Saturday, 28 June 2014

Taking on Extra Crew

The last few days have been spent pleasure cruising while we wait to take some extra crew on board.

We spent a couple days moored in Nantwich, an interesting little village. We made the fifteen minute walk into town from the canal a few times to pick up bits and pieces, Nantwich had a much larger shopping centre than we had come across since leaving Stoke.

The moorings at Nantwich were limited to 48 hours so we moved on along the Shropshire Union canal to another old canal town, Audlem. We had moored about half a mile out of town to save having to go up the flight of locks, which numbered some 13 and knowing we would have to come back down through them in a day or so to get back to Nantwich. Additionally, there was a winding hole at the base of the locks, perfect!

Audlem, as I said, was a small canal town but big enough to have three nice pubs. After a stroll around the town we ended up at the pub called The Shroppie Fly, named after a famous old canal cartage service. It was a beautiful day so we ordered lunch and took up one of the seats outside. A couple of nights in Audlem gave us time to catch up on a little more maintenance on the boat. It turned out to be a leisurely couple of days before we made our way back to Nantwich on Thursday to moor and be ready to pick up our extra crew.
Friday came and we met our new crew members at the carpark, Rachael's cousin Frankie and his son Josh, and headed back to the boat to cast off for a four day out and back trip. We headed back up the familiar Shropshire Union, back towards Barbridge which was to be our first overnight stop. The weather had closed in in the morning and most of the cruising was done in light rain, arriving in Barbridge around 3:30pm and mooring at the Olde Barbridge Inn. We had heard that the pub served a good meal, so we postponed Rachael's planned roast dinner and decide to test out the pub cuisine. Turned out it was a little on the expensive side but a nice meal.
The weather on Saturday improved a little, it was fine but cool. It was a little more comfortable to be on the tiller today, we even had a chance to provide some tuition on steering the boat. The new crew are currently only authorised for open water and bridges at low speed...2mph or less. It will be a little while before they're let loose on on-coming boats and locks. We headed to our moorings, this time back to Middlewich, our turnaround point. Once again it was a chance to moor about mid-afternoon and head into town to have a look around. The last Saturday of the month was market day and there was a good size street market going on, plenty of handicrafts to look at and food to taste test. We finished the day with a fine roast beef dinner.

Audlem - Church

Audlem - Main Street

Audlem - Lunch at The Shroppie Fly

A short walk to Audlem

Mooring just outside Audlem

New crew under training

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Middlewich to Nantwich

It was a relaxing few days in Middlewich, we're starting to get the hang of taking it easy rather than putting in long days on the tiller.

We managed to get a few things done here, we've been looking for a larger chandlery to pick up some bits and pieces for the boat. I had a shopping list but I mainly needed some bitumen paint to patch up the odd scrapes that seem to appear daily, especially since we had the boat blacked, the scrapes are very obvious. 
I returned back from my chandlery visit and was surprised to see another boat moored behind us displaying an Australian flag in the window, Evelyn and Glyn (NB Lunas) from Adelaide had changed their plans and put in a long day to catch up to us. Our last night in Middlewich was most enjoyable, we went down to The Big Lock Inn with Glyn and Evelyn and had dinner together. We sat on the balcony overlooking The Big Lock and drank and ate while watching other people work the locks for a change.

We got underway from our mooring in Middlewich about 9:00am, heading for moorings just past Venetian Marina, about a two and half hour trip. We chose this spot because we had a couple of firsts to deal with today. The holding tank sensor only starts to read when you have about a week of space left, this was the first issue to deal with. While we were there diesel was at the right price so we filled the tank as well. Unexpectedly we hit the trifecta, we managed to fill our water tank so it turned into about a half hour stop. With only five more minutes to the mooring, we were there for lunch and a free afternoon. So I thought!
Rachael suggested it was a nice afternoon to give one side of Serafina a wash and polish. Off I went with my bucket of water and wash and polish. Fifty seven feet is a long way when you are scrubbing, polishing and buffing dry! Where is Krusty when you need him? We will be moored on the other side of the canal at Nantwich, it will be time then to do the other side of the boat.

We had had a nice sleep in, a late breakfast and were moored in Nantwich around lunchtime. An early mooring in a large town means shopping and there was a lot more here than we have seen since we left Stoke. Time for lunch on the boat before we headed off for a look around town. We managed to find a nice coffee house on a very old street full of Tudor buildings and just sat for a while enjoying the surroundings.

There are always plenty of things to clean so when we returned back to the boat it was brass cleaning time. I guess it will be side washing and polishing day tomorrow!

We will stay here for a few days before we move on along the Shropshire Union canal a little further.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Three Days from the Macclesfield Canal Junction to Middlewich

It's been three busy days since we left our mooring along the Macclesfield canal, the lock tally continues to mount. We have settled in Middlewich for the next couple of days. Our trip count in Serafina, to date:
Locks: 31
Miles: 22
The scenery along the way has been beautiful, the villages have been rather small but quaint but they always seem to have a beautiful old pub. Rode Heath, our second night stop, was no exception. After a busy day working the locks Rachael and I got changed and went over to the pub, The Broughton Arms, right next to our mooring for a few cold drinks to finish the day. The weather on this trip has generally been great, apart from our first day it has been sunshine since then.
We were underway about 9am on day three of the trip and heading for Wheelock, once again prepared for a busy day on the locks. This day was a 14 lock day! Locks slow down the trip considerably, it seems to take around 10 - 15mins to negotiate each lock depending on whether you are the first boat there when another boat has just come up. There is nothing like arriving at a lock and the water is lapping the top of the lock gate just ready to be opened, rather than having to fill the lock first before entering. We continued on to Wheelock arriving too late for a nice mooring beside the park and having to settle for the side of the canal further down, at the back of industrial shed. Wheelock took all of 10 minutes to explore with a few pubs, a fish and chip shop, a convenience store and a very handy Pet Food Super Store.
With time on my side it was an opportunity to inspect the holding (ie poo) tank under our bed for signs of where smells were emanating. Turns out that not only was the Holding Tank Meter not screwed down correctly, with only two of the six screws fastened, but it was under reading as well! Our next priority job is to relieve the holding tank of its contents at the earliest possible time!
Middlewich is a popular destination for boaters, it is an old salt town from Roman times and a busy canal junction. Over the weekend there had been a boat and folk music festival and we expected that moorings would still be at a premium. Our plan was to get away early, knock over the last six locks and get to Middlewich around lunch time. I like it when a good plan comes together! We arrived at Middlewich and at the junction with the Shropshire Union Middlewich Branch canal ready to turn west, there were boats everywhere. We queued for our turn to go up the junction which was blocked after 20 metres by the last lock of the day, we were number two. After negotiating the last lock for the day we managed to find a nice mooring just a 100 metres up the canal.
Middlewich is a larger town than what we have passed through recently so it was a chance to walk the 10 minutes to a larger supermarket and stock up on food. It was also a chance to get to a large chandlery to pick up a few boat bits and pieces, specifically a cover for the flue now that the chimney is removed for summer. Oh, and blue for the loo to help it do what it does.
While I was at the chandlery I mentioned I needed a form printed to renew the boat licence, they told me that the local library could help me out, I didn't think of that. I'm so use to just having things like printers available and fifteen minutes down the road in the car is a long, long walk to buy one.
Tomorrow is a chance to sleep in and relax, I think Rachael has a little shopping trip planned.
Inside the lock waiting for it to empty - this one leeks!

Canalside homes along the way.

Middlewich salt works

That pile of salt should fill a few shakers!

Moored up with the neighbours

Saturday, 14 June 2014

First Day Out Crusin'

Serafina has been cleaned from top to bottom with only a little bit of work to do in the engine bay. I left the engine bay until last because we wanted the engine fully serviced from the start of our cruising so we knew exactly where things stood. Turns out it did need a good service! Every filter was changed and new oil as well. There was also some extra maintenance required on the stern tube bearing that surrounds the propeller shaft, this problem had been picked up by the marine surveyor a few weeks back.
We set off from Festival Park Marina in Stoke-on-Trent around 11:30am heading north along the Trent and Mersey Canal. After around 45 minutes cruising we came to the Harecastle Tunnel, over 2.5 kilometres in length and down to a height of 1.8m in the centre. This tunnel is staffed by a Tunnel Keeper at each end and we managed to arrive as a few boats were exiting the tunnel at our end but then the Tunnel Keeper informed us he would taking lunch for half an hour before we could enter. The tunnel was cold and wet and as advertised, it got quite cosy in the middle. The most important thing was that I remembered to change my sunglasses for clear before entering! The trip through the tunnel took about 45 minutes and being dead straight you seem to be able to see the exit for quite a long time without getting there.
People are quite friendly on the canals and with two other boats moored up behind us also waiting, it was a good time to have a chat. We had planned to moor up after the tunnel, there were quite a few moorings shown on the map. Turns out the people I chatted to had been this way quite a few times and were quite experienced boaters. They advised us that the moorings weren't the best in the world, the kids are regularly quite annoying to boaters.
We took the boaters' advice and turned at the junction to the Macclesfield Canal and found some nice moorings only a mile or so on from the junction with a winding (turning) hole nearby. We sat down for a cup of tea around 4 o'clock and only a minute later as a boat was passing, suddenly their dog leapt through our side hatch, ran along the passageway and out through the front doors...just a quick visit!
Reversing under the lift bridge and out of the marina.

Coming up to the entrance to the Harecastle Tunnel

Moored up and waiting our turn to enter the tunnel.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

We're Nearly Ready To Go Crusin'

Yesterday we picked up Serafina after calling into the boatyard twice. The first time we called in we made the final payment for the boat and got a pick-up time, Serafina had been re-launched earlier this morning and was tied up with one of the technicians working on her. We went off for lunch and had a list of things we needed to pick up from the shops, we had been holding off buying too much because we had nowhere safe to store it.

Serafina was ready around 3:30pm after I spent some time kneeling on the stern with the technician and watching while he drained the water from the diesel tank. That was the last item on the list and my quick estimate is roughly five litres of water pumped out. Better out than going through the engine! I drove the car back to where we planned to moor the boat, approximately three miles away, I was the only driver on the car lease agreement. Once I had dropped the car off I power walked along the canal tow path back the three miles to where Rachael and Serafina were waiting. Rachael is not confident enough to take the boat by herself and 57' is the longest boat we have sailed. I jumped on and we were off, travelling the three miles back to our mooring for the night.

There was plenty of time to get organised for the evening, it doesn't get dark here until 10:30pm at least. The marina was all locked up when we got back, it had closed early! We moored up just outside ready to go under the lift bridge and into the marina in the morning. We had planned to go to a local marina to get a couple of additional maintenance items done and give the boat a good clean. I don't think Serafina has been used for quite a while, at least the last two months that we know of. Additionally, we need to get to know how to operate the boat properly, there are systems on the boat that we have never seen nor operated before.

Tonight we are moored up in the marina, hooked up to shore power and charging up the batteries. There is lots of cleaning going on, we have been shopping and loaded up the cupboards and the fridge with food ready for cruising. After dinner we cleaned all the windows and finished off by feeding the ducks through the hatch on the side of the boat.

Tomorrow we hand back the hire car so it is the boat or walk from then on!

Monday, 9 June 2014

A Weekend in Warwickshire

We left on Saturday morning to go down to Warwickshire for the weekend, we had booked a hotel in Honiley, reminded me of the song 'Puff the Magic Dragon'. We planned to do a little shopping, there were still things required for the boat, Rachael had quite a substantial list, topped by a new television.

It was only an hour and half drive south to Warwick. We arrived about two o'clock after calling into the boat broker to pay some more money and to make sure they were on track to do some maintenance over the weekend. We wandered through the shopping streets and markets of Warwick while admiring the old buildings. A sign caught Rachael's eye, afternoon tea in a 16th century building that was once a hospital and now a quaint tea house. We spent a nice hour eating scones, jam and clotted cream while sipping tea in beautiful surrounds. It was getting late so we headed off to our accommodation for the weekend.

Honiley was only a short drive and the hotel was really the only building of note in the village, there were only a couple of houses, a pub and several farms. On the way I noticed a sign to Hatton Locks and recalled there were quite a considerable number of locks there. I knew Rachael, being the on-board lock operator, would love to see one of the places we will surely sail. It was very busy with cars and people, the canals are always popular with walkers, joggers, riders and dogs. There was a narrow boat coming up the lock flight and I asked the skipper how many locks he had come through, we were at number seventeen in the flight with four left to go! It was worth seeing Rachael's face, then she said she will have learnt to sail the boat by the time we get to Hatton.

Sunday we spent the day exploring several towns and continuing our hunt for items off Rachael's list. We explored Solihull and an old Roman city Leamington Spa.

On Monday we packed up the suitcases after a nice relaxing weekend and headed off for some final sightseeing, this time we made a bee-line back to Kenilworth Castle. The first part of this castle, The Keep was built in 1120 by Geoffrey de Clinton, it was the favoured residence of Lancastrian kings and Elizabeth 1 spent some time there. It was extended several times over hundreds of years into the several buildings that are there today, surrounded by a fourteen foot thick wall.

It was back to Stoke-on-Trent Monday afternoon and straight to the broker to ensure the maintenance was close to finished and ready for launch on Tuesday. No such luck! Hull blacking incomplete, no new anodes, in fact nothing was done on the weekend at all! At three o'clock there was a flurry of action as the head mechanic realised the boat was going tomorrow fixed or not. The items that needed doing were basic safety items and to be honest, I could do them myself but the previous owner was paying to have it done.

Tomorrow is Tuesday here, the day we take over the reins of Serafina.

Our hotel in Honiley

Kenilworth Castle

Saturday, 7 June 2014

A Trip to the Black Country

The day started with what has become the 'norm', a trip to Longport Wharf to check on their progress with the boat. Progress is slow on two fronts, first moving money from Australia to the UK takes time and organising maintenance on the boat is also time consuming. However, I am sure there are competing priorities for the maintenance staff. We have agreed that the re-launch date for Serafina will be Tuesday morning, all maintenance completed and all money paid! Although, looking out the window today there is a dark sky and a cracking thunderstorm has just passed.

Yesterday I had some bits and pieces to get from B & Q, the UK equivalent to Bunnings. The Brits have been thinking about the whole retail thing since they put a Mothercare right next door. I went one way and Rachael went the other, she did a little more shopping for Hollie and Ruby our little granddaughters. They will not need clothes for a year, at least!

Late morning we took off for Wolverhampton to the Black Country Living Museum. It's an open air themed museum with working shops in a range of different streets from different eras. The eras ranged from the 18th century through to early 20th century. Set on 26 acres, I found it much like Sovereign Hill in Ballarat. It's a long time since Rachael and I have eaten fish and chips out of a paper cone and had a beer in an old 1800's style pub with wood shavings on the floor.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Now We Own a Boat!

We had headed off back up to Scotland to spend sometime with family and give us a break from plastic food and the inside of a hotel room. Home cooked meals taste so much better than the pub equivalent and there's nothing like a Scottish breakfast, sets you up for the day! Puts a little weight on you too!

It probably was a little pre-mature but Rachael did a little shopping for bits and pieces for the boat, it was like setting up house. She picked up cutlery, crockery, pots, pans and cooking utensils as well, to name just a few items.

It felt like quite a wait for the marine surveyor's report to get to us but it did turn up Saturday evening. We forwarded a summary to the boat broker with instructions to pass the information on to the owner, the broker also rang me about the boat on Saturday and said he would meet us at the boat yard on Monday. We did the 3.5 hour drive down to Stoke on Monday and straight to the boat yard to find only the receptionist working on Mondays...welcome to boating! Back on Tuesday to the boat yard once again to spell out our requirements only to find the email had yet to be read...very slow progress.

While the broker was carrying out our instructions from the surveyor's report we went off for a walk around the lake nearby to find a few ducks sunning themselves with their chicks. Wednesday we were back with the broker and then off to the Anderton Boat Lift. It was built by Edwin Clark in 1875 to lift cargo boats the 50 feet from the River Weaver up to the Trent and Mersey Canal. If you would like to read more, try here. The visit to Anderton was two fold since we are still looking for a marina to leave the boat while we are back in Australia for the summer. There was a marina near here that we were interested in.

Today (Wednesday) was a big day! We received an early morning phone call to let us know that the previous owners of Serafina had agreed to a reduced price in exchange for the various items that needed attention on the boat. We now own a 57' narrow boat. The broker now wanted to see the colour of our money, the boat is ours! We went over to the brokerage once again to ensure we were explicit with our requirements for OUR boat. We spent the rest of the day visiting another marina and had lunch with some friends on their boat over near Rugby. It turned out to be a long but exciting day, pouring rain all day, non-stop.

We expect to be living on the boat by this weekend, whether on the water or on dry land but that's a post for another day soon.