Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Home for Christmas

We went off to Middlewich to purchase a few items from Kings Lock Chandlery they are agents for Vetus engines. I wanted two seals for the Vetus stern tube, unfortunately they don't supply the individual seals, but they do supply them in their housing assembly. Instead of a few pounds for the seals I ended up £96 out of pocket. Vetus parts are dammed expensive, I'll need to find a supplier of the seals for future maintenance. At the moment there is only about a tablespoon of drips at the end of a days cruising( the Vetus stern tube is supposed to be dripless). They can be replaced 'in situ' but I will do the job when FL comes out of the water to be blacked.

You get a large box for your money.

Yesterday I drained the coolant from the engine, skin tank and calorifier flushed them with fresh water and renewed with fresh antifreeze solution. While I was at it we drained the central heating system and renewed the antifreeze in that too. FL is now ready for what the winter can throw her way should be good to -42 !

We are going home tomorrow, leaving the car at Liverpool airport and getting an Easyjet flight to IOM it's cheaper than taking the car on the ferry, a lot quicker too. We will be back in time to see in the New Year at the Royal Exchange.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Boaters Christmas Dinner in pictures

Jim, Joan, Elaine, Dot, Gordon, Richard, Bev, Roly, Rob, Sally, Sue, Paul, Diane, Lynne. 

Andy & Sue

Ray & Diane

Paul Elaine Sammy & Bombo.

Phil & Lyn

Andy, Richard, Phil, Lyn, Dot, Gordon, Sue , Ray & Diane.

Ray & Richard (loo talk maybe).

Joan ,Elaine & Dot.

Gordon & Dot

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Marina life.

Saturday 6th Dec.
The car hasn't had a wash since 2012 so we dropped it off to the husbands of the girls that sell the Big Issue in Stone and Stafford towns while we had a look around Stone Farmers Market, we had lunch in the Royal Exchange with Dot, Gordon, Phil and Lynne. My eastern european cousins did an excellent job on the car, shiny inside and out when we picked it up.

Sunday - Sue walked to Aston Lock to set the gates for  EHC (Pasty Boat) arrival, soon after they were snugly connected to the grid in the marina.

Monday - Sue thought FL needed to look festive, we bought some festive installations in the way of battery operated lights and a diminutive tree from Poundland the lights are sellotaped to FL's interior in various places, I'm hoping the tape doesn't pull the veneer/varnish off when we take them down.

Thursday we drove to Birmingham and had a wander around the German Christmas Market. Nothing different there, stalls and products were exactly the same as when we visited last year, even the customers looked familiar, lunch was excellent spit-roasted ham rolls, a repeat of last year too. The market is well worth a visit and I bet we will be back again next year.

Temperature has taken a tumble this week with some sub zero's overnight, but it is snug and warm in FL, the Epping stove has been on 24/7 for the last few weeks. The stove is at one end of FL gives a range of temperatures throughout the boat, nice and warm in the saloon graduating to cool in the bedroom, which is the way we like it, the diesel-fired central heating is redundant with the stove lit. Occasionally we need to open the doors to let the heat out. The floor of the boat always stays cool as it's below water level without the spray foam insulation the cabin roof and sides have, that is why most boats have footstools.

A thin covering of morning ice in the marina.

Friday we had an enjoyable afternoon over an ale or two in the Royal Exchange with Dot, Gordon, Richard and Sharon.

Saturday it was a trip to the Midland Chandlers for Gordon and me, I had intended to get the blacking for FL but then thought I'd leave it till nearer the time FL comes out the water, maybe MC will have a January sale. I did come away with a length of fuel hose and clips while Gordon purchased a whole bank of batteries. In the evening we got a surprise call... Diane, Ray, Paul and Elaine were in the bar at the Stone hotel, a great evening ensued catching up with the 'gang' a day earlier than expected, we will meet up again on Sunday for an arranged Christmas dinner at the Old Post Office,  £8.49 per head including a drink of choice, very reasonable, there will be 18 of us at the table... we are all looking forward to that.

Monday, 8 December 2014


So Carl is king of the jungle (I'm a Celeb get me out of here). Who'd of thought the fearless...(he held the Isle of Man TT lap record for seven years from 1992).... scary eyed four times World Superbike Champion had such a big personalty.

The Burnley boys fearlessness was evident in the trials he undertook but we also saw a side to Carl we mostly didn't know existed, his softer side, especially when reduced to tears when his friend Jimmy was evicted from the camp....... well done Foggy.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Lock Wheeling

Wednesday we dropped Sharon & Richard of at the station for their onward journey home to Portsmouth, from there we made our way to Manchester airport to collect Ray & Diane and take them to Overwater marina where their boat has been looked after while her crew circumnavigated the globe.

Friday was going to be my day for experiencing the other side of narrowboat cruising. The energetic bit, the bit that you need a tool for the job... and best of all, that part where you get to interact with other crews at locks. My usual interaction at locks is a quick "hi" as a boat passes me while I'm hanging on to the centre rope, I enjoy none of the jovial animated cheerful banter I see Sue engaged in with other crews while working the locks.

The plan was hatched a few days previously when I was contacted by friends to help get their boat from Rugeley to Stone.

Early Friday we were drinking coffee in Tesco's at Rugeley with Dot & Gordon. Sue and Dot went off to Stafford by car while I would lock wheel for Gordon to Stone, Pearson's guide had the trip down to five and a half hours while CanalplanAC had a cruise time of seven hours, it turned out the latter was spot on.

We untied the Pasty Boat from the bank at 09:30, the day was cold but still, with a few bright interludes to the grey skies during the trip. At the first lock... Colwich Lock... I hopped off the cruiser stern windlass in hand to work the lock, as I cranked the ground paddle open I am on my own, no other living soul around apart from Gordon holding the boat centre rope on the canal below. I was a solitary figure winding the paddles at the next couple of locks too... no one wanted to play. Where were all the other boaters?

At Haywood junction, the homemade Cornish Pasty, payment for my services, was warmed in the oven and devoured with mugs of hot tea while the water tank filled with water.

At Hoo Mill lock I spied somebody at the lock, right I thought here's my chance for some of that lockside interaction, pass the time of day with, perhaps share a joke with. As I strolled up to the lock swinging the lock key like a 50's football fan's rattle the somebody jumped on their bicycle and sped off down the towpath.

As we passed through Sandon Lock the degrees took quite a tumble and I abandoned Gordon at the helm and warmed up beside the log burner in the cabin. I was up again to do my duties at Aston lock, it was dusk as we moored below Star lock in Stone.

A message on my phone told us Sue and Dot were in the Royal Exchange and two pints of Steerage awaited us. It poured with rain as we left the boat and made our way to the pub in the dark, a couple of quarts later and a fish supper in 'spoons' I was getting all the interaction I could cope with. A very enjoyable day.

Boaters gold log mosaic

Entering Weston Lock.

Gordon at the helm.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

Had a good weekend.. watched England beat the Aussies at rugby (about time they won a game) in the Anchor with Gordon and Dot, there was a noisy group of lads out for a birthday bash on the next table who noisily sang English football chants, I did ask if they knew the English rugby anthem 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot'  but although they reckoned they knew all wasn't forth coming. They all left before half time, now we could hear the TV commentary. A theory of how a slave song became a rugby anthem can be found here. click

We had Sunday lunch in The Holly Bush with new neighbours Sharon and Richard, afterwards we were welcomed aboard . Engine room envy ensued.

Monday it was arse up head down the engine 'ole (you can see why I get engine room envy) to try and find out where an annoying coolant leak was coming from, spent a couple of hours down there cleaning out the bilge and checking/tightening hoses, unions and bolts. It's all dry at the moment so fingers crossed. I'll run the engine up to temperature and check down there again tomorrow.

NB's Two Jays and Klara are back in the marina today, it's always a pleasure to see Jim, Joan, Roly and Bev.

I had 4 x 5ltr cans of old engine oil from FL's oil changes to get rid of so took them to the local amenity site. Unfortunately, they are closed Monday and Tuesday so will have to hang on to it for a bit longer.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Blogging from the Irish sea.

The journey to the IOM was smooth and uneventful all elements of the journey were on time even the bus from the airport into Douglas.. we usually get in a cab for the last leg of the journey but seeing as I was alone and without luggage I didn't mind the short trek from the bus stop at the National Sports Centre to home....Saved more than £20 into the bargain.

Nikita was home from work to greet me before having to dash off again to her evening job. The two Labradors were  excited to see me....I wondered if they remembered me.. as they are excited to see any human that they meet. I took the two dogs out to the wood for a couple of hours  of ball throwing and fetching. As luck would have it one of Nikita's mates was in the wood with his two Labs. and another dog he was looking after .. this saved my arm from getting sore as he did most of the throwing. The five dogs can be identified by the different lights attached to their collars as they charge around in the blackness of the woods. Sylar has a single red light Rocky has a collar studded with red lights Molly has gold halo and Bobby a blue halo.
Being a narrow boater you would think I would of had a torch in my pocket after sunset but I didn't....Sue wasn't there to remind me, I always have to be reminded about that sort of thing, along with "Have you got your wallet? keys?" when ever I leave the boat.

Nikita and her house guest Jen brought a takeaway curry home after their shift finished which we devoured between us.

Friday and Nikita was up dogs walked and back at work  before I arose an hour later, those early start working days are a fading memory which I haven't missed one bit... tell a lie the pay cheque is missed.

The car started first time not bad for a 10 year old banger that has been stood for 5 months, took it down to the post office to get a new tax disc then gave it a run along the coast road to Laxey and back via the mountain road at Creg Ny Ba. Did a couple of jobs around the house before walking the dogs down to and along the promenade and back home.

Nikita met me in town for a pizza while I waited for the ferry. Once aboard I managed to get the last available cabin for the 3.5 hour crossing to Heysham, thought I might relax, write this drivel and watch the Spurs game before the two hour drive to Stone.
Ferry cabin.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Oil, a leak and a ferry

Today I set about changing the oil and filter on our Vetus engine. The Vetus engine doesn't have a sump pump fitted and using the small brass type hand pump via the dip stick tube has always been a messy job so I have invested in one of these syphon pumps, a few pumps on the handle and leave it to cleanly suck all the oil from the sump, it has a pouring spout to empty it in to an empty can.

The syphon pump.

While checking around the engine I found a leak from the bottom of the heat exchanger unit, I will have to remove it, clean and check it to see if it needs replacing.

Tomorrow I'm off to the Isle of Man to collect the car, a bus to Stafford, train to Liverpool Parkway, bus to John Lennon airport and Easy Jet to IOM. Returning Thursday via the Ferry into Heysham at midnight.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Marina visitors

We have had visitors, two from the Isle of Man and two from Wisconsin USA.

First up was Angus on Thursday, after a catch up over tea and cake we adjourned to the Holly Bush at Salt for lunch. Next up was our daughter who arrived at 2am straight from the IOM ferry into Heysham, a two hour drive away. Saturday we all met up with Dot and Gordon at the Anchor in Burton to watch England fail to defeat South Africa at rugby, on the way back to Stone we stopped in the Three Crowns for tea.

Sunday, while the girls went to Trentham for some retail therapy I got on with putting on a second coat of primer on some rusty bits on FL's roof/rail I had rubbed down and primed last week.
Monday more shopping in Stafford this time, I went along as the official bag carrier.

Sue and Nikita in Weatherspoons

Last up was our nephew Alex and his wife Leigh-Anne over from the States for a week, we also had lunch at the Holly Bush, Leigh-Anne (being a born American] raised an eyebrow when I ordered faggots off the menu. After lunch we had a walk along the tow path to show our guests the workings of Stone locks.

Leigh-Anne Sue Nikita and Alex
Other than that it's very quiet here in the marina but should liven up at the end of the month when a lot of winter moorers head into their chosen havens.

I won't be blogging as often as usual unless there is something meaningful to write.

Monday, 10 November 2014


Chester's moorings were too busy to stop when we passed through on the canal, so today we visited by road. It has been a lovely sunny day so a good time to circumnavigate the city wall.

Chester city's wall, started by the Romans, was added to and developed over the centuries until the English Civil War rendered the defences obsolete, since then they have been maintained as a tourist attraction.

King Charles Tower

Chester Castle

Good view of the racecourse from the wall.

A spur wall to the Water Tower built to protect Chester port.

Shropshire Union canal.

Sunday, 9 November 2014


It's been a quiet sort of week, weather wise we have had a mixture of sunny days and cloudy ones, the temperature has dropped noticeably. Monday while Sue was ensconced in the laundry room with washing powder and book I walked along the tow path to Stone Boat Builders chandlers and returned with a new light fitting to replace the faulty one in the cratch.

Building beside Aston Lock.

During the week we have had a couple of trips out; to Mercia Marina to see their new shopping Boardwalk, it's very swish, (you can now get your nails cleaned and polished after using the elsan or changing engine oil).

There is a also new Bar & Restaurant...the prankster in me wonders what would happen if I bought a brand new loo cassette from Midland Chandlers, unboxed it and took it into the restaurant with me (perhaps half filled with fresh water for that slopping motion effect) and sat it on the table while I eat ....what would the other diners think/say?

My dinner date!

To Derby, a city we haven't visited before, it is considered to be the birth place of the industrial revolution as the first fully mechanised factory in the world was built here. Derby has some fine architecture, large square and huge shopping mall. It was tipping it down when we were there so exploration was limited and I couldn't get the camera out, below are a couple of pictures from the web.

Mercia's boardwalk shops.

2013-12-09 13.30.21.jpg
Speakers corner, if you scan the QR codes underneath the faces with a smart phone you get a short video of the person speaking on a subject that interest to them, the caricatures are of real people. The one on the left talks about buses!

Friday we met up with Dot & Gordon for a £4.39 carvery at the Radford Bank Inn, excellent value. They also do an all you can eat morning breakfast for £3.99.

Saturday we teamed up with D&G again in the hunt for a pub that would be showing the England V New Zealand rugby match. Our preferred location Weatherspoons didn't have Sky TV but The Yard did so we settled in there and watched a good game with NZ narrowly beating an injury-depleted England.

In the evening we watched an excellent performance by Benedict Cumberbatch as Frankenstein's monster at the Stafford Theatre.

Benedict Cumberbatch

Sunday we had lunch at The Holly Bush in Sieghford while Sue and Dot opted for the roast Gordon and I had Steak and Titanic ale pie, a good choice. The bread & butter pudding with custard ensured I stayed with my feet up in front of the fire the rest of the day.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Sandon Lock Maintenance

Maintenance at Sandon Lock which started Monday is progressing well.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Total's & Pogoing along to Toyah Willcox

We had a quiet weekend, being the first Saturday of the month the busy Stone farmers market was in full swing. We made a few purchases on various stalls before pushing a trolley around Morrisons for a few staples. Sunday saw FL back in Aston Marina, after Nicky had brimmed the fuel tank (100%) I reversed FL back towards her berth, with the slight wind blowing we ended up across the bows of the moored boats opposite, a second attempt worked much better and FL was tied up and attached to the orange wire... the battery bank sighed with relief.

Sunday Sue ensconced herself in the laundry room while I walked down the towpath to the Boat Building Chandlers to buy a cratch light fitting to replace the faulty one, it's about a four mile trip but the sun was out and the tow path wasn't too soggy. Lot's of boats were moving probably to get to the right side of the Trent & Mersey lock closures which start on the 3rd of November.

So here we are back where we started seven months later, the 2014 cruise started with a trip to the Caldon Canal then the  Macclesfield Canal to the Peak Forest from there we winded our way south through the  centre of Birmingham down on to the Thames and as far south as Godalming in Surrey via the River Wey. West as far as we could go on the Thames that started a trip to Ellesmere Port via Wales and the LLangollen Canal.

2014 Waterways Cruised:

  • Trent & Mersey Canal
  • Macclesfield Canal
  • Peak Forest Canal
  • Middlewich Branch of Shropshire Union Canal.
  • Shropshire Union Canal
  • Birmingham Main Line Canal
  • Birmingham & Fazeley Canal
  • Coventry Canal 
  • North Oxford Canal
  • Grand Union Canal
  • South Oxford Canal
  • Thames River
  • Wey River
  • Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal.
  • Llangollen Canal.

865 miles  520 locks

Basically every time I'm at the tiller is a highlight for me but  the Pontycysyllte Aqueduct, National Waterway Museum at Ellesmere Port and of course, the Royal River were a few of my favorites, one of Sue's was Pogoing along to Toyah Willcox at the Crick boat show in May!

Friday, 31 October 2014

Back in Stone

Thursday.. We moved on from the mooring in warm sunshine, an unexpected day in t-shirts, I would have had the shorts on but they have been moved to that storage area in FL that wont see the light of day till next summer. As we approached Aston Lock the gates were opening for us and we cruised in, up and through.
Cruising through a familiar scene we winded before Star lock and moored on the 5 day Stone visitor rings behind Nb Pendle Water. We took the 101 bus into Stafford, this is the first time for some months that we have been anywhere so busy, strangely we both enjoyed the change. We had a couple of miles to walk from the town centre as one particular shop Sue wanted to visit was on a retail site on the outskirts. Shopping all done we returned to Stone on the 101.

Mile marker at our overnight mooring.
Sheep and cattle sharing the grass.

This was an overnight holding gaol to keep drunks in, it was once connected to The White Lion as below.

Friday... Sue went in search of a haircut while I washed and polished FL's starboard side, this will be the off side when we are on the marinas pontoon so hard to get at.

In the afternoon we had an ale or two in the Royal Exchange among the spider webs, ghoul's and carved fruit.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Cold Wednesday

Just a short cruise today of a couple of hours through two locks to moor two miles from Aston. The morning has cool, dry and still,  hats and fleeces were the order of the day.

Salt Bridge.
Sandon lock cottage.

Sandon Lock.

Todays' overnight mooring.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Weston on Trent

At 09:00 we pulled pins and winded on Tixall Wide in cool sunshine, we crossed the River Trent on an aqueduct before stopping at Great Haywood Junction to top up the water tank. Sue couldn't resist the farm shop while the tank filled.

At Hoo Mill Lock we met a share boat crew out of Aston marina, they quizzed Sue on her knowledge of the  Oxford canal marina's as their syndicate want to move next year.

We stopped at Weston upon Trent and walked to the village green where we had lunch in the Woolpack, The Woolpack is one of those pleasant village pubs with a good atmosphere even though there was only a handful of customers while we were there, the food and ale were very good too.

After the short walk back from the pub we set off again to moor a mile short of the village of Salt. As per the forecast, the rain started to fall at 17:00... it's dark already

Ingestre Bridge

Overnight mooring.

Sunday, 26 October 2014


We have spent the weekend at Tixall Wide chilling out.. It's a lovely spot here, popular with boats fishermen and ramblers. I fitted a new inline fresh water filter and have had the paint brushes out to repaint the top rubbing strake in Hammerite Smooth. I have been trialling it to see if it is more robust than ordinary gloss black, it is not, nothing is going to stick when rubbing along concrete and the masonry found around locks, it's only advantage being that it doesn't require a primer or an undercoat.

We have used the satellite TV  over the weekend, probably more than the previous 7 months put together.

Today (Sunday) we did move down to Haywood marina to get rid of the dumpables and to the Junction for water. On the way back to Tixall Wide we offered a lift to a guy struggling down the towpath with a gas bottle and drum of diesel which he gratefully excepted.

Haywood Junction where the Staffordshire & Worcestershire canal joins the Trent and Mersey canal