Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Turn right at Fradley

The journey to Fradley was punctuated with occasional moments of excitement – mostly in the form of boats coming in the opposite direction through a bridge on a blind corner. All of those were negotiated successfully – two of them immediately going into reverse and beckoning us through. The narrows just out of Rugeley held the promise of interest.

But nothing was coming in the other direction. Shortly after we crossed with NB Goldberry, and I thought for a moment I'd added to my list of Tolkien-themed boat names.

No such luck – this boat or another identically named is already on the list.

At Fradley the strength of the wind made pulling up in a tight space on the lock mooring rather challenging. Especially as the gongoozlers were still out enjoying the fun.

The chappie on the bridge had a good vantage point.

But we'd seen him tying up his own boat shortly before, so I'm not sure what he was doing, looking on at the foibles of others. Nothing to see here, sir…

So we came down the first two of the Fradley locks and, for the first time, turned right at the junction.

Just opposite "The Mucky Duck" as it's known by beer and boating aficionados.

It was on this final leg of today's journey that we had our final moment of excitement, as a 70ft working boat towing a 70ft butty came towards us quite fast in a curvy section, trying to cope with the shallowness of the water. Unfortunately such events require too much activity to even think about getting the camera out, so you'll have to take my word for it.

It was nice to tie up shortly after in a spot that's quiet in spite of the proximity of the A38, get the washing out on the whirligig and have a restorative cuppa.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Brief encounters, but no shopping

Lazy start, hot day, stop with friends, encounter with some others – doesn't make for as many miles as intended, but it was a good day. We called in at The Taft, where Peter and Julie Thorn have NB Maid of Oak moored at the bottom of their garden, just along from the Freeman's Diesel Boat, near Wolseley Bridge. Peter was out, but we had coffee and cake with Julie.

We left to get down to Rugeley for some shopping, but found ourselves passing a boat with an Antipodean flag on the cratch. I called out to ask how many stars it had – you don't want to mix up the nationalities of our upside-down cousins. It was only as we got to the stern that my brain clicked into gear and I realised this was Chris and Sharon on NB Krystyna, whom we'd met on the River Avon three years ago. So we pulled over and walked back to say hello. Chris was busy varnishing the cratch board.

That was a good catch-up. We talked electrics and grandchildren and their future plans (as I think we did in 2013). They still spend half the year in the UK and our winter back in New Zealand.

By the time we got to Rugeley it was was time for an extremely late lunch, and while my best beloved was preparing that I got involved in following England's one-day cricket international against Pakistan. It was absolutely gripping, and that, coupled with my best beloved dropping off into a post-prandial snooze, meant we didn't even think about going shopping until after the Fruit & Veg shop had closed. We wandered up to Morrisons anyway, to dump some rubbish, but decided we'd simply go back and do the whole job in the morning.

Then it will be on to Fradley. I'd wondered how we'd make the journey to Fazeley last four days. As it happens, it's turning out just fine!

Monday, 29 August 2016

Under way

When I began to read boating blogs, I came across the one by Peter, aka "Old Salt", of NB Futurest. It was one of the more enjoyable and a bit quirky. I subscribed and read all his posts, including those written by the boat! Sadly Peter died at the end of last year – who wrote the final post I don't know, but it struck just the right tone. Imagine my surprise when, as we were mooring up this afternoon, Futurest came by – I'd never seen her when Peter was the owner. We had time to exchange just a few words with the new owners as they disappeared off towards Great Haywood.

It was good to be under way again, though we had time first for a good natter with our neighbours Steve (on one side) and Adrian and Dawn (on the other). The prevailing wind at the marina makes getting away from our jetty very difficult when it's breezy, blowing the bows in the wrong direction and pushing Erin Mae onto the reeds. Today I thumbed my nose at the wind by reversing out and up the channel, and putting to positive use what it was doing to the bows. The wind went into a sulk and quietened down and we haven't seen much more of her all day.

What we saw too much of was the queue at Colwich Lock.

I think we were 6th to go down. On the way there I remembered to slow down for a photo of the cottage you pass shortly before.

The cottage itself is nothing special (except, I suppose, for those to whom it is "home"). It's the plaques on the wall that have made us smile ever since we first saw them four years ago.

We've come on to Wolseley Bridge, and are tied up a little closer to the traffic than we would prefer.

When we've moored here before, we've usually been the other side of the bridge. But it's brighter here and we're conscious these days of pampering the solar panel.

So that's the first bit of cruising since the middle of July. It's good to be back.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Getting ready

This morning we drove into Stafford to worship with the folk at Wildwood church, only to find nobody at the primary school where they meet. They've obviously gone somewhere together this weekend, though we didn't find anything about it on their website. So we had a lazy Sunday morning in Stafford, coffee at Nero's, lunch at the Hollybush in Salt, and back to Erin Mae for the remains of the Grand Prix.

Then it was time to get ready to travel. As usual when bringing up stuff from home, we have too much in the larder and have to find room for tins and bottles of stuff. Also, since we're planning to be out until the middle of October we've needed to ensure we've got warm clothes as well as summer ones. Erin Mae needed a good clean, especially getting rid of all the spiders and their webs – hopefully they won't all be back in place by tomorrow morning when we leave.

One more night in the marina, and then we're off. Down to Fazeley for next weekend, but we've given little thought to where after that. We'd thought about cruising to Pelsall on the BCN this summer, but since we went there yesterday in the car for the IWA festival, that idea might just not seem so attractive. Also, we'd intended getting a 1000 hour engine service at Oxley Marine, but going to Fazeley first is entirely the wrong direction. Just as well the future of the country doesn't depend on the decisions we make.

Saturday, 27 August 2016


Today we drove across to the IWA waterways festival at Pelsall.

We knew Halfie and Jan would be there on Jubilee.

We found him in typical Halfie volunteer mode!

Then we walked down the line to find Captain Ahab, Wand'ring Bark and the Jam Butty.

Trade was proceeding well and, with some Christmas present ideas in mind, we made our own contribution to his pension fund. Up and over the bridge were the working boats Leo and Scorpio making a colourful splash, and welcoming all on board to show what a traditional working family's cabin would have been like.

Back at the BCF tent after lunch we chatted with Jan and some others, and then the heavens opened. Half an hour spent getting rid of the lakes of rain collecting on the tent roof was a precarious business – a thoroughly saturated shirt the result.

As we drove away the slope up to the exit was already looking muddy. Hope that's the last deluge, or some of the drivers might not be going home just yet!

Friday, 26 August 2016


Erin Mae snorted as we came aboard tonight. "Where have you been? Thought you'd abandoned me." Of course, once we'd put up a picture of the new grandson she mellowed a bit. "Reminds me of me when my paint was new."

Ah – paint. That was what this summer's boating was going to be about – until grandson intervened. I was supposed to overcome my trepidation and interact seriously with masking tape, primer, undercoat and topcoat. Not to mention various grades of abrasive. All between periods of cruising to locations which encouraged this activity, and prayers for both the weather that would make it possible and the existence of an exclusion zone for dust, pollen, seeds and insects.

Well, fortunately for my nerves, we still have plans. IWA festival tomorrow (by car). Various things on Sunday, including getting Erin Mae ship-shape. Travelling on Monday in a Fazeley direction, in preparation for a BCF bash next weekend. With any luck I can put off all thoughts of brushes and thinners until at least Monday week.

Sunday, 14 August 2016


Born on Wednesday. His name is Bram, derived from Abraham. The original Abraham was to be a blessing to the nations, and that's what was in the mind of this babe's parents. His proud grandparents heartily approve.

And yes, he does have arms and legs somewhere under those swaddling clothes!

Thursday, 11 August 2016

It's a boy!

Our 4th grandchild, the first child for Nº 3 son and wife, was born at 6 p.m. last night, weighing in at 8lb 6oz (3.86 Kg in new money). It seemed to me quite a complicated labour but my best beloved, who was a midwife in one of her previous incarnations, assures me that it was not unusual for a first pregnancy. Mother and babe are apparently doing well and they're expecting to go home today.

We don't yet know what his name is. Erin Mae would no doubt suggest something exceedingly Irish but, since we travelled south on Tuesday, we haven't had the opportunity of asking her and by the time we get back it will be too late!

We're looking forward to making the acquaintance of the little fella before we pick up on our summer's boating plans. Meanwhile we came down to the Cliff House at Barton-on-Sea this morning for a celebratory coffee.

Thursday, 4 August 2016


We're sort of betwixt and between. We're back on Erin Mae, but we don't want to cruise because our 4th grandchild (the 1st for Noº 3 son and wife) is expected next week, and we'd like to be able to visit when the big event finally takes place. We originally thought we'd spend a few days starting on some of the painting jobs that scare me, for which we'd need to move out of the marina, but the weather's not good enough for that. In addition, there's some stuff from Amazon arriving at the local Post Office, according a rather extended and inconvenient timetable.

Meanwhile we've sent our new 12 volt TV back to Avtex. While the Norwegian grandchildren were here we watched a Charlie Brown DVD with them, using the built-in player. After an hour it stopped, and nothing I could do would get it going again or eject the disc. Avtex have been very helpful, picked up the TV from the marina yesterday, and have told us it will be coming back, fixed, tomorrow. That's pretty good service, but it's just one more metaphorical mooring line.

So it's been a very quiet day. I walked up to the farm shop to get a bit of broccoli while it drizzled on me, but it's mostly been reading and keeping an eye on the Test Match. Perhaps we'll get a walk tomorrow, provided the promised weather holds and DPD don't take until 5 p.m. to return the TV.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016


Getting back up to Erin Mae yesterday was quite a business – sometimes it seems as though we shift half our worldly goods between the New Forest and Staffordshire. This time there was room for the guitar, the piano accordion and my tools – on the last occasion we had two grandchildren and their luggage, so had to be rather selective.

Mark and Cheryl had kindly left us a nice bottle of something red, and one or two other, very acceptable goodies. And Amelia had done this for us.

We think it's absolutely stunning – and she didn't even know that kingfishers rank up there with puffins among my best beloved's favourites.

Thanks, Amelia, you're a star!

Monday, 1 August 2016

Safe and sound

Our friends Mark and Cheryl have reported that Erin Mae is back in dock, and all's well! They seem to have had a great time.

They got far further than we would have done – down to the Severn at Stourport and back, in the space of nine days. And they even had time to call in (twice!) at Jaspers in Penkridge for goodies. I suppose when you have the use of a boat for a limited time, you just cruise. Keeps the kids out of trouble.

Interesting, especially in the light of my Pennies from heaven post, was their diesel consumption. They logged 64 hours travel time, and consumed 58.6 litres. Even with the natural speed limits on this stretch (and as careful borrowers) under 1 litre / hour is pretty impressive. Perhaps Erin Mae's engine is improving with age (don't we all?).