Wednesday, 14 September 2016

23rd Week (W/e 12/9/2016)

Well we have settled into our permanent moorings quite well and getting used to a canal mooring and actually enjoying the passing boats, most being very considerate and passing at the right speed. We have decided not to go on any more long trips until after the winter. However, we still intend to make numerous shorter trips for 4 or 5 days as and when we feel like it. Both of us agree that this first year of our continuous cruising adventure has been a mammoth trip, some would say too long. Over the 23 weeks we have done 465 locks and 708 miles and we have clocked up over 450 engine hours doing it. We have travelled from Staffordshire to Burton on Trent from there up to Middlewich (four counties ring) onto the Langollen canal and over the Pontcysyllte aqueduct, then down to Penkridge, Fradley, Tamworth and Coventry and then onto the Oxford, down the Thames, Brentford and back up the Grand Union, to Foxton and then to our mooring at North Kilworth. We have also used 847 ltrs of diesel costing £547.00 and to make the journey even more pleasurable we have quaffed down 62 bottles of wine and also two 3ltr boxes, mainly full bodied red. Needless to say we are now taking it easy and resting up a little. We have really enjoyed our time meeting loads of new boating friends along the way, and we have certainly adopted this way of life well.

So how did this week go…….?

Tuesday was a cooler day to start with which we were happy with as today we were taking a drive to Northampton hospital. About eighteen months ago during a routine doctor’s appointment I was told my red blood cells were not right, I then spent around 2 months seeing various specialists and consultants and having a scan, they ruled out anything serious and put me on B12 injections which did not clear the matter up. During a meeting with one of the consultants I was asked whether I snore, to which Sandra replied for me. She explained I snored for England! I knew I snored, but it never bothers a snorer and over the 30+ years of marriage Sandra has found ways of coping. The consultant then arranged for me to attend a sleep clinic and also to visit an ear and throat specialist. A camera went down my nose (both sides) and then down my wind pipe. The result was that I had a generic inherited smaller, width wise, windpipe than I should have not helped by being overweight and that one of my nasal passages was completely blocked. This meant that when asleep the muscles relax and block my windpipe. The results from the sleep clinic confirmed this - I had severe sleep apnoea. The results quite shocked me as it meant that for years I had never reached ‘deep sleep’ status and that I was waking (subconsciously) 3 or 4 times a minute to keep breathing. There were two options available to me, invasive surgery to correct the thickness of the windpipe and nose passage or to sleep with the use of a respirator. I opted for the latter, a machine the size of a couple of paperbacks which blows air into a mask which forces the windpipe to remain open when my muscles relax during sleep. The first night it was difficult to get used to, until I fell asleep. In the morning I knew immediately something was different about me. I awoke feeling fully energised. It was the first time in decades that I had actually had a good night’s sleep. The doctor on a subsequent visit told me that I was now sleeping normally, and that he was amazed that I had managed to cope in a job such as mine (Principal of a school) when basically I was getting a couple of hours sleep a day and not quality sleep. Sandra noticed right away, she too had a good sleep for the first time with me not interrupting her – no more snoring. She also noticed that I no longer came home after work and insisted on having a nap before the evening meal, or falling asleep during Emmerdale (down side!). So, my appointment at the hospital in Northampton was Important, the SD card from the respirator was read by a computer and the diagnosis was that I was getting at least 6 hours of high quality sleep each night, above the average of 5.5. I was also given a newer machine with flashing lights and fancy chrome edges! I would suggest if you know anyone who is a heavy snorer, who gets lethargic or sleepy to visit the doctor immediately. After the trip to Northampton we returned to the boat which was like entering into an oven. The weather had become stifling hot with high humidity, we were both perspiring, we quickly undid all windows and doors front and back and soon there was a breeze, but it was still hot. We decided to relax, Sandra doing her needlework and I sat on the back reading. Whilst there I was so surprised when I saw a young boy of around 12 jump from his mothers boat moored a few boats away into the murky canal waters where he then spend half an hour or so messing around. I thought how dangerous and how stupid of the mother to let him do this. Later we sat down to a lovely meal Sandra had cooked a Mary Berry recipe of smoked haddock in a creamy mushroom sauce topped with cheddar mashed potatoes accompanied with peas and a glass of iced cold cider – lovely!

Wednesday, thankfully it was a cloudy day protecting us from the heat of the sun. The morning was spent organising dentist and optician appointments and also a yearly service for the Heritage cooker (like an AGA – but better!) we have it serviced every year as suggested by the maunal. We also visited the Wharf office to arrange a service for the engine, even though this had only been done in April. Due to the high engine hours since then we were overdue (every 300 hours). When Sandra had finished off her ironing we set off for a cruise. We filled up with water which we prefer to top up on a continuous basis, rather than run dangerously low. At around 1.00pm we headed off, through Husbands Bosworth tunnel, passing four boats coming the other way, fortunately all very considerate slowing down as we passed. We were both grateful for the coolness of the tunnel for the first time. We love the trip from North Kilworth Wharf to Foxton, no locks and lovely countryside. After a leisurely cruise, we arrived at the top of Foxton Locks around 3.30pm, we decided to moor at the top of the locks for a change so we turned the boat around in the turning hole. Fortunately there were a few mooring spots available, close to the slight bend in the canal. We tried the first space, but our front end was sticking out too far due to the bend and we couldn’t get a secure mooring line. So we reversed it a short distance and moored almost touching the day boat behind, knowing this would be moving on before nightfall. Later after the day boat had moved I was sitting on the back only to witness a husband shouting at his wife, she had tried to get into the spot behind but couldn’t get in. He jumped back onto the boat and when alongside me he asked in a very brisk manner, well in fact he told me to move my boat forward so he could get his boat in at the rear, I told him that I couldn’t do that as I had already tried that and it was not suitable, before I could offer to reverse slightly to see if he could get in front, he decided to berate me with his vile mouth! I ignored him and went into the cabin, pleased he couldn’t get his boat moored near to us - who would want a bullying neighbour. Sometimes the behaviour of the minority spoils our caring community. Around teatime Sandra cooked one of our favourite meals spicy beef with fresh chillies, yogurt, guacamole and nachos chips. We decided to put this in the fridge for later and go to the pub, Bridge 61 for a couple of drinks first. We walked down the lock towpath watching a couple of hire boaters and once as the Bridge sat outside. I decided to try the 7% alcohol cider and Sandra stuck to her red wine tipple. We then sat outside and watched the boats and people. We were really impressed with the driving skills of some the hire boaters. Later our two friends, Bev and Pete joined us along with their friend all liverboard boaters for a few drinks – too many in fact. Sandra and I meandered our way back up the towpath to our boat around 9.30pm we were both very merry and once on the boat somehow managed to get our supper sorted. We went to bed soon after.

Thursday we awoke a little later than normal and decided to head back to our permanent moorings, I was suffering particularly bad from a hangover. In fact it was so bad I felt quite giddy made worse being on a boat. Sandra wasn’t too far behind me and we both looked at each other saying we were too old to do this. The trip back was quite a blur to be honest. We got back to the service bay at the Wharf around 3.00pm, by this time I was just feeling rough and could communicate just. We had a pump out and chatted to Ben the resident boat engineer and Tristan the trainee. I felt happy for Ben to do our service and double checked that it was going to happen next week. It’s great to moor somewhere where you can tell they care about their moorers and it’s not just a money making business. We carried on to the Welford arm, turned the boat around and then returned to our mooring, connected the electricity. Once hooked up I switched on the boat Wifi and checked my emails which I was pleased I did as I had received an email telling me that another one of my short stories was being published in the ‘Canal Times’. All of my academic career I have been an avid writer, when I completed my dissertation for my Master Degree I was having to edit it down to the 30,000 words requested. Some may say not only do I like the sound of my own voice…., but seriously I enjoy being able to explore the more creative side of writing. In the past it’s always been academic and report writing, so when I received this email I was very pleased indeed. Later Sandra c cooked the evening meal a super quiche and salad. Soon after we crashed in front of the TV and we both went early bed.

Friday I was still not 100%, but at least there was a breeze on this sunny start to the day. We were both a little lethargic, so Sandra switched on the TV which is lethal in the morning as we soon got engrossed with the debate on the ‘The Wright Stuff’ which was all about whether the boundaries set regarding school uniforms by a headteacher were right. This was something very close to my heart as the three schools I had been headteacher/principal of previously, before early retirement had all suffered similar issues with the young people pushing the boundaries. What most of the panel failed to realise was that this was nothing to do with the uniform per se – it was to do with setting the scene, the rules and the boundaries for the forthcoming academic year. Had the new headteacher in this failing school not been strong from the outset then he and his team might as well given up the effort of turning it around. It troubles me a great deal that those parents do not support the school their children go to, time and time again I read of staff in schools all over the country being threatened and assaulted by parents. Our Daughter who is a senior teacher and assistant director of an Academy school had a chair thrown at her by one pupil and he still wasn't suspended! So sad and so different to when I was a child. My goodness if I had come home and told my parents I had been told off by a teacher – I would have been sent to bed early. Soon after our lazy morning the weather changed dramatically, high winds and strong rain – British weather, you can never say it’s boring. In the afternoon after cleaning the inside of the boat and having lunch we both dozed off, clearly blaming our alcoholic poisoning from the previous night. Around teatime we got showered and ready to go out. Tonight we were going out for a meal at a restaurant with family to celebrate the success of Sandra’s brother Jason beating his battle with cancer. A few months ago he had joined us on the boat, just before his last dose of chemotherapy and he had no hair and looked really pale as he had to keep out of the sun. When we arrived at the restaurant, we both couldn’t believe the transformation, he had a full head of cropped dark hair and a beard to match – in fact he looked like one of the ‘Action Men’ you used to be able to buy that had furry hair and beard whose eyes moved from left to right (a bloke thing!). We had a lovely time and my fish and chips were super! Neither of us even attempted to drink, which enabled me to be the designated driver, even though Emily wasn’t able to drink anyway being pregnant. All ten of us had a great family night something we should do more regularly. We didn’t return back to the boat but stayed at the house with Emily and Elliott, especially as we had an early start the next day.

Saturday we all awoke (except Elliott) around 7.00pm Emily, Sandra and I were off to Chelmsford to the ‘Friends Fest’. Years ago when Emily was in her early teens she became obsessed by an American TV series called Friends. One Christmas we spent a fortune and bought Emily the whole series, ten and tens of DVD disks of this series. She became obsessed with it and could have easily gone on Master Mind to answer specific questions related to the programmes – she even knows specific dialog from certain episodes. So when she found that the series makers were doing a road show of all of the scenery and props from the show along with a stage etc, she had to get tickets. Unfortunately, initially they were all sold out, but due to demand they arranged extra dates and Emily was able to secure three tickets. Quite valuable in fact as on the ‘black market’ they were re-selling for hundreds of pounds. We set off for the ‘fest’ and two hours later we were enjoying ourselves being on the various set stages. Emily was besides herself, chatting to other fans and enjoying being able to see and touch all of the props even though quite clearly in small writing it highlighted the fact that they were all reproduction! We had a great day out and when we returned exhausted we all crashed out in the sitting room at the house and all three of us fell asleep for an hour or so. We were shattered and possibly still suffering from too much alcohol from a few nights ago. Around teatime when we awoke we said our goodbyes and headed back to the boat, not before stopping at Waitrose and treating ourselves to their wonderful selection of pre-cooked meals, along with a super lemon cheesecake! Once on the boat we ate our meal which was superb and settled down to X Factor! Escapism!

Sunday we had another lazy start. The weather was lovely and sunny and not too hot, which was good as today we were going off for a few hours to the village of Lubenham, literally a couple of miles from Foxton Locks and Market Harborough. This village is very special to us both, it is here where we purchased our first house, a nice semi-detached three bedroom place with garage and driveway. It was in this house we had Emily and it was a very happy house, full of fun and laughter.
Today the village was holding the annual ‘Scarecrow’ fete. Many of the householders in the village had made an effort to make a scarecrow and on the village green there were lots of stall selling various items. Emily and Elliott joined us and we had a great time walking around the village and visiting the wonderful 12th Century church along the way. Our old dog Phoebe slowed us down a little due to her not being able to walk more than a couple of miles, but it was getting hot anyway, so around mid-afternoon we returned to the boat. Emily and Elliott had left us earlier , they were heading off to the cinema to watch a film called ‘Sausages’ – what next! By the time we got back and settled it was X Factor time!!!

Monday we had breakfast and then switched on the boat engine, Ben the Wharf’s boat engineer had told me to get the engine warm ass it’s easier to change the oil. He was scheduled for 10.00am, so at 9.30am the engine was up and running. At 10.00am I switched the engine off as I didn’t want it too hot, by 10.30am I called the office, to be told Ben was on his way. I can never understand how boatyards have different timescales and don’t mind a hoot if they are late. When Ben arrived he told me that he had picked up Shire Barrus filters etc, as he couldn’t find cheaper alternatives. This didn’t bother me, in fact I was pleased, our engine has only done just over a 1000 hours, so its practically new, the least it deserves if the best stuff! A couple of hours later the job was done, I asked him to check the fan belts which he told me he had already done this and they were fine. In the afternoon we went for a walk and when we returned we got on with our hobbies before settling down to a stunningly tasteful beef casserole cooked by Sandra, so tasty and busting with vegetables. We still did not fancy a drink, we had now restrained from drinking alcohol for FIVE days. We both went to bed very worried we were becoming T totals!!!!!!

Well another week over, although minimal cruising, we have still enjoyed ourselves on board Captain Hastings. Living close by to family and friends has clearly got its advantages and we both feel happy with our decision to find mooring close to them. The first time in many years we have been able to do this. As we are now settled and not moving far, writing a weekly ‘Adventure Blog’ seems a little daft, so we have decided from now, until we start cruising again next year to do a monthly update blog. I’m sure you don’t want to read about our weekly activities without the fun of boating. We both would like to say thank you for taking the time to read our blogs.

Monday, 12 September 2016

22nd Week (W/e 5/9/2016)

Twenty-two weeks on our continuous cruise adventure so far. This week we have been busy in a ‘messing around’ sort of way, which you will find details of when you read the blog further. We have also been getting on each other’s nerves more than we usually do, but what do you expect when you are living in each other pockets in a confined area. I think its worse when you are not cruising for hours like we have been doing so.

So how did the week go………………??

On Tuesday we awoke to a lovely sunny day, on my mind was the TV signal. As we were now going to moor at North Kilworth Wharf for the summer months and on a permanent basis even though we will be cruising a lot from April, it’s important that we can at least watch TV when we want. I spent a few hours re-wiring the TV cable and re-positioning the aerial, but it was still not a brilliant signal, we just couldn’t get ITV, the one channel Sandra had to have for her daily Emmerdale ‘fix’. We decided to do a little more research; maybe we would have to invest a little more money. We decided to move off from our mooring and head towards Yelvertoft, in fact just after the Welford junction we moored up for the day – all of 30 minutes cruising. Sandra prepared lunch and I decided to touch up the yellow paint in the seating area. Just as I started a boat passed and I could hear the husband and wife team having a right full on row, I then watched the guy jump off the boat and go absolutely mad at the woman because she missed the mooring spot he had wanted her to stop at. I laughed to myself, at least Sandra and I did our arguing in closed doors! I got on with my painting and just as I was about to rub down an area, I caught the eye of another woman walking along the tow path. She looked a bit distressed, in my old job I had become very tuned up in reading body language, as she passed I said hello. She immediately stopped and we started to chat, she informed me that her and her husband had purchased a sail away boat and for the past two years he had been completing the fit out. She said that this was their first long trip onboard. She then went on to tell me that they had fallen out and she had decided to get away from him and the boat for a while. I laughed and told her about the couple further along the tow path and how they had also just gone through similar. I told her that both Sandra and I had got on each other nerves this week and soon we were both laughing. We then chatted about the usual boater thing- toilets! Soon she was heading back to her boat, I shouted out to her and told her life is too short to stress out! I then got on with painting wondering why I wasn’t taking my own advice. I decided to try harder! Later we both tackled touching up the black paint along the gunwales – and when finished we commented to each other how lovely the boat was looking. I was also able to give her a good wax polish. Bright yellow boats certainly shine in the sun!

On Wednesday the sun was on and off and it was a bit cloudy, ideal for our type of boating so we headed off to Yelvertoft, taking our time really steadily. We passed the lady from the day before, she and her husband were sitting on the front having a coffee and laughing, they had made up. We waved and she did the same with a big smile on her face. Their boat was a stunner and we ‘nosed’ inside as we cruised by and what a good job he had done with the fit out. We carried along on our journey my mind running away its self, I asked Sandra whether she thought I ought to become the boaters ‘agony uncle’ or maybe set up a counselling forum, but her response was quite clear that I was too much of an idiot to do that, Sandra never one for mincing her words. We later turned the boat around at a turning point annoyed at a boat had moored too close to it, which meant I had to use the bow thrusters to swing her round in the room available. Like all journeys, you can go one way down the canal and when you come back the same way, you see a completely different vista. We moored up just before bridge 37 a spot we love and had moored before and settled down to washing and polishing the other side of the boat. Afterwards I cleared out a little water, maybe two pints from the bilge. This was my fault for forgetting to turn the gland after a day’s cruising like you should. We called Noth Kilworth Wharf on the phone and spoke to the lovely Rachael, who told us that unfortunately our mooring would not be available tomorrow as planned, but Friday. I asked if we could moor up near to the service pontoon which she was happy for us to do so. Soon after packing away everything and deciding we would stay where we were for the night I sat down in the cabin and felt a needle like pain in my back. I immediately thought I had caught one of Sandra’s needlework pins in my back. I asked her to look, but there was none, as I was pulling my shirt off a damn wasp/bee fell to the floor – I had been stung. Sandra put some bite cream on the spot where I had been stung and I took an anti-histamine tablet. This was all I needed; I was still fighting off an allergic reaction rash from the horse fly bite a couple of weeks ago, which was now not only on my legs but on one arm. I knew what this was as eight years ago I had the same thing happen. I ended up going to hospital to see a consultant who informed me it was vasculitis caused by an allergic reaction. There is nothing that can be done and it usually gets worse before it gets better. It just looks horrible. We rested and soon it was time for Emmerdale!!

Thursday was another lovely day, this time a little sunnier and certainly hotter! We moved off around 10.30am and decided we would moor up again just before the Welford arm. The tow path is very low and close to the water’s edge here and it makes painting the gunnels and touching up the blacking really easy. As we pulled off on route I looked at the energy readout controls on the Mastervolt system and was pleased that we would be hooking up to an electricity point later as the batteries were showing only 56% battery usage left, and as all good boaters know, really that meant only 6% left as it’s unwise to go below 50% if you want a long life out of the batteries. Once moored up we got on with the painting and I was surprised that due to the sunny day, when it was time to move off to our temporary mooring at North Kilworth Wharf that the reading had gone to 68%. Although expensive, Solar panels in the summer are a real benefit. We moored up at the Wharf and Ben the husband of Rachael got us hooked up to electricity. We decided we couldn’t be bothered to cook, so we nipped out for a couple of beers at a pub in Lutterworth a short drive of less than 5 miles. We then went to Papadoms an Indian take-away that had been recommended. When we got back to the boat, both of us were not really impressed with the quality, which was a shame. We eat at least one Indian meal a week and we had hoped this would be our regular place. We switched on our digital recorder which we had set to record damn Emmerddale, only to find the disk was full and it had not taped the double episode. Sandra was not a happy bunny.

Friday, after being told that our new mooring spot wouldn’t now be ready until Saturday, we headed to our house a 35 minute drive. We cleaned the house, mowed the grass and I painted the dining room ceiling along with putting up a new mirror in the downstairs water closet. After Sandra and I having a row over nothing, probably needed, you can always tell when one is coming, we settled down and soon Emily was with us and both of them went for a coffee in the town. Later we had an old fashioned family meal together and soon we were back on the boat. It’s funny how we look at the boat as our home and not the house. In fact we currently prefer the boat to the house.

Saturday we got up all excited, today we were moving our boat into the permanent mooring spot, all of 100 yards further down the tow path. The new mooring is a lovely spot with one side facing the canal, but with all of the facilities of a marina, electricity, water and good parking and safe with it not being on the tow path side of the canal. We reversed the boat down the canal, and were thankful that there was no cross winds. One of these would have made this difficult to do. We tied up the boat, which was harder than expected as the tie up points on the pontoon did not match our boat. We would have to compromise on this. I decided to make my priority the TV, so for the next few hours I set up the new high gain aerial which had been delivered to the house. This took ages as in a very week signal area you have to have a clear line of site to the transmitter. To my surprise after plugging into a signal booster we had all of our favourite channels, although the digital recorder which has a weaker reception was a little ad hoc. My only concern was that the aerial looked ugly on top of the boat – I hate to see boats piled high with ‘stuff’ and our boat, along with the aerial, life rings and solar panels was becoming a little cluttered. Sandra reassured me that when travelling we would pack away the aerial and go back to the small digital ones dotted around the boat discretely. In the afternoon, after we filled up with water, we headed off to Lutterworth for a little shopping, mainly a long gas lighter to use with the methylated spirit stove we use when the Heritage cooker (AGA) is not in use which is when the weather is too hot for us to use it. We were unlucky, in any small market town you can’t guarantee to get what you want. However, Sandra did find some more baby cloths to buy Emily in preparation for our grandchild. We went for a coffee and a cake and soon we were soaked to the bone as it rained and rained and rained. We got back to the boat and immediately switched on the Aga – full blast and soon we were roasting ourselves to death! Sandra cooked an amazing pasta dish with garlic bread and we settled down to the start of the new X Factor series. I can hear you all ‘tutting’, but we both find this reality/talent show so much fun, I might add this is the only one we watch.

On Sunday which was a bright but cool day we decided to tackle the roping up of the boat, we moved the boat a couple of feet, however this then impacted on the TV signal and I spent a good hour or so re-positioning and re-tuning the TV. Oh the joys of living on a boat! I then decided to move the MiFi (WiFI) system along with the external aerial for this – realising that the provider Three was only just within our signal range. Once we had sorted this we were just about to relax when Emily arrived for a visit. We sat for ages having a good old chat and at the same time thinking what we would do for a family holiday next year. It was agreed that we would take up one of Emily’s friend’s properties abroad. Great, especially when Emily informed as that as we were no longer earning a six figure salary and ‘early retired, that she would be treating us this year! Later when Emily had left Sandra got the pressure cooker going, a brilliant bit of kit for boating and only £12 off Ebay (brand new). We ended up with a lovely beef and vegetable casserole to tuck into as we watched the second episode of X Factor!!

Monday we were up quite early, we had a busy day ahead of us. We went off to the local butchers, a brilliant place we used to use 25+ years ago when we owned restaurants, their meat being of real high quality. Our freezer was looking low on stock, so we bought steak, beef, chicken and gammon along with some really good sausages. We also treated ourselves to a pork pie which had been cooked with stilton cheese. When we got back to the boat we had some of this and it was truly one of the best pork pies either of us had ever had. We then went off to Emily’s and stopped at Aldi’s for some essential groceries. At Emily’s I managed to re-negotiate my wifi deal at Three, we had been paying £20 for 15GB of mobile data, after I called them to moan this was reduced to £13 with 20GB of data for a years contract. We also chatted with Emily and discussed Sandra’s mobile phone which was on a Tesco contract (O2) about to come to an end. Where we are now moored her signal is terrible – further research showed that the way forward would be to find an EE contract as this had a good signal. Whilst there I also picked up my daily emails only to find that another one of my short stories had been accepted for print in the Canal Times October edition – brilliant. At Tea time we headed back to the boat and unloaded everything. We had already taken out a curry Sandra had cooked from the freezer to make more space for the new stock (on board we have a full-size Freezer and Fridge – just like home). It was delicious and both of us commented that curries are better a day or so after they have been cooked. We had a cozy night on board realising that our alcohol consumption had reduced massively over the last week or so. I looked over to the recently bought box of Shiraz from Aldi of all places – we just had to open it. Three or four glasses later, we were quite merry. Our life on board a boat is just brilliant.

So the end of another week, bit emotionally draining due to us both bickering at each other, but nothing major, we have know each other nearly 40 years and still love the socks of each other.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

21st Week (W/e 29/8/2016)

Week twenty-one of our boating journey and we are still enjoying the time onboard Captain Hastings. We have our moments personally and every now and then we need time alone, but overall we get on with enjoying our early retirement and each other’s company famously.

So how did this week go…..?

Tuesday was another warm and sunny day; we left our rural mooring spot and headed for North Kilworth Wharf where we moored opposite on the tow path just before lunch. We had already contacted the owners of the Wharf and were pleased to find that they had a super mooring spot along the canal with full services available from the 1st September on a permanent basis. We agreed we would take this after checking it out – it was ideal, one side of the boat facing straight onto the canal – a linear mooring, just what we had been looking for. We were going to moor at Debdale Wharf Marina the other side of Foxton Locks, but this new mooring ticked all of our boxes. We had arranged for Sandra’s car to be parked at the wharf to give us the opportunity to drive ourselves to and from our destination, so although our mooring spot wasn’t available yet, we still had use of the car. We decided to drive over to see Emily which took around 35 minutes and spent some quality time with our daughter who was still on her summer break from school. We got back to the boat after 6.00pm, tired as we had helped her sort her house out ready for her baby, painting, putting up pictures, shelves and so on. When we settled we just couldn’t be bothered to cook, so we had a sandwich and soon we were in bed fast asleep.

Wednesday we awoke to glorious sunshine, one of the hottest days yet. I messed around with the TV aerial and realised after a little further investigation on the internet that we were in a very low TV signal area – this meant getting TV channels would be difficult; our normal digital aerial would not cope sufficiently. We would have to sort something out as Sandra just wouldn’t be able to live without her daily shot of Emmerdale. We reversed the boat and then moved over to the Wharf side of the canal to the service bay. Our toilet which is a macerator style with a holding tank at the front of the boat needed emptying. We don’t have a gauge to tell us this, but we can tell by the sound of the flush. Rachael the owner did our pump out and thank heavens we did it there and then as we were very full indeed. We filled up with water and were pleasantly surprised that she charged us mooring rate at £9.50 – what a star! Soon we were off on our short journey heading towards Foxton on the upper Grand Union. We went through Husbands Bosworth tunnel and were for the first time happy to be protected from the sun as the temperature had risen to 31 degrees. We decided after the tunnel that we would find a shaded mooring spot, rather than go straight to Foxton. This is what I like about our style of boating – we can please ourselves when we stop – we have no time agenda. We found a super mooring spot and the rest of the afternoon we chilled out, Sandra completing her needlework – she is amazing at knitting and quilting, in fact crafts are her forte. The solar panels were working amazingly well, this summer they have certainly started to pay for themselves. Later we opened a good bottle of wine and ate alfresco!

Thursday was a cooler day which we were pleased about as we were heading for Foxton and would be going down the flight of locks there. Before going I did my normal engine check and decided to fill the grease tube. The TV signal was still playing on my mind, so I did some research and found that I would probably have to purchase a larger aerial with a bigger ‘gain’ I ordered one from Amazon. We were slowed down somewhat on our journey by Pheobe our long legged Jack Russell dog – whilst out on her walk she had been stung. We have learnt to use ‘human’ medicines on here and soon after anti histamines and sting spray, her tail was wagging again. We set off for our two hour journey, taking it really slow to take in this wonderful stretch of rural countryside – absolutely stunning. At 2.15pm we got to the top of the flight and met up with a couple on their boat in front who we had met twice so far on our journey – once in Stone and the other time near to Yelvertoft. I saw on his roof a TV aerial, so immediately I was trying to find out as much information as possible. He suggested that I get an aerial with a good amplifier. As we had to queue a little, we decided to have a late lunch and headed for the little café at the top of the locks, unfortunately we had to eat our hot sausage rolls on the boat as we were soon descending. We were soon at the bottom; we find the Foxton flight one of the easiest as there are usually many volunteer lockkeepers to hand. The only thing you have to aware of is the many gongoozlers along the way, which can be embarrassing if you mess up the steering on the boat! We decided to turn the boat around at Debdale Wharf turning hole so we were facing the right direction for our next journey. We also moored up just before the main visitor moorings, as previously the damn cyclists had gone by the boat so fast that the stones had hit the boat paintwork. We cooked a nice meal on board and decided to have a TV night with no alcohol!

Friday was another gloriously sunny day, so we decided to go for a nice long walk. We stopped half way at the little café at the top of the locks again and decided to have breakfast there – a bacon and a sausage sandwich and two coffees. We were both shocked when we had to pay £10 for the pleasure, clearly someone is profiteering. Wouldn’t have minded but the fillings were cheap bacon and cheap sausage, shame really as we won’t use it again. On the way we got chatting to a guy who owned a boat who was a judge at county shows for pigs, really interesting and originally from New Zealand – we chatted for ages and put the world to right! When we got back to the boat, I decided to try out the Kipor generator as Sandra wanted to do use the washing machine which is an energy guzzler and I wanted to use some electric tools to sand down the rear deck to repaint it with non-slip paint in readiness for winter. For the next few hours both of us were engaged in our activities. Funny a year earlier I wouldn’t have thought to do this, I would have had someone in to do this. Just shows how life changes (for the better), early retirement allows you time to learn, often by mistakes, new skills. At around 6.00pm we both needed a drink, so we decided on a couple of large gin and tonics with plenty of ice, wow, they went down so well we decided to have another couple! Later we walked to Bridge 61 one of our favourite pubs, met up with a couple we have socialised with before and when they left were please to be joined by Emily and Elliott. Elliott was really keen to tell me how his new job was going and how much he was enjoying being one of the top men in a company, much different than when he was an accountant working in the film and media sector in London. When these left us, we decided to have another drink and then try and find our way back to the boat. Back on board we warmed up a super pasta meal Sandra had prepared before we left and soon we were both comatose in bed!

Saturday we woke up to a cloudier and cooler day which we were pleased about. I was able to carry on with the rear deck. I managed to get another coat of the non-slip paint before it started to rain lightly. As we had the generator going, I was unable to go with Sandra for lunch with her sister Elaine and Robert, no rest for the workers! By the time all four of them returned along with their grandchildren, the rain had stopped and I was able to chat for a while. It’s always great to see these two as they have helped us so much in the transition from full-time work to full-time retirement. The only mess up I made was when I turned the generator off and put it away, I forgot to switch off the electric emersion heater – I watched in horror as my battery gauge went from 92% to below 70% in a matter of minutes! We decided to get on with our jobs once our family had left and like most days, time just flew by. Soon it was teatime and we were getting showered ready for the evening. Tonight was a TV night as we both, for some unknown reason, enjoy X Factor!

Sunday we moved from our mooring spot and stopped to fill up with water near to Foxton Lock basin. After we booked our slot to go up the locks and soon we were going through the first gate. Today was particularly busy with gongoozlers and I found myself waiving and answering the ‘normal’ questions – do you live on the boat? Does it have a toilet? Etc. Part way up I got chatting to a guy who was from Italy. He and his family had just re-located to Market Harborough the town where we used to live. I told him earlier in the year we had spent some time in Italy, our second visit there and had really enjoyed the food and the wine. He immediately told me his name, Stefano, and that he had no friends and would we like to come around his place for dinner. How friendly. His younger son was standing close by and I asked whether he fancied having a trip on the boat to the top – he definitely wanted to, and from there on he and his wife followed Captain Hastings to the top. As we left the lock he handed me his business card telling me to please get in touch. I concluded form this that it is not only the boating fraternity which are the friendliest, but also possibly the gongoozlers!! We headed towards Husbands Bosworth and soon after lunch we moored up in a rural mooring spot, just before the tunnel which was an ideal spot, where I finished off touching up the paint and washing and polishing the boat. In the evening we had a cosy night in, with a nice glass of red wine!

On Monday we got up a little later than usual to a wet, damp and cloudy day, however, the mooring spot we had chosen was still beautiful, with open countryside. I checked over the paintwork and was pleased that the non-slip paint job looked good and it worked well. We wouldn’t be slipping off the boat in the winter for sure. As we were entering the tunnel another was almost out, both of us went by each other very slowly. Since catching the rear side of the boat in a tunnel earlier, both Sandra and I are quite apprehensive when going through tunnels. Once through we carried on our short journey only to find a hire boater coming full pelt toward us on our side of the canal. I hooted and waived for him to move over to the correct side and fortunately he realised his mistake. Our boats both ‘kissed’ each other at the front; I had gone into full reverse and was lodged up against the silt. As he passed, he never apologised but instead asked if I know where the nearest shop was as they had run out of milk. I could do nothing but smile and pointed him in the right direction. We finally moored opposite the service area at North Kilworth Wharf again. We later got into the car and went for a ‘food shop’ in nearby Lutterwoth. We shopped at Morrisons and Waitrose – good shops, but expensive compared to Lidl or Aldi, which since taking retirement and living on a pension we have got quite used to. We picked up a lovely beef joint and headed for Emily’s place so we could have a family meal. I left Sandra to cook the meal whilst I headed to Kettering where there is a Maplins. I managed to get some bits for the aerial which I had pre-ordered from Amazon the day before which had already been delivered to Emily’s. Soon we would have a good TV picture to enjoy. We had a super meal, only spoilt by the lack of Elliott’s company; his golf day had gone on a little longer than he had anticipated. We got back to the boat around eight, full to the brim from the traditional roast we had really enjoyed.

So, although we didn’t travel far this week, we still had a busy time getting prepared for the winter months and our new mooring at North Kilworth Wharf. Next week we will be able to take over the mooring for good.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

20th Week (w/e 22/8/2016)

Well that’s week twenty of our adventure completed. Twenty weeks of continuous cruising, yet most of the time it feels like we have just started our journey. In a couple of weeks I’m going to work out how many miles, locks and hours we have spent doing this, but I can tell you this we have done 100’s locks and 100’s of engine hours – but all incredibly enjoyable, for most of the time.

So how did this week plan out ……???

On Tuesday we headed off from Weedon, still ranting on how great the curry was from the previous night and also feeling a little tired. Neither of us had managed to sleep too well, we had moored too close to the railway line and the trains through the night and especially early in the morning had kept us from our deep sleep. I had also been up a couple of times during the night with indigestion, caused from the spicy meal. However, we battled on and after a couple of strong coffees we soon felt fine which was important as we needed all of our energy to complete the seven double locks of the Long Buckby flight. We decided to moor up just before the first locks near to Whilton Marina and do what all boaters do, visit the Chandlery to see if we needed anything. Last week when we met Graham and Indie, he had shown us a brilliant ‘gadget’ a roll up, fixed step ladder that can be hung from the rear of the boat to enable someone to get out of the water easy, should they have the misfortune to fall in. Here at the Chandlery for £20 we were able to buy one. The guy behind the counter was a boater and we soon got into discussion about the benefits of suitcase generators. I could see this was boring Sandra to tears, so I hurried the conversation along and decided as we left to call in next doors which was a small café for a late breakfast. What a super little place, we had two small cooked breakfast and two coffees for under a tenner, and we were very pleased indeed with the service and quality of the food. We sat outside in the sun, a really beautiful day. After we decided to spend some time looking around the boats for sale at the marina, there must have been over thirty for sale, many of them in need of love and attention. We never seem to see exactly the same as ours, but we did find a near contender and were shocked that a boat five years older than ours was up for sale for nearly £70k. Around 12 noon we decided to head back to the boat and were happy to see another boat waiting to go up the locks, we asked if we could join them and soon we were entering the first of seven chambers. The boat we were sharing with was a hire boat family, lovely people from Bournemouth. This was the second time they had hired a boat and quite clearly they liked canals. They were taking their time; they were going as far as they could and stopping and taking their time along the way and on Wednesday they would turn around and enjoy the journey the other way. They thought this was better than rushing to do one of the ‘rings’ most hire boaters seem to think they have to do, to get their money’s worth out of there boating holiday. We all soon started to chat, and when he asked what we did for a living, I found myself almost apologising for taking early retirement – weird or what? Half way up the flight, we decided to have a half hour break. Soon we were finishing the last lock which had a canalside pub against it, which was very tempting indeed. The family were heading off for Braunston and we were turning right onto the narrow canal of the Grand Union heading towards Foxton so we said our goodbyes. We then started to look for moorings. Earlier on our journey we had moored around this area, so we were very aware that moorings were at a premium. We past a little boat called Fox, which thought it was bigger than it was, as it had taken up two moorings spots (pet hate!) and soon in the shade we found a mooring, slightly on a corner, but secure enough to moor up safely. We were both tired, and not only that I had come up in a rash on both legs, not itchy but quite unsightly. The last time this had happened I had to visit the hospital where I was told I had vasculitus – linked to an allergic reaction. There is nothing they can do for it and it often gets worse before it gets better. Sandra and I both agreed that it must be linked to the filthy horsefly bite from earlier on. We settled down for the evening, both feeling as If we were back home, Foxton was now only a day or so away – but we would take a leisurely week to get there.

On Wednesday I woke up feeling terrible throughout the night I had suffered from diarrhoea and stomach cramps – exactly what Emily, our daughter, had just got over a week earlier. It’s so easy to pick up bugs along the canal, and quite clearly I had – but, I still felt well enough to get moving. Living with a strong woman, letting the side down didn’t even enter my mind and wouldn't be an option. As I was checking the engine the guy moored up behind popped his head out, Dave, and started to chat with me. He was originally from London and when he used to work with deprived children, he had been asked to crew one of the boats they had hired for a holiday. During this week he had fallen in love with canal life. When his mum passed away he was able to leave London and buy his first boat, a project to say the least. He was a real friendly guy and I felt sorry that his first boat had caused him so much angst, requiring, re-plating, new batteries and alternators. I asked him if he had requested a survey on the boat, and he had not. Soon we were saying our goodbyes heading for the Watford Locks. Today was definitely a hot day, too hot in fact and really we should have just moored up in a shady spot. It was therefore very depressing to find that there was a faulty lock on the flight and this was causing major delays for boats going up and down the flight. We went to find the keeper to be told we were sixth to going up, but there were lots to come down and to therefore be ready to wait for up to three hours! We were fortunate to find a spot to tie up and we promptly pulled up the pram cover for sun protection. We got lunch and soon we started chatting to people. The very small gap between our boat and the one behind was soon filled up with the ‘Fox’ boat – definitely not taking two mooring spots this time. The two people came off their boat to chat and although I had thought they were plonkers the previous day, in fact they were really quite nice. They had moved from London to Market Harborough for a quality of life change and value for money in housing, although one still worked in London (55 minute train journey). They were also able to by their 30ft weekender boat which they had put a lot of love and attention into. As the conversation carried on I steering it to mooring protocol and they soon realised that in areas where moorings are scarce, it is not polite to take up two spots! The three hours soon passed and 35 minutes later we were exiting the Watford flight. I had asked the lockkeeper how the lock had become damaged and he explained that someone had come through the locks around 8.00pm in the evening and must have rammed the gates by his boat. We decided to moor up soon after in one of our favourite rural spots. It was incredibly hot and our thermostat showed 30 degree. We showered and decided to have a salad, rather than cook. Not one of my favourite foods to say the least, but probably good for someone with a dodgy tummy. Another night without alcohol!

Thursday wasn’t so hot, and what a relief, the night had been so humid and warm, neither of us had got much sleep, I had also been restless with stomach cramps one of the symptoms of my diarrhoea episode. We had a little breakfast, and then both of us set off with bleary eyes. Soon we were entering Crick tunnel, coming towards us I could see another boat, I asked Sandra to use the hand torch to tell me if I got too close to the sides of the tunnel. As we got nearer the boat I was surprised to say the least that the oncoming boat did not slow down, as he passed the swell from his boat literally slammed Captain Hastings against the tunnel wall. I could hear the scraping of the paintwork. What a total idiot. We exited the tunnel and Sandra leaned over and reported back that we had scratched down to the metal some of the yellow cabin paint. I was so upset over this. We both carried on along our journey in silence and seething over the behaviour of the boater. I decided to call Yelvertoft Marina, a superb marina managed by great staff and occupied by some amazing and lovely boaters. They were pleased to have us moor there again temporary, and as we had helped tow in one of their moorers boat awhile back, they would not be charging us for the three days. Our mood started to improve; our faith in our fellow boaters was getting back to normal! We moored up in the spot we had moored a few months previous, plugged in the electric and had a rest – we needed it. Later, I looked at the boat damage and as the day wasn’t too hot I decided to rub down the loose paintwork and make smooth, I then applied two coats of primer and after this had dried, one coat of undercoat and when this had dried and been rubbed smooth a couple of topcoats. By teatime the boat looked perfect again. Whilst I was doing this, Sandra went into her cleaning mode and spring cleaned the boat (she does this at least once a week, as well as a deep clean every day!) and prepared a lovely Italian style risotto evening meal. We had another early night and again – no alcohol!
Friday we had an early start, Emily was picking us up to go home. She arrived at 8.15am after dropping Elliott (husband) off at the airport; he was going off to Helsinki for a weekend with friends. It had been a long time since there were just the three of us and I had really been looking forward to this. It had been over a month since I had seen Emily, and both of us couldn’t believe how her ‘baby bump’ had grown. I couldn’t wait to give her a massive hug; it’s good that both of us are very tactile people, quite the opposite to Sandra, who often looks at us in bemusement when we have one of our ‘moments’. She had driven my Mercedes over and it had been ages since I had driven this and to be honest I was quite happy to put my foot down and experience a bit of speed for a change, even though Emily more than once informed me that I was only going 42 miles per hour along the road! Once we got home we were really pleased with the garden, which had just had a gardener in to sort out the trees etc. For the rest of the day we organised things and enjoyed the space. I switched on the Juke Box – and enjoyed the music up loud! And in the evening we were joined by Rob and Elaine, Sandra’s sister and had a super family meal together, and for the first time in ages a couple of glasses of wine. We all had a good night.

On Saturday, which I thought was Sunday (all day!!) we went shopping for boat supplies and also purchased our first ‘box’ of wine from ASDA to try. We also went to view our new moorings. Earlier posts had highlighted that we would be mooring at Debdale Wharf Marina, as permanent moorers, even though we will be off on our travels for 6 – 7 months a year. This is because both Sandra and I prefer to have a mooring for the boat we can call home, even though we will be doing our canal adventures. However, we have always longed for a non-marina mooring, but with electric and water etc. Well on Saturday we came up with a compromise mooring spot. North Kilworth Wharf had called us to inform us that they had a mooring spot we might want to view. When we arrived we were shown a vacant mooring spot along the canal, but with electric and water close. So we shook hands and agreed to takeover this mooring from 1st September. We decided to drive Sandra’s car to the wharf and leave it there in readiness for when we arrive with our boat. We left very happy indeed. When we got back to the house we were pleased to be joined by Micheala and Taylor and one of Emily’s work colleagues Beccy and the six of us just had a chill out evening with a fish and chip supper.
Sunday Emily dropped us back at the boat in Yelvertoft. We were pleased to get back to normality and for the rest of the day, after I had checked the oil and we filled up with water, we chilled out. At around 3.30pm we left the marina and moored up soon after in a rural countryside position. We watched TV and had a nice meal and were soon in bed. We just can’t party like we used to!

Monday was a chilly and wet day at the start and for the first time in ages I had a jumper on. We took a slow cruise along the 23+ miles of lock free canal. We love this stretch of water and have cruised this area a great deal. We had a phone call from Emily in the afternoon, saying she wouldn’t mind meeting up for coffee, so we agreed to moor up just before bridge 37, not far from North Kilworth where the road passes over the canal. Soon she was on board along with three nice cream cakes, by this time the weather had picked up and the sun was out. We sat on the back in a beautiful rural location – even Emily agreed how lovely it was – and enjoyed another few hours of family quality time. We just can’t believe how lucky we are having such a beautiful daughter both inside and outside. Family is absolutely everything. Later when Emily left we were lucky to have a good TV signal, along this stretch of water the signal, even with a booster has been terrible. Once we got the TV up and running we enjoyed, well Sandra enjoyed, Emmerdale, and then we had dinner a lovely chicken and vegetable casserole in a creamy and mustard white sauce – heavenly, along with our first glass of ‘boxed’ wine. The wine was average, but what do you expect at the price we paid – it worked out at the equivalent of £3.50 a bottle. Those that know us well know that we never drink cheap wine – unless we are drunk, or it’s free, or comes with the meal at Wetherpoons (ha ha ha)!!

So another week is over, we are getting close to where this year’s cruising adventure ends and we moor up for the winter months. We will be quite sad that this year is over; however, we are both ready for a little ‘normality’ in our lives. A few months relaxing with a car, no worries about electric, shopping or running out of anything. A few months being close to family, doctors dentists and being able to visit our usual restaurants and of course the cinema every week. Not least the birth of our first grandchild in October – which to be honest is like waiting for Christmas, but not knowing what day it falls on. I know we will be the ever doting grandparents, and I absolutely know Emily and Elliott will be brilliant parents.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

19th Week (w/e 15/8/2016)

Well we have just finished our 19th week aboard Captain Hastings. This week we have reverted back to ‘taking our time’ mode, which means we have been able to relax more and charge up our batteries from the river Thames period. We have had some gorgeous boating weather which has helped us enjoy the last week a great deal.

So how did this week go ......??

On Tuesday we awoke to another lovely sunny day with a slight breeze which helped keep the heat down as we left Milton Keynes Marina. We had a lazy start and it wasn’t until after 12.00pm that we manoeuvred the boat steadily out of quite a difficult mooring spot. We were pleased we had use of bow thrusters which meant we could almost turnaround on the spot. Leaving the marina we past the pub which had been such a disappointment. Soon we were back on our journey, a sausage sandwich in hand as we meandered on the canal through Milton Keynes. We had heard negative comments about this place and even our cousin had commented the previous night when he joined us that we must be mad wanting to stay around Milton Keynes. In fact everyone was wrong, we found the place very pleasant indeed, the waters were clear and the amount of greenery, parks and woodlands around are unbelievable. Some were particularly beautiful, such as around Stantonbury Park Farm. We passed with ease through many of the suburbs, Great Woolstone, Willen Park, Great Linford and New Bradwell before mooring up at Wolverton. An unusual spot, with posh waterside apartment’s one side and an industrial railway building the opposite, now converted into business units. We ‘googled’ what was around and realised that a 15 minute walk away there was a Tesco and Asda close by. We set off with a shopping trolley, Sandra in control of this as I still find it an embarrassment to be pulling one. We ended up nipping in for essentials at Asda. Afterwards to our delight we found an Indian store close by. We love these stores, the smells of the herbs and spices. We have a good selection already on board, so we purchased some garlic and ginger paste and some chapattis for use with one of Sandra’s authentic Indian curries. Soon we were back on board, although a nice mooring spot, we felt it was too closed in, so around 4.00pm we moved off and were lucky to find a semi-rural spot about 20 minutes further along. Opposite our boat was an Antique warehouse called ‘G Daddy’, so we thought we would visit this the following day. We settled down for the evening, a nice meal and no wine. We had both decided earlier in the day that we should resist all temptation of alcohol and have a few days without any!

Wednesday was another sunny and warm day at Old Wolverton. We walked over to the bridge to visit ‘G Daddy’ and thoroughly enjoyed routing around the bric a brac. Sandra trying to hunt something down appropriate for our forthcoming grandchild. Afterwards we were eager to visit the cider factory a little further along and were disappointed that it was closed on this day. We returned to the boat and headed off, not before noting that the solar panels were pumping 20+amps into the batteries. It looks as though the £1200 spent on this system was worth it – well in sunny weather! We were soon passing through Cosgrove where we stopped for a little lunch, beautiful place made even more special by the wonderful weather. After an hour or so, we moved onwards through the countryside and finally stopping around 4.00pm near to Yardley Gobian, a super mooring just past Yardley Wharf Marina. Sandra using the pressure cooker cooked a brilliant Indian curry and we just had to enjoy a glass of wine! Both of us commenting that we have zero will power!

Thursday was a wet and damp day, first one of these sorts of day for ages. Sandra awoke in one of her ‘can’t be bothered’ moods. However, we headed off around 10.30pm appropriately dressed for the cooler climate. We arrived at Stoke Bruerne locks around lunchtime. We locked upwards with a hire boat family who were very nice indeed, in fact as we moored up in the pound before the last two locks, he shouted out that if he saw us in the pub later he would buy us a drink! Both of us on this day were clearly not our normal jovial selves. We seemed to have to push ourselves to do the simplest of tasks. We still managed to visit the museum we had heard so much about and barring the ridiculous fee (nearly £5 each) to go around the two floors of artefacts it was worth the visit. We walked past the two pubs, both realising that today they were not going to have our custom. We returned back to the boat and enjoyed a salad with a savoury omelette, with no alcohol. By nine we were both tucked up in bed.

Friday we both woke up to a lovely warm and sunny day, we had made the decision to stay another couple of days at Stoke Bruerne, our daughter Emily and Elliott, her husband, were joining us on Saturday and we were going to drive to the Blisworth Boat Festival, which seemed an easy option than trying to fight for moorings there. However, today we decided to have a chill out day and enjoy the weather. Our battery banks were almost full, going from 78% up to 83% in a short time via solar energy. Sandra decided to do some sewing, which she loves and is very good at and I decided to find a good insurance deal for our car, as the insurance was running out on the Sunday. As usual I used ‘Compare the Market’, they search for best deals and you get free cinema entry (2 for 1 ) during the week and, more importantly Sandra would be able to get another cuddly toy to add to the ten or more she already has. I sorted the insurance out quite quickly and also managed to get a free MOT thrown in – bargain! I then went down into the engine bay, pretending I knew what everything did – in fact I was cleaning and tidying, checking oil and grease etc. But I came up with dirty hands and felt a man! We decided around 5.00pm that we would get showered and ‘poshed’ up and go out for the evening. We ended up going for a few beers at The Boat Inn, a lovely canalside pub. We watched the meals come out and the fish and chips looked amazing – massive fish that hung over the plates. However, there was a smell in the air that we knew only too well – a curry smell!!, opposite we could see an Indian Restaurant and Take-away, we decided in unison that we were both going to have one of them. We started our second beer – mine was an IPA at 5.7% and Sandra was on pints of Stella, when a couple joined us called Dave and Dawn. These were two Londoners – Dave being a retired black cab driver and now a published author of books and Dawn who still worked in a call centre role after leaving her previous stressful job. They weren’t boaters and before long the usual questions came our way, do you have running water? Do you have a shower? What about the toilet situation? Etc etc. We answered them all and told them how wonderful the lifestyle was – but I don’t think we convinced them. Around 9.00pm, we said our goodbyes, they were clearly into a session, and headed to the Indian. Our dog had been left on the boat, so we thought it wise we get a take-away rather than a restaurant meal. When we got back to the boat, and started to eat our meal, we soon realised that it was one of the best Indian Meals we had had in a long time.

Saturday started off as a dull but warm day. Both of us were excited as we were seeing Emily and Elliott in the afternoon. We hadn’t seen them for nearly a month and being a really close family – this had been a long four weeks. We both busied ourselves, I painted the black on the side of the boat as it had rubbed off in places and then gave the sides a really good wash and polish – it took me hours, but it looked like brand new paint when I had finished. After the trauma of Emily getting lost in the car trying to find us, we finally met up at the pub around 1.30pm. We were soon off to the Blisworth Boat Festival. This was the first time we had visited this and some of the trading boats via Facebook had told me to say hi. It’s always good to meet up in ‘real’ time now and then. All of us enjoyed the afternoon, I managed to meet up with the ‘pen’ boat and ‘dog’ boat trader boaters who were so nice and both said they were trading really well. This was good to hear. At around five we headed back to Stoke Bruerne and decided on eating at The Boat Inn. Sandra and I had our eyes on the lovely fish and chips. When our meal arrived we were very disappointed. Our fish was four fingers wide, not hanging off our plate and the chips were not chucky. Emily decided to complain and we were told they had run out of fish so they had cut it in two!! We were not happy and soon the manager was there who agreed for us to pay for small fish and chips – how kind! We never let it ruin the evening, and we carried on laughing and enjoying each other’s company, the sad part was saying goodbye. We got back to the boat around 7.30pm and ended up watching a good film before getting to bed around 10.00pm.

On Sunday we woke up a little later than usual and behind us were neighbours. Neither of us could remember them being there the night before – but soon we were chatting and they had indeed moored up the night before. Our neighbours were Graham and Indie and we immediately knew we had lots in common. Indie whose family originated from India was a keen cook, especially Indian foods – which is the same as Sandra, and before long Indie had given Sandra some extra hot chillies and some herbs to try in one of her recipes. As we chatted we realised we had more in common. Twenty five years ago we owned a Café and two restaurants and funnily enough we found that our neighbours also own a catering business. They own a cake company in London supplying cakes, and cupcakes to many restaurants and business clientele – they told us about an order where they had to produce 10,000 cup cakes for an International Company in London. We all got on really well and agreed to meet up again – they have friends in Market Harborough near to where we live – so we said our goodbyes knowing it would happen, not long afterwards I received a text message reminding me to keep in touch. This is the magic of the inland waterways, you meet such a diverse range of lovely like minded people. We love it. Later we were heading through the Blisworth tunnel, one of the longer tunnels on the canal system measuring over 3000 yards. Exiting the tunnel we were soon passing through the festival which was still going running on the Sunday. People were waiving to us and a couple of the trader boaters shouted out to us – jesting about the colour of our boat (as usual). We were soon at Gayton Junction where the Northampton Arm joins the Grand Union Canal. Just a little further along, just after Bugbrooke we moored up – just before Nether Heyford where we found a lovely rural mooring spot, plenty of space for the dog to run. We settled down and had a cosy night on the boat.

Monday was another warm and sunny day. Today was Emily and Elliotts 1st wedding anniversary. We had already arranged a Moonpig card to be sent to them and when we met up with them on Saturday we had given them a ‘paper’ gift for them. We both reminisced over coffee how much has changed in the year just gone. This time last year Sandra and I were still working as a teacher and school Principal, Emily worked in London as senior teacher in an inner city school and Elliott worked as a chartered accountant in the film industry enjoying the high life attending premieres and going off to the Cannes in France for the Film festival and both living in London. Now, Sandra and I have retired and mainly reside on our floating home – Captain Hastings, Emily is now Assistant Director in a Northampton School and Elliott is a Financial Executive in a growing midlands company, and both now living in Northamptonshire – wow, all within the first year of their marriage! Oh yes, and Emily is having a baby, if you didn’t already know. Before leaving our mooring I decided to give the canopy a good clean with Milton and soapy water, this usually did the trick of killing off the green mould which seems to be attracted to these covers, Sandra did one of her spring cleans of the boat – we showered and soon we were on route. We were pleased to pass Bob and Jennie Reeves who shouted hello as we passed them, lots of people recognise the colour of our boat and many people read our blog, so it’s great to meet up – even for a few seconds. We finally moored up for the day, just past the aqueduct opposite Weedon Wharf, a short distance walk into the village. Nice mooring spot, but noisy due to the railway line. We decided to nip out for a couple of beers, the last few days had been quite ‘dry’! We ended up at the Heart of England pub where we were going to eat – however a pleasant group of lads had complained about their steak meal – and had not been treated very well by the staff. We hate this, clearly their steaks had been over cooked. So we decided not to bother – and thank goodness we didn’t, because we were fortunate to find one of the top Indian Restaurants we have had joy to sample their food, since starting our boating adventure. The Brinjol served the most beautiful food Indian food, lots of it and such a reasonable price. We finished the food off with a couple of beers and soon we were off to bed, full and contented with life.

So another week over, heading for Long Bucky flight and the Watford flight of locks next week as we get nearer to our permanent moorings – although this could change!