, the pressure washer is very helpful for a start-of-season thorough clean and this proved to be the case with the boat. However, a good hand clean with a scrubbing sponge remains the best way to clean it - just takes a very long time! The port cabin side was also cleaned but we did not attempt to do the other side as we are unsure whether the mains lead reaches when the boat is bow-in on the pontoon. We normally moor with the stern closest to the land so that the mains hook-up point is near to the supply. May be we will have to do a hand wash when the towpath permits.

By the time this was complete and other preparatory tasks done (we did not have time to empty the elsan before leaving so that was urgent) it was after four and we felt that it was more sensible to to leave our departure until the morning. We are only planning the short ring - down to Droitwich and Hawford Junction, Severn to Wor4cester and back up the Worcester and Birmingham to Hanbury junction. This is long enough to test out all of the systems - as we discovered a couple of weeks ago!

Friday, 23 April 2021

The Unexpected

 On a canal boat the unexpected always happens!

We spent Monday in a fairly laid back fashion after the efforts of the day before. One or two tasks were tackled, including a couple of recommendations from our first BSS exam. The first was to move one of the fire extinguishers from under the step out to the fore deck to a visible location on he front cabin wall.

Late afternoon, Mike also remembered that the inspector also asked for the Fuel Cut Off plate to be move from on a locker to the stern deck board as it is actually located in the engine bay. Only a matter of removing two screws and re-inserting them.

Straight after completing that task it was time to begin to prepare the evening meal - our second attempt at a roast since we abandoned it yesterday with such a late arrival. As Mike retrieved some veg from the back locker he detected an unpleasant smell (the proverbial rotten eggs). At first he was unsure where it was coming from but almost immediately our next door neighbour, who had been chatting a few boats along from our pontoon, came back hastily to warn us about the smell. By now it was very strong indeed and clearly coming from our engine bay.

There was no option but to assume that one or more of our batteries had decided to melt down and give off a large quantity of dangerous H2S. We closed down the gas and had a quick think. The likelihood was that we would have to cease using any 12v or, indeed, 240v, electrical equipment, including the water pump and lights. The only realistic option was to pack up as quickly as we could and to return home - at least we are only 100 minutes away now. The Mastervolt display indicated a battery temperature of 57C!

We had already made arrangements with the electrician who fitted our solar panels a while back to take a look at the charging problems, as we saw it, and so on Tuesday we emailed again with a n update on the situation. He has promised to start work on it this coming Friday - today as we write. We imagine it will not be a cheap fix!