Christmas and Boat Blacking

  We stayed for two nights in the end , 10th and 11th December, on the secure moorings at Bournville and enjoyed reacquainting ourselves with the area – and it is a lovely area. Bournville Village looked very festive dressed in its Christmas costume!

We left Bournville on Sunday, 12th December and cruised for about 4 ½ miles, traversing the Wast Hill Tunnel on the way, and stopped in Hopwood. Wast Hill Tunnel is amongst the longer ones on the system at over 2700 yards, but it is very wide and roomy so is quite easy to steer through. We stayed in Hopwood for two nights.

On Tuesday, 14th December, we cruised for 5 ½ miles, passing through another two, shorter tunnels on the way. It certainly is tunnel country round here!! One of the tunnels was a bit more interesting in that the walls are hewn from natural rock and are not brick or concrete lined, as most tunnels are. It is a two way tunnel and there was plenty of evidence of boats leaving some of their paint behind on the irregular walls as they pass other boats – we were pleased we didn’t meet anything coming the other way in there! We arrived at Tardebigge top lock, turned the boat (as we weren’t venturing down the locks on this occasion) and reversed up a short distance onto our mooring. We had organised a Tesco delivery for the morning of Wednesday, 15th, so we pushed the boat over onto the service point to await our delivery, which duly arrived – the driver also lived on a boat so knew the score! It was also Sal’s third “Gotcha Day” so we celebrated with some extra special treats and a home made liver cake. She deserved it! We enjoyed our couple of days at Tardebigge; it is an attractive rural area and the walk down the locks was very scenic, although we didn’t walk the whole flight – there are 30 locks so they go on for quite a distance!

On Thursday, 16th, we started our return journey back to our Christmas mooring location. We hadn’t stopped in Alvechurch on the way down to Tardebigge, so we cruised for 3 ½ miles and stopped in Alvechurch this time. (Incidentally, we had hired a boat from here many years ago when the boys were small.) We only stayed for one night, but Tony did visit the Chandlery to get some more servicing supplies and I walked into the very attractive village to post our Christmas cards and to pick up our chippy tea! It was so pretty with the many Christmas lights adorning the houses!

On Friday, we continued our journey and stopped in Hopwood again. Sal and I popped into the Raw Pet Food factory unit on the nearby industrial estate and bought a bag of tasty dried treats for her whilst out on our walk – an extra treat for her third Gotcha Day!

On Saturday, we cruised back to Bournville, happily spotting a space on the secure moorings. Just after mooring up, though, we found we had a problem with our loo! We decided that we ought to carry on our journey, another four miles, and get into Birmingham  and near a CRT service point, where there was a toilet block. We arrived just as it was getting dark and stopped near the service block on Cambrian Wharf. Without going into too much detail (😂💩💩🤣!) we decided that the toilet needed disassembling to sort it out, so Tony spent most of the day on Sunday taking apart and cleaning the parts of the toilet. This confirmed that the problem was purely an encrustation of limescale, so once descaled and cleaned, it was all working as it should again. Phew! We enjoyed our stay at Cambrian Wharf, it was a little quieter than Gas Street and felt perfectly safe and we would be happy to stay there again.

We left Birmingham on Monday, 20th December, making our way out of the city centre, heading up towards and through the Netherton Tunnel and mooring at Bumblehole again. We had attempted, over the last couple of days, to get some Covid tests so that we could check we were ok before meeting up with the family at Christmas, but were having difficulty in finding any, so Tony, on Tuesday, walked a four mile round trip to go and get some from the only pharmacy in the area that had any stock! Happily, we were both Covid free on testing. 

On Wednesday, 22nd, after a quick supermarket trip to tide us over the last couple of days before our Christmas trip south, we set off and cruised to Hawne Basin, going through Gosty Hill Tunnel again. We moored up in our spot – we’d arrived and was ready for Christmas! 

We had a marvellous Christmas – busy and packed with family and friends! We arrived back to a very cold boat on the 28th December, but we unpacked the car and lit the fire and we were soon warm and toasty! 

On 31st December, we were up early ready for going into the dry dock. Tony steered the boat onto the submerged platform which was then slowly winched up the ramp until it – and the boat – were out of the water and sitting level and secure in the dry dock. We were pleased that we had moved anything that might fall over as the angle of the boat was pretty steep! Once it was all secured in place, we both went off for a dog walk whilst the boat was jet washed – all part of the dry docking fee. Alan, the chap doing the blacking for us, arrived at lunchtime and prepared the boat for painting by grinding off any loose paint, then the first coat of bitumen was applied. Tony and I had elected to paint the top part of the sides of the hull between the rubbing strake and up to the gunwales, so over the next few days, working in between Alan painting, we set about sanding and painting those. Alan would have prepared and painted those for us, too, but it gave us something to do whilst we were hanging around, so we thought we’d have a go ourselves! We also repainted the tunnel bands (the coloured stripes at the back under the tiller arm) as it’s far easier to do those whilst the boat is out of the water! For the first few days the weather was definitely on our side – it was supposed to have been the warmest new year since records began, but by 3rd & 4th Jan, it had turned much colder! Happily, we had all the paint on the boat by the end of the 3rd Jan so with several days for it to dry and cure properly, it was not a problem at all! We would’ve liked to have touched up parts of the black gloss paint of the shell, but it was too cold for that – gloss really doesn’t like cold weather – so that’s a job for another, warmer day. Sal, as usual, was an absolute star whilst in the dry dock. She climbed the strange steps with hardly a moment’s hesitation and didn’t mind sitting in her favourite spot on the back deck – even though it was about 6 feet up in the air! We did various other little jobs, too, Tony polished up some of the fittings and refurbished the button fenders and we cleaned the oven – YAY!! It had worked its way to the top of the list! Also, one of the guys in the Basin was an ex boat builder so was able to weld, and we got him to repair one of the hinges on the bow locker cover. Unfortunately, in turning off one of the isolation switches on the electrical system, it stopped working, so when it came to turning it on again we had no power from the inverter. A Facebook post, a telephone consultation, a lot of head scratching and systematic fault-finding resulted in establishing what the problem was and we were able to do a temporary fix. 

On Friday, 7th Jan, we had another early start and the process of dry-docking was reversed. It was good to have the boat back in the water again! We decided to stay in the basin for another couple of nights as, fortunately, and with a healthy dose of good luck – a very good marine engineer (who happened to be refurbishing a boat on site!) was able to order a new switch and fit it for us, so we moored up again to await the arrival of the part. Happily, it arrived very quickly, and was fitted equally quickly so we are all working normally again! We  stayed there until Monday morning, and then were on our way again. We  thoroughly enjoyed our stay there – everyone is so friendly; it is a real little community. We even joined the residents for one of their regular Sunday roasts in the club house! If we are ever ready to hang up our windlass and want to stay permanently moored in one place, this would be very near the top of our “ideal” list! They have about a five year waiting list, so maybe we ought to put our names down now?!

So, when we leave here, we are working our way northwards again – very slowly! There are still winter stoppages in effect, but we have a vague plan to keep us cruising and out of mischief for the next couple of months until the spring.