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!

Sunday 18 April 2021

Back to the Marina

 Today's Navigations - Worcester and Birmingham, River Severn, Droitwich

The day was another sunny day.

Today's sort-of plan had been to join a streamed service from our new parish (Bishops Cannings), on down to Worcester, hopefully our onto the river and upstream to Hawford Junction to join the Droitwich at its southern end. With luck we would find a mooring soon after and have a lazy afternoon. But this is a shakedown cruise to discover problems. Se had hoped by last night that we had covered all of the bases - the heating started OK this morning although there was something wrong with the controller settings so it did not come on early. 

The service was at 9.30 and one of the consequences of this aspect of the pandemic is that we can attend from wherever there is a phone signal! We id not stay for the remote coffee morning as we wanted to get underway. It was another splendid day although at first somewhat cooler than the forecast had suggested.

As we were having breakfast, we spotted nb Harnser pass by going upstream but by the time we had seen them it was too late to pop out and wave. So: Hi!

There are two locks before the basin at the River Severn junction. At the first, Blockhouse, the back pumps were in full flow.

At the service point in the basin filled with water and made the usual disposals. Christine went ahead to check that the river levels was safe which indeed it was, conformed also by a friendly CaRT lock keeper who also helped us through the two large locks. A boat was waiting on the river below the locks wanting to come up so they also helped by doing the lower lock bottom gate which was very helpful as a turn upstream is complicated by there being only a lock landing downstream.

There are many interesting buildings alongside the river in Worcester- both old and new.

We had a good run upstream in sunshine as the day gradually warmed up. Alongside what has previously seemed to be an abandoned small basin through a towpath bridge, two new bungalows are being constructed  - "with great waterside views". Inside the basin seems to a floating structure - also very modern.

Not noticed this house at Hallow before. Such splendid chimneys!

The lock keeper at Bevere set the lock and opened the gates as we arrived and smoothly raised up to the next higher level.

It was only a few minutes further to Hawford Junction. We rather cheekily opted to stay on the lock waiting pontoon (not the lock landing however) to have lunch. At this point Christine discovered that the leisure batteries did not seem to be charging. Mike checked the fan belt (the most obvious cause) but that appeared fine so we were rather non-plussed, especially as the engine control panel was not showing a warning. Clearly time for lunch!

We came to the conclusion that a swift return to the marina was the safest option as we could easily have a flat battery by morning. We estimated that if we pushed on as efficiently as we could then we might be on our mooring by 7.30, with still half an hour of daylight to spare.

We were helped that a CaRT person (volunteer?) walked ahead of us up the Ladywood flight and set the locks for us. This save at  least five minutes for each of four or five locks!

We reached Netherwich Basin at 5.30, exactly as out schedule indicated, with another 90 minutes to go. For most of today it was very noticeable that people were interacting much less than normal -especially those with children. So it was a special delight that a father an son were especially keen to help with the lock and swing bridge at Vines Park. They also seemed very pleased with the experience so let's hope that much more of that will return sooner rather than later but we guess that it might take some time for social interactions to return to what they were a couple of years ago.

We made swift progress through the last four locks - now narrow ones - so that we turned into the marina almost on the expected 7pm! With no wind this evening our turn onto our mooring pontoon was easier than it can be. It was with relief that when we connected up to the mains everything else, apart from the charging, seemed gto be working well. At least we could watch television tonight! (Priorities, my dear, priorities!)

12.0 Miles - 19 Locks

Saturday 17 April 2021


 Today's Canal - Worcester and Birmingham

We awoke to a very bright day with almost clear blue skies. Although the heating had not been working overnight we remained sufficiently comfortable and not overly cold  - apart from bare feet on the floor!

At this stage we were uncertain about what to do to sort the Webasto heater but continued on down towards Worcester. After about half an hour we arrived at the top of the Oddingley flight of locks.

The 'top' lock keeper's cottage is, unusually, alongside the second lock.

Just below the bottom lock is a footbridge. At first sight it looks as if it might carry a right of way footpath but a closer examination shows that the off side has a lockable gate which is only open when the practice rugby pitches are in use. We spotted a lady walking back down the towpath, having said hello when she walked up. She explained that she had dropped her daughter off at the main rugby ground and normally would have stayed to watch, sitting in the stands. However, COVID regulations mean that she could not go inside so she opted for a walk. She had not previously known about the canal but was really taken with it as a place to walk. She said that she probably will not watch her daughter anymore!

We saw two swans' nests today - this one looks really settled. Hope she knows what it will be like when the little ones arrive!

After a lunch break below Blackpole Lock we set off - with Christine making attempts to get through to the boatyard at Lowesmoor Basin. Eventually she was able to speak to an engineer who suggested resetting the Webasto by removing the fuses. This sparked a memory for Mike as we had been shown what to do when we visited the same engineer last year! He remembered the visit. Alas, this strategy did not succeed so we decided to call in at the boatyard, even though it is their changeover day. So we continued down through the two Gregory's Mill Locks.

Fortunately, Richard was able to take a look and proceeded to do much the same as before. Initially he lacked success as much as we had but eventually the system made an attempt to start up. We knew that if the heater stops through lack of fuel it does take some time to pull enough diesel through to start up and to eliminate any airlocks. Gradually, the noises became more encouraging even though it was clear that the internals were suffering from lack of use! Finally, Richard was able to feel some heat coming from the exhaust and after another couple of cycles it ran properly and hot water could be felt in the radiators! At least we know that the heater can run but it does not explain why the problem arises in the first place. After all, even when ostensibly switched off, something consumed almost a tankful of diesel.The marina were lucky that they did not run out completely when they were taking the boat back to its mooring!

It was now five o'clock so we did not feel like completing the remaining two locks down to the main basin so pulled in for the night at a mooring we have used a couple of times before, close to a supermarket. All we have to do now is to find a plan for the next three days!

Friday 16 April 2021


 With a much shorter trip to the boat that before, we set off in good time, just after 9.30 and were at the marina just over an hour and a half later. The roads were definitely much busier that when we travelled up from Cornwall last weekend but there were no unexpected delays. The standard satnav route begins with just over half an hour of country roads, with some very tight bends, to take us to the M4 motorway. After skirting Swindon we leave the M4 and take a mostly dual carriageway across gto the M5. At the Air Balloon junction there was the usual queue but it moved smoothly so not an undue problem but perhaps it will be rather longer when traffic returns to more normal levels, especially in summer holidays. The final leg was along the M5 until we reached the Droitwich intersection.

We did not have any definite plan for the rest of the day, after we had unloaded the cart, but in the end we could not resist setting off after lunch for a short trip - we only have a few days before we need to return home (now in Devizes!)

The two main problems we discovered were that the Webasto water heater would not fire up (much the same as last year) and that the fuel gauge was registering a reading. Mike dipped the tank and found that it was almost empty even though we had left it almost full and with the heater fully switched off. So we are a bit puzzled about this.

We untied from our pontoon around 2 o'clock and headed across the marina to the service point and filled up with diesel - 167 litres, so quite an expensive loss.

After coming out of the marina we turned left to go up the three locks gto Hanbury Junction. A boat was just leaving the lock which was helpful except that we discovered that they had not filled the side pond. This meant that by the time we had taken out a deep lockful from the next shirt pound we could not get over the top cill until Christine had run some water down. By then a volunteer lock keeper arrived - the two on today prefer to work just the top two locks.

After several attempts, Mike eventually coaxed the boat over the cill. He proceeded rather cautiously as the pound was still very low and indeed, became stuck on the bottom half way to the second lock! More water needed and soon we were able to proceed.The final short pound was a bit fuller as the keepers were in action but did say that for some reason they knew not, they were having unusual problems with the water level.

After clearing the three locks we turned right at Hanbury Junction in the direction of Worcester  - still no definite plan! Christine had lit the stove earlier since the central heating was not working and so we had to steer rather carefully through the bridge holes to avoid damage to the chimney - we normally remove the chimney for cruising but this means letting the fire go out. Fortunately the bridges on this canal have a higher clearance than some. We even managed to pass through Dunhampstead Tunnel without incident!

At Dumhampstead Wharf, shortly after the tunnel, we spotted a boat called Inheritance. This would not normally be exceptional nor worth a photo in the blog but there has been a light hearted thread on Canal Forums about with name such as this. We had not noticed one before . . . 

We moored up opposite Oddingley Church as we have done in the past, surprised that there were already several boats already moored here. A little later the sun came back out for short periods.

Having moved house twice since we last cruised we are having to think carefully to remember where things live on the boat!

Wednesday 14 April 2021


It is some months since we last posted here, during which rather a lot has happened - almost all of it away from the boat.

Our last trip ended early September last year and we were reasonably confident at that stage that we would be back again before the end of the season. However, the COVID pandemic developed very quickly again soon after with all canal cruising barred apart from those living permanently on board.

We made a brief visit in October just to check on winterising but our main purpose was to look at possible new homes in the Devizes area.

We moved to Cornwall in 1991 to establish a new business providing holidays for adults with a learning disability. We bought a large, old listed house which was extended and converted for this new purpose, meeting the requirements both as a registered care home as well as a hotel. A few years later we added a further extension.

In 2011 we sold the business to the management team after several years of developing their skills to allow us to retire. They were not in a position to buy the property as well so we leased it to them on a ten year basis.

Early in 2020 they were looking forward to a good year with bookings coming in well. They also started negotiations with us for a replacement lease to continue with the business after the ten years had finished.

As soon as the pandemic arrived they were amongst the first sectors to close down, just as they were beginning to open up for the new season. It soon became clear that they would not be able to trade for some months and were unable to pay the rent - this had been the greater part of our pension plan!

The nature of the business was such that bookings had to be made several months ahead in order to put in place the essential care plans to enable mostly holidays without carers. This meant that as soon as hospitality was allowed they would be slow to pick up business and then it was discovered that people with learning disabilities were often at greater risk from the virus.

By June the directors were informing us that their accountants were advising them that they could not survive, even on a rent-free basis and so they appointed liquidators and walked away from the project. Even sadder was the fact that all of the staff, many of whom had been with the business for many years, lost their jobs.

We were, by August, left with looking after the property - back in 2002 we had bought a conventional house on a housing estate the other side of town. It emerged that - as we feared - there was a lot of work to do, just tidying up and minimal maintenance. It has been at the back of our minds that at some stage we ought to move 'up country' - all family contacts are in the south and west. So we opted to put both properties on the market.

By September we had buyers for both and instructed solicitors to make the necessary arrangements. It was at that stage that we researched possible places to buy and settled on a new house on the edge of Devizes. However it would not be ready for us until the end of March 2021.

The buyers for our estate house were keen to move as they were in rented property and towards the end of October our solicitor rang to tell us that the deposit had been sent and could they move within a short time? We had lined up a removal company and booked a provisional slot - they were getting quite busy. So, on the news from our solicitor we paid them to move us across town to the older property so that we could more easily look after it.

However, things went very quiet for the next month (after we had moved) as the buyers fell foul of the latest money laundering checks and their bank were taking a long time to transfer the deposit.

Eventually, after a lot of missed dates, we received news that the couple had split up and would not be proceeding! Our estate agents soon had the property back on the market but it was not until the new year that viewings started. We were very fortunate in being able to go firm with one couple with a fairly short chain, living in the next town. They had been let down on a property to buy and were under some pressure from their buyers to complete.

By this time we were camping out in the large house, rattling around in far more space than we could use. It was not helped by the fact that we engaged the last plumbers used by the tenants, to come and check out the heating boilers. Although they reported that all was working, as soon as we began to move in we discovered that the boilers heating the part that we would occupy were not working. After a lot of expensive and ultimately fruitless investigation they walked away, suggesting that instead we might buy a few electric heaters!

The buyer for this property was, from the outset, quite content that we would not release the property until March as they needed to do rather a lot of planning and did not want to be working on it during the coldest winter months.

Lockdown prevented further visits to the boat and we missed out on our usual Christmas and New Year break on board. We were not even able to visit the new house, seeing it for the first time on the day we moved! However, we did have the benefit of  drone pictures taken by our son who lives not far away and, in the latter stage, also was allowed by the site manager to film a live stream walk through.

Eventually we moved at the end of March and felt very relieved that we no longer had the burden of looking after the old house hanging over us. It always was a matter of wondering 'what next?' (Bit like a boat really . . .) A couple of weeks on and we have unpacked the essential boxes, leaving a lot stacked up in the garage for a later time! Inside, the house in now in reasonable order and we are very comfortable indeed. The house is just a stone's throw from the Kennet and Avon, albeit on the off side. We have had a one walk along the towpath in a break from unpacking.

We have now had both of our vaccine jabs although both the GP in Cornwall and here in Devizes were uncertain about how to deal with us moving - the first jab was back in January. Amusingly, as we drove up the motorway as part of the move we received a text from the Wadebridge practice inviting us for the second jab. In the end it was the simpler approach to make a brief return trip to Cornwall, staying overnight in a Premier Inn (just about giving them away at that time) Tedious, but at least it worked out well.

Of course, boats do not take a break and stuff needs to be done. It was time for blacking so we arranged with the marina to do that in March, depending on the weather forecast. When it was taken out of the water, they could see that the prop had again been distorted - a couple of seasons mostly on the less visited waterways, especially in the northern reaches, meant that crunches with shopping trolleys, large stones etc are unavoidable although, this time, we had not been especially aware of much vibration. The marina arranged with a local engineer to fit a replacement and we also commissioned some painting work, above the blacking level.

We had a phone call today to ask when we wanted to have the boat back in the water and we were able to say that we planned a short visit this coming weekend, hopefully with a quick shakedown trip away from the mooring. It is now back on its pontoon so we know that at last the engine works that far!

We are still telling ourselves that our stiffness is a lockdown syndrome and not further evidence of advancing age but it will be good to know that longer cruises are still on the cards for late springtime!

As soon as we have some real boat news we will be able to re-start our regular blogging updates! If there are any readers still out there after all this time, do come back! Trust that you have all survived as well as possible the lockdown.