Hen Do, Loft Sorting and Boat Sitting

  Well, that was a busy couple of weeks!

On the 17th April, we moved from our rural mooring just outside Shardlow, continuing our journey towards  Burton on Trent, mooring in Willington and a couple of other spots en route. The locks on this section seemed particularly fierce – they are deep, double locks and need to be filled slowly and carefully so as not to cause the boat to thrash and bump about! There was lots of boat movement, with it being Easter weekend, so we did manage to share the locks once or twice, which helped a lot! We arrived at Shobnall Fields in Burton on Trent on the 19th April, so that I could go on the train to Mel’s Hen Do/30th birthday celebration, leaving by train on Thursday 21st April.

My journey to the Hen Do both ways was uneventful, for which I was very grateful! I returned to the boat on Sunday, 24th, having had a fab weekend! Tony and Sal had whiled away the days quite happily, although Tony was keen to be moving again!

On Monday, 25th, then, we continued our journey towards Fradley. We had arranged with Dave and Mel that we would move into their house for a week whilst they were away on holiday, so that we could sort out our possessions stored in their loft – which sorely needed doing! Jim and Livv had agreed to boat sit whilst we did this, which gave them a bit of a  holiday on the boat, but which also meant that we didn’t have to find a marina. We were able to borrow Jim’s car, too, saving him from having to find somewhere safe to park it whilst they were cruising – a win, win situation all round! We had decided that Fradley would be a good place to meet, so we worked our way towards there over the next few days. We were lucky enough to get a mooring right beside the car park at Fradley Junction, so on Sunday, 1st May, Jim, Livv, and Zula the dog duly arrived. We unloaded and reloaded the car before they had a bit of an instruction session. I then accompanied them to Alrewas whilst Tony and Sal drove ahead to suss out the moorings. Zula was a little unsure to start with but was soon jumping on and off like a pro! After we had seen them safely moored, we set off to drive south, leaving them to a few days of adventure!

Our week was very tiring but, as well as completing our tidying and sorting task, we managed to catch up with a few friends and family, so it could be declared both enjoyable and a success! We returned to the boat on Saturday, 7th May, now moored in Shardlow, right outside a pub. We unloaded and reloaded the car again and Jim, Livv and Zula made the return journey south. They had enjoyed their week! A blog post  from Livv below…….

Today, we had to move as we were on a 2 day mooring, so cruised for only a very short distance. We were going to stay for a second night tomorrow but we have been inundated with flies today, something to do with the nearby sewage works? Even the fly nets couldn’t keep the little critters out!!

Now we continue our adventures, heading northwards on the River Trent, taking in the Erewash Canal on the way. Exciting times to come!

Jim and Livv’s Boat Sitting Week, 1st to 7th May 2022. (As written by Livv)

Sunday.

The day arrived for us to begin our boat sitting week! We travelled up from Southampton to Fradley Junction to meet Jan and Tony for boat handover and get shown a few important bits to help us on our way. There was a lot to take in, but thankfully we have been fully prepped with an idiots NB Sanguine boating guide (courtesy of Jan) 5 pages of how to’s … front and back! Once we had lugged all our bits onto the boat and loaded the car with Jan & Tony’s belongings, Tony took Sally off for a walk so we could get our pup Zula acquainted with the boat and have a short trip to Alrewas to get us used to the boat again. It’s been a while since we came to visit and Zula has not been on the boat before! Once Jan & Tony headed off for the week on land, we popped into the town to get some fish and chips for dinner. After we got to the town we discovered the chip shop was shut! We didn’t come equipped with enough treats for Zu for a pub dinner so grabbed a few bits from the Co-op and headed back to the boat. Once back at the boat after we got the oven lit, Jim popped for a quick dog walk and I unpacked and put a pizza in. Jim got back and tried to be helpful and get the pizza out … but struggled with the boat juggle with trying to close doors and move about and dropped the pizza! Luckily I bought 2 so we had a spare to put in. We all felt pretty pooped after the drive and getting used to things so had an early night ready to head out to cruise on our own in the morning.

Monday.

Once Jim had done the morning boat checks we set off for the water point nearby to fill up, it was only about 100 yards away. We pulled in and tied off and hunted for the hose and keys. 150 litres later, we were on our way. It wasn’t long to the first lock so I carried on walking on the towpath. I saw a man with a gorgeous Rottweiler and got talking to him; he’d just got off the Iona in Southampton after a cruise to Norway – funnily enough, Jim had dropped Mel and Dave off at the same boat on Saturday morning, he must have got off not long beforehand! Such a small world, we could have given him a lift home! We did three locks in total over the day. With the first lock, I helped a partially sighted lady (with a lovely guide dog) to fill the lock ready for them as they were right behind us and only one boat fit into the lock. She insisted that I ran down to catch up with Jim on to the boat, though, and not wait to help open the gates for them. They then caught up with us on the next lock, but there was a boat coming up and we had already got ourselves on the lock landing. Seeing as we were already tied off,  Jim said to them to carry on past us and have the lock to avoid them having to stop. They thanked us and set off. Luckily another boat was coming up, so the lock still ended up in our favour. When we caught up with them again on the next lock, they kindly pre filled it for us so by the time I got, there I just needed to open the gates. I was a little confused as I couldn’t see a boat coming but then realised what they had done. Jim steered the boat all day whilst I did all the hard work operating the locks. Zula wasn’t enjoying it too much though as she wanted to be with both of us so was constantly jumping off and running to me and then back to Jim. She definitely got her steps in! We passed a marina and Starbucks that we had previously stopped at in the car when we had a trip to Alton for Tony’s 60th and Rhys’ 30th back in February. It was quite busy as it was a bank holiday so we didn’t have a chance to tie off for a coffee. We checked the map and saw that Jan and Tony had moored near the Branston water park a couple of times previously so thought it would be a good spot for our first attempt to tie off on our own and get settled for the night. We opted for take away for dinner so we didn’t need to cook (think Jim was scared to drop dinner again). Jim went out for a walk with Zu and left me to do some studying in peace for a bit. When he got back he said he had found a small parade of shops with a new Indian restaurant that had amazing reviews so after a few drinks we locked up (triple checked the boat was secure) and headed off. Jim popped in to order the take away while I looked after Zu, and we swapped when I popped into Co-op again for more drinks and snacks, before Jim went back into the restaurant to pick up the food. Just a short walk back to the boat and we plated up the food. It smelt and tasted incredible! It is honestly the best Indian I have ever had! The flavour was so good and had lots of onions, veggies, almonds and seasonings, rather than just sauce. Shame it’s so far away! Even better it was £23 for soo much food, half the price of our local takeaway! I couldn’t stay awake too much longer though, didn’t even finish my bottle of Prosecco before I fell asleep snuggled up with Zu.

Tuesday.

We had an early start as I fell asleep so early the night before. I was bored studying, so I got Zula super excited to wake up Jim (he won’t get mad if she wakes him up!) We saw a few doggies in their beds on the roof when we cruised on Monday, so thought we would try it, although being a Ridgeback, she’s a little bit larger than the Cockapoos and teeny fluffy dogs that we saw! But surprisingly she took to it, ‘like a duck to water’ (I think that’s the saying). She was too scared to jump off so just sat and laid down whilst we fed her treats, like she was a roman emperor! We had it in our heads that we were going to stop in Burton on Trent, but I read the canal map book wrong (it goes backwards… I still have no idea why?!) so we ended up going past loads of lovely spots, meaning we were ahead of ourselves when we got to Willington. I was desperate to cheat on my veggie diet and wanted a proper beef burger, so we found a prime spot, a short walk from a pub, and moored up, Jim held the centre line whilst I tied us off … I’m always doing the hard work! Jim just got to stand there and look pretty! We headed to the pub, it was really confusing as you needed an app to order, and then you had to register for an account. So I gave up and just went inside! Treated myself to an espresso martini too, although it was only out of a tap so watered down and not worth the price to be honest, but never mind. The burger hit the spot though! I realised that I spent the days thinking about when I was going to eat and what my next meal would be, I’d been worrying that I wouldn’t be able to get to a shop, but we found another Co-op! Jim decided he wanted sausages and mash for one of our dinners so I picked up some more bits, including more kindling, coal and kiln dried logs as I like the fire nice and hot as I hate feeling chilly.

Wednesday. 

The weather was set to be rubbish in the morning, so I left Jim to sleep in with Zu and cracked on with studying again. There was a break in the rain around lunchtime, so got Jim up so we could move away from the train line so it was a bit quieter for the evening (it was a busy line especially with really long freight trains in the evening). We decided we would stay at the next place we moored at for a couple of nights so wanted to try to have a nice rural spot. Literally as soon as Jim had done the engine checks, it started drizzling! As we had it in our heads we were moving, we waited a few minutes for the next break in the clouds before we headed off, it wasn’t long after maybe 10 minutes or so. I have no idea how but I managed to get a bungee cord loose from the roof and it pinged across the canal and we lost it; I’m surprised I lasted this long without losing something to be honest. But I popped on Amazon and ordered another to be delivered to Mel and Dave’s so Jan & Tony could bring it back with them. Once we finally set off, the sun lasted all of 20 mins before the rain started again. Luckily I found a brolly inside, but I kept us in good spirits saying to Jim “we’re proper boaters now, it’s all part of the fun!” Fortunately the rain eased off just as we got to the first BIG lock. There were already a couple of boats heading into the lock so we tied off at the lock landing. They were both on their own, so we helped them with the locks, and Zula just sniffed about. They then set off on their way and Jim got back on the boat (looking pretty again) whilst I worked my muscles on the gates. I think I must have looked like I was struggling as a gentleman appeared out of nowhere and helped me out. He insisted that I caught up with Jim on the boat and left him to close the gates. I kept saying “no, it’s okay, I can do it, don’t worry”; but he insisted, so I ran off after Jim. Naughty Jim didn’t even try to stop for me just said … “you can jump on from there, be quick!” So I jumped the gap and got onto the boat and looked back and waved thanks to the gentleman as he closed the gates. We carried on and were checking the signal on the Wi-Fi/4g to make sure we had decent signal for a couple of nights so I had good access to my Uni work (it’s all online). We found an amazing signal near a boater pub stop – unfortunately we got a bit past it after deciding whether we wanted to moor there as it was only signed as ‘overnight mooring’. Then the heavens opened again, so Jim tried to reverse but it wasn’t so easy so we gave up and carried on. We then found a nice spot, opposite a farm in Swarkestone. I jumped off, pulled the boat in and then gave Jim the centre line to hold again – to look pretty again – whilst I tied us off (to be honest I was quite enjoying it). Jim went off for a walk with Zula and left me to do some studying. When he came back we cooked a lovely “dine in for two” meal from Waitrose – starter, main and sides for £10! Bargain! We then snuggled up to catch up on Gogglebox and BGT before bed.

Thursday 

I left Jim to have a lay in again so I could do some morning studying. I let Zu run out for wee (she has taken so well to being on the boat and won’t run far from us). She went back to bed for snuggles with Jim. At about Lunch time, I woke Jim up from his beauty sleep. We realised we had underestimated how much food and Rum we had gone through so found that there was an Aldi about 30 minutes walk away. As we had nothing else to do that day, we decided to go for a wander and pick up more supplies. It wasn’t too far and a lovely walk past an old stretch of disused canal. It was quite an easy walk even with a bag of shopping as Zu was off lead most of the way back. Once we got back to the boat Jim pottered about sweeping the pollen off the roof, probably not a great idea stopping under the trees! It was lovely watching the world go by and seeing the cows in the field opposite keep wandering into the canal, it made it look so shallow at the edge! The day went surprisingly quickly and before we knew it, it was dinner time. Whilst cooking we had a call from Jan & Tony as a warning light had gone on in Jim’s car (typical Land Rover). After a quick Google, we figured out how to switch it off and they went on their way again to see Rhys and Ash. We had an evening sitting on the roof having a few drinks, as the weather was nice, before having a FaceTime catch up with Jan & Tony and Rhys & Ash. We just had a quick catch up as their dinner was ready. We put on a movie before bed (so glad we had a good signal this time, no buffering!)

Friday

Today was the last day for us to do any cruising (feeling a bit sad, it’s been so much fun). We needed to head into Sharlow for a boat/car swap on Saturday. We also knew there was a water point nearby so decided to fill up again to see how much we had used. There was a narrow part of the canal just before the water point and a boat was moored in an awkward place so it was hard to get a good spot for the hose to reach the boat and tie off. We had a chat with a lovely lady who asked us to fill up her water bottle, then, 200L of water later (we’d used more than we thought!) we packed up and untied to head off again. As I got the rope off the front and was folding it up, I stupidly let go of the nappy pin thing and it plopped in the edge of the canal! Jim gave me the fishing net and with a sigh of relief, and it didn’t take me long at all, I hooked it out! (Won’t be doing that again!) We only had one lock to do before a long stretch till the next, so once we went through the lock,  I headed inside to make some lunch for us. The bridges were tight to navigate but Jim managed it like a pro! We got to the next lock and saw the Canal and River Trust had just finished painting it and drove off. I filled the lock and Jim got in okay, but when it came to releasing the water, the paddle got stuck on the wood (not sure if it was sticking on the fresh paint or hadn’t been put together properly) and I kept having to bash it down as the lock was filling as quickly as it was emptying! The gates were really heavy too and I struggled to open them, thankfully another boater was walking past and helped me (not sure I would have managed without him!). Before we knew it it was 4:30pm and we were in Sharlow. Tony said to commit to a spot as it can get busy at the weekends. (He wasn’t wrong!) We tied off and had a quick walk along the towpath and saw a spot opposite a pub further up, next to a road with parking (perfect to unload tomorrow) so we headed back to the boat to move before another boat got the space. We tied off, it was a bit more rocky than the other spots as we were on the bend, but we managed to get it as tight in as possible. We popped in to the pub for a cold drink and saw that they did chippy Friday, so decided to sort ourselves out, give Zu a walk and visit the pub for dinner. The pub was cute, with board games painted on the tables, it was rammed, though, and we were lucky to get a table. They had live music until 10pm. We were back on the boat not long after our food, but surprisingly it wasn’t too noisy. The signal was awful though! We tried to watch Netflix, but despite all our devices being on different networks we only just managed to get 3G, so I started to sort out our packing and get the boat cleaned before bed. 

Saturday 

Home time today. We woke up late as we weren’t in any rush as Jan & Tony said they would be with us by about 1pm. Jim took Zula out for a bit whilst I finished packing. Jim cooked us a fry up with the last bit of food we had and then went to sit in the sun on the roof while I finished cleaning. Not long after, I joined him with the remainder of the Prosecco, and we waited for Jan & Tony (luckily I wasn’t driving home!)

Big thank you, Jan and Tony, for trusting us to boat sit for you and have a lovely week of peace and quiet. We had such fun and would gladly do it again.  Xx