Friday, 20 May 2011

Share sold

We're delighted, and a little sad, to say that our Debdale share has been sold.  What's more, it was thanks to this blog!

We wish the new owners many happy years of cruising on Debdale, and we'll look out for her on the cut.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Debdale share for sale

Our one-twelfth share in Debdale is now officially for sale.

This share gives three weeks holiday a year -- two in high season (April to September) and one in low season.  For this year, it has a fortnight in June and a week in October booked.  Most of this year's running cost contributions have already been paid.

For next year, the share will be at position 3 in the rota for chosing weeks, so it will be very easy to get the weeks you want for 2012.

The share is priced at £5950.

For full details of Debdale and the share, please click here.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

End of an era

After four very enjoyable years with Debdale, we've taken the plunge and are buying our own boat.

It's all happened remarkably quickly.  We saw it online last Saturday, viewed on Sunday, had an offer accepted on Monday, and a survey on Thursday.  The purchase is due to complete after Easter, and Adrian will go and pick up the keys on the day of the Royal wedding.

I've started a new blog for the new boat here.

Once the other owners of Debdale have had first refusal on our shares, they'll be up for sale.  So if you want to own a share of this fantastic boat with friendly owners and an efficient private synicate, please let us know.

Sunday, 10 April 2011


At Hatton Locks, where we stopped for lunch at the cafe, on the way back from somewhere else.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Indigo Dreaming

Yesterday, a day more like the middle of August than early April, I joined Sue on Indigo Dream for a trip through west London.  She'd posted on the blog that she was due to single hand from Paddington Basin to Uxbridge, but had been told there was a lot of rubbish in the canal and was worried about having to go down the week hatch.  So I volunteered to go along and lend a hand.

I arrived at Paddington Basin and found Indigo Dream under the glass footbridge.  After teas and coffees were made, we set off in fantastic sunshine, through Little Venice.  There were a surprising number of boats on the move, including an enormous hopper barge, pushed by a tug, which pulled out behind us.  The skipper asked us to warn any oncoming boats.

We made a couple of brief stops -- at a canalside Sainsbury's to buy lunch, and at Packet Boat Marina to drop off some rubbish.  We moored at the end of a fantastic day's boating just below Cowley Lock on the GU main line.  I'm sure Sue will do a much more detailed account, so I'll let the photos do the talking.

Little Venice

A40 flyover

Aqueduct over the North Circular



Bulls Bridge Junction

GU Main Line

Mooring at Cowley Lock

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Shared Ownership Show

The May edition of Canal Boat is in the shops.  Not much in it from me this month, just a news report on the Shared Ownership Show held at Braunston last month.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Birthday Cruise - Day 4

The Bridge 8 moorings are very nice.  There's the hum of the M54 in the background, but not enough to notice.

We woke to a much sunnier day than we'd been expecting, and set off at 8.30.  This is a stretch of the Shroppie we've done many times, but it was looking beautiful in the sunshine, with signs of spring everywhere.  Buds on many of the bushes look fit to burst open, and many of the trees have bright new leaves.

We had to turn Wheaton Aston lock (our only lock of the day).  Once down, we stopped at the water point and filled the tank.

Setting off again, we passed a man washing his boat on the Wheaton Aston visitor moorings.  He said he was probably going to make it rain.  About two minutes later, the rain started.  It lasted only about ten minutes or so, but included several torrential downpours, and by the time it stopped I was pretty wet.  Then the sun came out again, and within half an hour or so everything was dry.

As we went along, we cleaned the inside of the boat.  Adrian did the kitchen, I did the bathroom, and Adrian vacuumed.  We had a quick lunch on the move before arriving back at Norbury Wharf.  Just as we approached, there was another shower.  We tied up in the rain, but it had pretty much stopped by the time we needed to load the car.  We were on the road by 2pm, and had a pretty good journey.  The worst hold up was two miles from home, where there'd been an accident on the opposite carriagway of the A27.

12 miles, 1 lock.  (40, 12)

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Birthday Cruise -- Day 3

Dimmingsdale Lock is a very good mooring, dark and quiet.  The only morning sound was birdsong.  We had a very relaxed start, which included a cooked breakfast.  It was 9.40 before we set off, filling the lock and going down.  I was just opening the gates when an old working boat with a cargo of boy scouts arrived at the top of the lock.  I explained that we were winding and coming straight back up again.  Adrian quickly turned the boat and came back into the lock, and we had no shortage of helpers to wind the paddles.

Once we were on our way again, we passed two more old working boats crewed by scouts.  They'd told us they'd started at Wolverhampton yesterday, and were heading for Birmingham.

After about 40 minutes, we moored at Wightwick.  We got out our National Trust membership cards (those of us who'd remembered to bring them), and were at the visitor reception waiting for it to open at 11.  We did two tours of Wightwick Manor: one about how they care for the collection, then a "freeflow" look round the house.  It's a fantastic house, with great gardens, and well worth a visit.  Both tea rooms were rather disappointing, though, so we had lunch at The Mermaid instead.

We set off again at 2pm, and passed a procession of boats based at Norbury through the locks.  These included several ex-OwnerShips boats and Norbury's new hire boat, Ember.  By now, the sun was out and it was quite warm.

We turned back onto the Shroppie at Autherley Junction, and continued to the SUCS moorings between Bridges 7 & 8.  Having moored up, we sat in the well deck with wine and crisps in the sunshine.

8 miles, 6 locks (28 miles, 11 locks)

Friday, 1 April 2011

Birthday Cruise -- Day 2

We had high hopes, weatherwise, for today.  The forecast we saw before going to bed last night suggested that by lunchtime the sun would break through the clouds, and the temperature would reach 19C.  Neither happened.

We were awake quite early.  There wasn't enough power in the batteries to get the Webasto going (not entirely surprising, seeing as the boat had been idle for several days, and we'd only boated for ten minutes last night), so showers were off the agenda.  We had a quick breakfast, and set off at 7.30.  It was a good while before we met another boat.

After Wheaton Aston lock, we decided we'd light the fire.  The coal is a variety I'm not familiar with, as rather than the usual ovals, the nuggets are hexagonal.  We've got only what's in the coal bucket; there's no bag on board.  But I'd be interested to know what it is, as it seems to light easier than Taybright, and burns slowly too.

We're very familiar with this section of the Shroppie now.  The only surprise was that the moorings (Wheaton Aston, Brewood, Bridge 8) were very empty.  We passed Chertsey at Stretton Wharf, then went over the A5.   We had lunch on the move just before Autherley Junction.  Napton Narrowboats had lots of boats in, but didn't seem to be blocking the canal quite as much as usual.  They were confident it wasn't going to rain, as they were painting the roof of one of the boats.

The stop lock was against us, but it didn't take long to turn, given that the rise is about three inches.  Then we turned right onto the Staffs and Worcs, heading south.  Soon afterwards, we saw an orange flashing light ahead.  BW were dredging the canal.  They had a hopper and a dredger, but there was just room to pass, and they beckoned us on.  Unfortunately, we ran aground trying to get round them, indicating that the edges need work as well as the middle.

Compton Lock was in our favour.  Once down the lock, I dashed off to the shop to get some washing up liquid.  Last time we were here, I waked to the Spar shop; this time, I went to the Nisa because it's closer, and was very pleasantly surprised.  It's very upmarket, with a deli counter and a little bakery section.

I caught up with Debdale before Wightwick Mill Lock, and we did a swap: shopping for windlass.  This lock and the next one were against us.

 We  moored up for the night at the offside moorings just above Dimmingsdale Lock.  It's a lovely spot which we've seen before, and which has been recommended by several people.  There's no satellite tv, but the internet signal is very strong.  Tomorrow, we start heading back.

20 miles, 5 locks.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Birthday Cruise -- Day 1

One of our fellow owners is ill, so he and his wife had to cancel their planned three week trip.  It means we've been able to get a few unexpected days on board.  Today is my birthday, so we've christened this the Birthday Cruise.

I spent most of the day getting ready: shopping and packing.  I loaded the car and set off at 3pm.  At 3.30, I picked up Adrian from his office, and we headed for Norbury Wharf.  Much to our surprise, we were delayed only one, past an accident which had happened just minutes before, on the A34.  We arrived at Norbury at 6.30, unloaded the car, and set off.  Several of the other ex-OwnerShips boats were there at the end of their weeks, with the owners cleaning and packing before their final night on board.

It meant I had quite an audience for as I pulled forward out of the line of boats, and turned to go south.  It can be quite tricky to spin the boat around with lots of boats on the wharf, but it all went well, and I even got complimentary comments from one of the crews.

We've never seen the moorings on the Shelmore Embankment at Norbury so empty, with just a couple of boats there.  We pulled over after a couple of hundred yards, moored, unpacked, and went to the Junction Inn for a birthday dinner.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Where to turn?

We've got an unexpected three days on board next weekend, as one of our fellow owners is unfortunately ill.

With only three days, we won't be going very far, but we plan to head south onto the Staffs and Worcs.  But it's not clear where it's possible to turn.  I know there's a winding hole above Wightwick Lock, but we'll probably get a little further than that.  Nicholson and CanalPlanAC say there's a winding hole below Dimmingsdale Lock.  Pearson doesn't mention it, and I can't remember.  Does anyone know?

Monday, 21 March 2011


To Upton-on-Severn today for a boat test.  It wasn't as sunny as we would have liked (by which I mean it really wasn't sunny at all).  It's often difficult taking photographs of narrowboats on big rivers -- they look very small.  Fortunately, the marina has a workboat, so Andy the photographer was able to use that as a platform.

Sunday, 20 March 2011


Today we were up early and headed to Braunston.  The main purpose of the visit was to have a look at the boat share show, now run by BCBM.  But we couldn't resist a walk up the locks, and then tea and cake at the Gongoozler's Rest floating cafe.

Then we walked round the show, had a look through BCBM's newest boat, and chatted to Paul on the Waterway Routes stand, where we saw his impressive new canal maps, which can be downloaded and printed, or even better, loaded onto a phone or PDA.

Later, we headed to the National Trust property, Canons Ashby, which is about 20 minutes drive from Braunston.  We had lunch sitting in the garden outside the cafe, and had a look round the house and grounds, before heading home.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Stourbridge flight

On Sunday, we thought we'd like to break our journey home with a canal fix.  So I sent a text to Lesley on Caxton, to see if they were still at Merry Hill.  She phoned as we ate breakfast, from halfway down the Delph Flight.

A couple of hours later, we parked the car at the end of the Stourbridge Town Arm, and walked along the arm to the bottom of the Stourbridge Locks.

We continued up the locks, and eventually found Caxton at Lock 8.

This is a route we've tried to do a few times, but have always been thwarted -- by rivers in flood, a breach, and stoppages.  So it was good to be able to help work Caxton down the bottom half of the flight.

Locks 9 and 10 are very close together, Bratch style, with a large side pond.

Slightly further down is the historic Dadsfords Shed, and a huge bottle kiln from the glass industry.

Once we were down the locks, Lesley supplied us with very welcome tea and coffee, plus plenty of advice for our planned trip on the Weaver in June.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Dutton Locks

On Saturday, we visited family near Chester.  We were telling them about our plans to go down the Anderton Lift and visit the River Weaver during our fortnight on board in June.  It turns out that one of their regular dog walks is down by Dutton Locks on the Weaver, so we went to have a look.

On the way, we cross the Weaver at Acton Bridge, passed the Black Prince hire base on the canal, and went back over the canal.  We parked the cars, walked across a field, through a reserve owned by the Woodland Trust, and then came out to the weir stream round the locks, which is crossed by a rather nice white bridge.

This bridge (which is a bit rotten in places), appears to be earmarked for demolition, although there's no sign of anything happening at the moment.  There are two locks: large, and enormous.

Above the locks are the remains of a partly sunken boat.

It was a useful trip.  We spotted visitor moorings and a water point, and even though the river is fairly wide, it's not of epic proportions.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Start of the season

On Friday, we went up to Norbury Wharf to check Debdale's winter works, and to help our fellow owner who was re-hanging all the curtains after cleaning.  It was a bitterly cold day and just a few boats were going out, so the basin was quite full.  Debdale is along the far end of this line of boats.  Debdale was due out on Saturday, at the start of a busy season.  Once we'd made sure everything was OK, we headed further north and ended up having quite a canal-ish weekend.  Of which more over the next few days.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Moment in Time on test

We've been away, and during the holiday the March edition of Canal Boat came out.  It includes my boat test of Moment in Time, a Fernwood boat which has been planned down to the size of every cupboard and drawer.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Back at base

Today's Norbury Wharf blog post reports that Debdale is back at base again, in spite of a delay at Penkridge where a tree was down across the canal.  It means all the winter maintenance work due in the next few weeks can be carried out.

UPDATE:  Both Sue on No Problem, and Geoff from Seyella have published photos of Debdale's triumphal arrival.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Lunch, and a chance to move

We met for lunch today with the crew of nb Chance (well, most of the crew.  Oscar the dog stayed at home).  We discovered a few weeks ago that Doug and James live just a few miles away from us.  As they're in the process of having their new boat built there was plenty to talk about.  They're blogging about the build.

On the Debdale front, there should be movement in the morning.  Shutt Hill Lock is open, Tixall Lock doesn't close until Monday, and the ice is gone.  Some of our co-owners are making the journey from Tixall Wide back to Norbury.  I suspect it's been one of the longest periods of time that Debdale hasn't moved: it's a mere 49 days since the ice brought us to a halt, on 27 November.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Royal Docks trip

As is often the case when they're planning a special trip, Sue and Richard from Indigo Dream put out an ivitation for others to join them.  And so it was that on Friday I joined the crew for another expedition onto the tidal Thames.  Also taking up the invitation were Kath and Neil from Herbie, and Alison, who'd posted a comment on the Indigo Dream blog.

At first, the day didn't look promising, weatherwise, with a poor forecast, and plenty of rain falling from the sky.  But hardy boaters aren't put off by a bit of rain, and we all had our waterproofs with us.

After tea, coffee, and doughnuts, we set off along the Limehouse Cut, new territory for me. 

The original plan had been to get onto Bow Creek via City Mills and Three Mills locks, but there was a problem with the amount of water coming down one of the rivers, so we were to go through Bow Locks.  But we first took a quick side trip past the famous Three Mills and up to Old Ford Lock, with the new Olympic Stadium looming overhead.  We were to be part of a convoy organised by the St Pancras Cruising Club, and a couple of the other boats were just coming down the lock.

Back at Bow Locks, we moored up, had more tea and coffee, went to the safety briefing, and watched the first boats being locked down onto Bow Creek.

We were in the last locking, so there was also time for one of Sue's signature lunches before it was our turn in the lock.  The level of Bow Creek had risen remarkably quickly, so we didn't have so far to drop.

Bow Creek is very twisty, has plenty of bridges, and often has the DLR running alongside or over the top.

The good thing was that the weather was showing signs of brightening up considerably; the bad thing was that my camera decided it didn't like its battery anymore, and having delivered this message, kept turning off.  I suspect some water had got in, as it worked fine a bit later, and has seemed OK every since.

What it means is that I have no photos of the spectacular turn out onto the Thames, opposite the O2, or of us going through the Thames Barrier, or dodging the Woolwich Ferry.  However, there are plenty of photos in Sue's blog post and in Neil's.  Also, as we approached the barrier, I was allowed to take the helm, so wouldn't have been taking photos anyway.  Here's one of Richard's photos, to prove it.

As we neared the Woolwich Ferries, which cross the Thames every few minutes and look enormous, Sue asked if I was happy to negotiate a way through.  "I'm happy," I said, "but are you?"  Fortunately, I was trusted to keep out of the way of these large ships; we managed to get past while they were unloading and loading.

Next came the turn into the lock, and I was a bit worried about how the tidal flow would affect our line.  But in fact the Thames was like a mill pond (it had been all the way down, certainly a lot less bouncy than on our previous Indigo Dream tidal adventure back in August), and while there was a slight feeling of going sideways at one point, crossing the tideway was very easy.

At the lock, we went alongside one of the other convoy boats and tied up.  They were using just a quarter of the lock, and we could have fitted at least twice the number of narrow boats in the space.  The last couple of boats came in, and the vast lockgates closed behind us.  Fortunately, the camera started working again.

Entering the Royal Docks, it seemed to be a bit of a free for all, with everyone eager to get going.  We had to turn right past the end of the runway of London City Airport, then cruise down the northern side of the runway.  There was loads of activity with planes coming and going, while on the ground was the little BA Airbus, which goes to JFK in New York.

As we cruised past the offices of Newham Council, we tried to get as many staff as possible to wave to us; to their credit, most of them did.  Then it was past the Excel Centre, were there were some enormous gin palaces moored for the boat show.  In many ways, and much to my own surprise, the cruise through the docks was my favourite part of the whole trip.

We moored at the end of the docks, and joined the other crews for a drink, standing in the rain as the dark decended.  The views back towards the city were spectacular.

Alison had already left, but the rest of us (who were all cold and wet) returned to Indigo Dream for more drinks and chat, before starting our journeys home.  Sue and Richard are always great company, and very generous with their invites to such trips, and it was also really nice to meet Kath and Neil.  I'd never met them before, but (perhaps thanks to the blog) felt as though I'd known them for years.  The return trip is on Monday, but unfortunately work will get in the way.