The adventure ends

January 2, 2012

One adventure ends, another begins. On 15 December we delivered NB Lazy Days to Hilperton where she is up for sale. On 17 December we moved into our new house in Somerset. It’s a far cry from our pre boat life in Hertfordshire, a life that we couldn’t have returned to after the canal experience.

We spent our first night in Lazy Days under the M1 Motorway waiting for the Watford Locks to open. Our last night was similarly eventful. We had remained at the Semington Moorings for the last few days, polishing and sorting and taking a couple of loads back to the storage and others to the dump. On Wednesday, the wind blew into a gale and the boat was buffeted all night. I was awake before 6.00 listening to the crashes when there was a hard bang against the boat. At first I thought that it might have been the wind blowing us against the bank. Then I wondered if the boat moored behind had banged into us. (It was a vast Dutch Barge. I had a great surprise when I went out the back hatch the previous day to find them looming over us, moored so close that their bow was overlapping our stern. Even more surprising when they had two empty mooring rings behind them! Fortunately we also had an empty ring ahead and had moved forward.)
Alan went out to check and found not one boat behind us, but two. The drifting boat that had banged into us was now against the side of the Dutch barge. As we watched it went back to the off side and towards the bridge. Alan wondered if he should go out to try to grab its ropes. I thought not because it was pitch dark and he wouldn’t be able to get near it as the opposite bank was so marshy. At 8.00 I went along to see where it had got to, along with the Dutch barge owner who only realised that anything had happened when I told him. To our surprise we found that the drifter had managed to pass under the bridge and was now moored behind NB Party Animal, owned by Leb, who had blacked our boat. To our disappointment it hadn’t managed to enter the open lock behind it (both gates left open by the lazy Dutch barge owners. Hmmm, the pound above had drained in similar circumstances the week before.) Leb was out unhappily surveying the damage to his boat. We had come off unscathed but he had scrapings all along his running strakes. Not a great disaster you would think, but Leb is very boat proud and his strakes were painted yellow to contrast with the smart blacking. The boat is called Party Animal!

Just before 10.00 when we were about to pull away a lady carrying bits of cleaning equipment came along the towpath, looking puzzled. “I can’t seem to find my boat”, she said. I told her where it was, that it had passed two other boats before it reached us and that it had banged into us on its way. “But it can’t have, it was fine last night”. I pointed out that as it started a considerable way in front of us and was now the same distance behind us and on the other side of a bridge clearly something had gone wrong. Finally she was convinced that her boat really was where I said it was and went off to be reunited with the vagrant, leaving me still waiting for any enquiry about whether damage had been done to our boat.

I walked along to see Alan through the swing bridge and he took Lazy Days on solo while I drove round to Hilperton to meet him. Then it was just a matter of mooring up and completing the paperwork and we were free to head over to Watford to start the move.

Along with the chaos of the removal of all the house contents from storage a week before Christmas we also had to go back to the boat three times to transfer the rest of our possessions. We had thought that it might be done in one trip. It’s amazing how much you can fit into a boat, especially when you think of all the books and clothes that we had already moved!

We have had a wonderful seven years with Lazy Days, half spent as liveaboards. We have travelled most of the system and had adventures that have stretched us, given us great enjoyment and kept us agile and alive! We have discovered many places that we would never have visited otherwise and we have realised how lucky we have been to be able to live as wandering waterways folk. And also how fortunate we are to be able to choose the right time to move on to something else. The pleasure of spending our days slowly travelling through our wonderful countryside was a marvellous bridge between our working lives and our new future as retired people.

I realise that many readers of this blog may have given up on us given the irregularity of postings over the past few months, but to those of you who may read this, it has been a great joy to meet so many wonderful people through the blog. You, along with the other friends for life that we have encountered on the canals, have been the icing on the cake of our boating experience.

Finally, NB Lazy Days is for sale at Hilperton Marina. She’s done us proud, given us a comfortable home and transported us around the system with total reliability. We have every confidence that she will give her next owner equal happiness.

We have a very poor internet connection at present but when we finally get around to sorting out our broadband I will put up some pictures of our highlights from the last three and half years. – Alan

Final Journey 15/12/11 2.69 Miles and 1 Swing Bridge

Statistics so far:-

3060.62 Miles, 2051 Locks, 198 Swing Bridges, 118 Lift Bridges, 58 Tunnels


Dry Dock

November 27, 2011

We had heard good things of the local pub in Semington, the Somerset Arms. As our first night in the dry dock was Friday we had planned a walk down to the pub for a meal. It really is a super place, and deservedly busy because the food was very good and the price was reasonable. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and might go back on Monday for the quiz night.

We can’t imagine how we managed to do the blacking and the rest of painting ourselves in the past. We seem to have plenty of work on our hands with the normal paint touching up that we used to do after each day’s blacking was finished. Maybe we are getting soft! We have been very lucky that the weather continues mild. It was very windy last night but today was perfect painting weather: sunny with a drying wind. The three pigs on the property were gambolling around. One is going off to be slaughtered on Tuesday so I was pleased that it was having such a lovely day! Liz and Ian will eventually be selling home reared pork as well as their own free range eggs to boaters.

Because we don’t want to damage the new blacking while it sets we are not letting any water out of the boat which means that even the shower water has to be emptied into a bucket. Luckily we have become accustomed to being frugal with showers. I even managed to wash and condition my hair tonight without the water rising above the level of the shower base, though it did fill two buckets for emptying outside. Its quite quick to empty the water from the shower with a big car washing sponge. (Normally it would have to be pumped out so if the pump isn’t operated the water stays in the shower). On the other hand, because we are plugged into the electricity, we can watch television, or vacuum or I can even dry and straighten my hair without Alan muttering ominously about the batteries.

Statistics so far:-

3057.93 Miles, 2051 Locks, 197 Swing Bridges, 118 Lift Bridges, 58 Tunnels


Semington Dock

November 26, 2011

We were thinking about getting on our way to Semington when an ex working boat sped past towards the open lock. I dived out and waved until I caught the boater’s attention and Alan ran round putting on boots and taking down the aerial. The boater kindly waited and we travelled down the remaining two Seend Locks with him. I left them at the bottom and walked back to the car while he and Alan went on towards Semington. There were three swing bridges ahead and Alan said that their way was made very easy because walkers opened two of the bridges for them. (So much for having to use a windlass to open them!) By the time they approached the first Semington Lock I had driven to the dock where we are blacking the boat and had the lock open and ready for them.

The dock was filled and NB Meandering Mo which had just been blacked was tucked along one side with plenty of room for us to join it. After a while Leb, who is to black our boat arrived and using the centre rope manoeuvred Meandering Mo out. Then, with Alan’s help, he placed the sleepers across the dock entrance and set the pumps to work. We held the ropes while he placed spacers to hold the boat in the centre of the dock. We had to make sure that the boat stayed in place so it would land on the supporting wood in the right places. This was all new to us: we hadn’t blacked in a dry dock before. It seemed to take ages for the water to be pumped out and there was some problem with reducing the leaks at the edges. Finally the giant pump was switched off and the small pump remains on all the time. It switches on every time the water rises to a certain level in the sink in the corner of the dock.

We really feel that we have chosen a delightful place to have the boat blacked. The surroundings are pretty. Ian and Liz Williamson who own the dock have chickens and three little pigs. Leb who is painting the boat is great company and giving us all sorts of other help. There is no boat coming in after us as we really are the last boat to black here this year so Ian has said its ok for us to stay on for a couple of extra days to make sure that the paint has set.

Today we did 2.06 Miles, 3 Locks and 3 Swing Bridges

Statistics so far:-

3057.93 Miles, 2051 Locks, 197 Swing Bridges, 118 Lift Bridges, 58 Tunnels


Seend Cleeve

November 24, 2011

We have crawled a little further on our journey to Semington Dock. Our plan was to moor at the bottom of the Seend Locks but we stopped to pump out after the third of the five locks. It’s fatal for us to pause because it takes very little for us to agree to stop. The mooring is opposite The Barge which Pearson says is the most popular pub on the K & A. Normally we would be heading there about now but I have a cold and don’t want to mix beer and cold remedies, and really don’t feel like going out. Both the grandchildren have had bad colds this week so I think they shared the lurgy with Grandma before we left them last Friday.

It’s a lovely stretch of canal round here. The towpath is vastly superior to the mud baths the other side of the Caen Flight and there are equally pleasant views. It would be a great place to over winter. Today was bright and fairly mild; a lovely day to be moving along. There are two swing bridges which were very easy to operate. They connected good walks on either side of the canal and were obviously well used by walkers. Then as we approached the first of the Seend Locks we had the rousing sight of the local hunt crossing the bridge below the lock. There weren’t huge numbers, about four red jackets and two black with a great troop of hounds and a quad bike behind them to keep back traffic. In the past my appreciation would have been tempered by disapproval of hunting: now it’s possible to enjoy the spectacle guilt free. We collected the car and went over to Trowbridge. On our return towards the canal we followed the hunt back along the road. Apparently they are out three days a week.

Today we did 1.13 Miles, 3 Locks and 2 Swing Bridges

Statistics so far:-

3055.87 Miles, 2048 Locks, 194 Swing Bridges, 118 Lift Bridges, 58 Tunnels


Sells Green

November 23, 2011

We cast off just after 9.00 and moored at 11.00 so this wasn’t our longest day of travel! There are seven locks in the Foxhangers Flight and they were all set in our favour by a hire boat that passed us just as we were about to set off. I worked the locks and Alan had his turn at steering. Some of the gates are exceptionally heavy – maybe I am just out of practice.

We wanted to top up our water so pulled in at Sells Green. There was a very pleasant mooring in front of a massive BW barge so we decided to stay put. We are complete suckers when we see moorings with rings and NO MUD! After all, we are quite close to Semington where the boat is to be blacked. We were a little low on diesel and the fire wasn’t performing so we went off to Hilperton with the jerry can, stopping at Semington Dock on the way. (We wondered if they had diesel but they don’t). The boat currently being blacked was still in the dry dock and we have postponed our arrival a day to Friday to give them longer for their blacking to set. There isn’t a boat booked to follow us in and hopefully our departure can be similarly relaxed. It seems a very pleasant place, with chickens and pigs in an enclosure. The Somerset Arms nearby is apparently very good for food so we might have a meal out and enjoy our stay.

When we filled up our jerry can at the Boatyard at Hilperton he offered us the loan of another jerry can if we wanted. We took him up on it but it was rather leaky and the car has a pong of diesel now, not very pleasant. Forty litres of diesel and the boat lying very flat in the water with the full water tank did the trick and the fire is now blazing beautifully. The temperature seems to be dropping enough to put a chill on the air after some very mild days so the warmth is very welcome.

Today we did 1.85 Miles and 7 Locks

Statistics so far:-

3054.74 Miles, 2045 Locks, 192 Swing Bridges, 118 Lift Bridges, 58 Tunnels


Caen Flight

November 22, 2011

We set off on our descent of the Caen Flight at 8.45, expecting to get down to the bottom around 2.30. In fact we tied up at the bottom of the Caen Hill sixteen at 12.00 exactly, thanks to two guardian angels, in the guise of Kennet and Avon volunteers Roger and Dave.

We had worked our way steadily down the Devizes six and as we came out of the fourth lock two figures in fluorescent yellow vests and life jackets approached. We thought that they were on routine maintenance so it was a wonderful surprise when they asked if we would like them to assist us down the flight. They are both boat owners, Roger in a shared boat on the Grand Union, and Dave in a local boat, and they spend each Monday volunteering on the flight. What we hadn’t realised is that each of the sixteen locks that make up the main flight must be left empty with a bottom paddle up at the end of the day, otherwise the BW maintenance yard and the road are flooded. Each lock has a side pond but no by wash and it seems that these ponds can overflow. Because we were the only boat travelling the flight today we would have had to lower the paddle and fill each lock, a slow process. Instead Dave and Roger took it in turn to fill and open the top gates of the following lock while the other and Alan worked the boat through. I had the easy job of steering and making tea. Alan had steered the six town locks and we would normally have switched over again after I had finished my quota but he was so enjoying the craic that he stayed on land. So greatest thanks to Roger and Dave for their help and company on a wet and otherwise grey Monday!

We had thought that we might go on through the Foxhanger seven locks after lunch but the rain increased and we already faced a fairly long walk back to get the car. So we retraced our steps and brought the car down to the bottom of the flight.

There was a second surprise today when we spotted two very new ducklings at the second lock. Lucy Mangan had chosen a picture of two very unseasonal ducklings as her unsettling animal picture of the week in Saturday’s Guardian. Well these ducklings were much smaller, maybe on their first or second day on the water. We wonder if they will survive if the weather gets colder: Alan saw the body of another tiny duckling in one of the locks, presumably one of their siblings.

A less pleasant occurrence was a very heavy diesel slick that started below the duckling pound (thankfully) and lasted through several locks. We suspect that it originated from one of the boats moored in the third pound below the Devizes Wharf. The diesel was like a heavy sludge and the smell was dreadful.

Early or Late Ducklings

Today we did 1.66 Miles and 22 Locks

Statistics so far:-


Devizes

November 20, 2011

Over the past couple of weeks we have been based at Honey Street. It was a good base as we could park the car, though we did become very weary of negotiating the thick mud on the towpath. The good news is that we have had an offer accepted for a house in Somerset and we hope that we will complete before Christmas. Since we moved out of our previous house in mid-August we have looked at over seventy houses and have become heartily sick of the whole house hunting business. Our main problem was finding a generous sized garden with a house we liked, not on a main road, and that has been a surprisingly elusive combination.

Now that things are moving ahead on the house front we have turned our minds towards deciding what to do with the boat. At one time we had thought that we might keep the boat for a year or so. Boat ownership is an expensive business, especially as we would have to put the boat back into a marina, and to justify that expense we would have to use the boat for a good part of the year.

We are very much looking forward to getting involved in local activities at our new home; photography clubs, U3A, some voluntary work, music groups etc, etc, etc…. If we were to use the boat for less than five or six weeks of the year we would be better off to hire, though realistically we probably wouldn’t! Consequently we have decided to put Lazy Days up for sale when we move into our house.

The boat does need blacking so we have booked to have the work done at Semington Wharf, coming out of the water on Thursday. This meant that we had to start off towards Semington today, travelling as far as Devizes Wharf in readiness to descend the Caen Flight tomorrow. As we were casting off we were hailed by a woman on the boat moored behind us. Returning from The Barge last night her muddy boots had slipped as she walked the plank to get back aboard and she had fallen into the water. She had swallowed some water and found it very hard to get out. Her phone had flown out of her hand and she was trying to find it. She was very lucky to escape unscathed but the lost phone with all her work contacts was a great problem. We lent her our magnet as she asked but Alan didn’t think that it would pick up a phone and that a net would be better. After several passes with the magnet she had acquired a mooring pin but decided that it would be better to borrow a net from a barge down by the pub. We left her and a companion fishing in hope.

Alan left to cruise down to Devizes and I went off in the car, stopping for some shopping before parking near the wharf and walking down the towpath to meet him. I had walked as far as the Bridge Inn, including stopping for a long chat with a boater, before he came along. It had taken him a lot longer than he anticipated and he had found the second swing bridge very difficult to open. We finally moored at Devizes at 2.30, near Carole, a boater that we had got to know quite well at Honey Street. She had kindly breasted up with us to take us back to the water point last week, so much easier than reversing on a windy day.

Today we did 7.73 Miles and 2 Swing Bridges

Statistics so far:-

3051.23 Miles, 2016 Locks, 192 Swing Bridges, 118 Lift Bridges, 58 Tunnels


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