Sunday, 29 July 2018

Ohh Thank Gawd (edited) For That

Phew, relief. Builder B is building NB Ernest (confused? read the last post!)

So who is this skillful, flexible, calm (at least when we're there) builder? Building NB Ernest is Paul Barber of Sheetstores just off the Trent on the Erewash canal.

Read the rest at our new blog - here

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

When the decisions you made a couple of blogs ago are wrong

OK so what happens in boat building land when you've realised you may have made a slight error in what looks right for cabin side heights and speak to your builder and say 'can the whole roof come off and lower by three inches'.

Does builder A say 'sorry, I double checked with you it's really too far in now'

Or builder B say 'Probably, pop over tomorrow and we'll do some measurements' 

So have we got builder A or builder B...

Find out who's building Ernest and why in the next blog... 

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

The heart of the beast

...Even with our generous cruiser stern engine boards getting down into the depths to service and carry out the ancillary checks on our Beta 50hp can be a bit of a balls ache, and if you get your positioning wrong that can be quite literal...

More about Narrowboat Ernest and the chosen engine pics here The Pen Maker's Journey

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Droughts and Decisions

The problem with summer and solar power is decision making. 

For 8 months of the year out 400w solar panel array and cheapo controller provide all the power we need when we're static. 

It's almost like an extra Christmas when the Winters blue skies turn into early spring warmth and we start getting more power into the batteries...

To shade or not to shade...

Continued here >>> The Pen Maker's Journey

Monday, 16 July 2018

Code name TAPATAHI

The importance of being Ernest. 

We've all past loads of boats with names anything from mildly amusing to ridiculous to bordering the offensive. Apologies if yours falls into these camps.

Continued on new blog, the pen makers journey

Sunday, 15 July 2018

The Next Chapter

This blog is a copy and paste from our new blog, The Pen Maker's Journey Don't forget to follow over there as this one won't be around for more than a few weeks.

Ok so here's the bigger change...

The Pen Makers Boat mk2 is on its way!

This time it's gonna be bigger, by 10 foot and better, well we do flippin hope so. 

Gone will be the days of turning pens under the pram cover in freezing temperatures; gone will be the scrabbling around in the engine hole trying to retrieve dropped oil filters. But sadly also gone will be our two foot draught, our lovely iroko floor throughout the whole boat and our solid American oak fit-out, also our hand cut marquetry detailing on the cabinetry, the whole of system (well most of) dimensions, the never skips a beat beta engine, and one thing I've always liked, our 'see the tunnel lamp from the back deck right through the boat' layout. There will be sacrifices.

So as well as our travels there'll be a fair bit of boat build stuff going on here over the next few months - and probably few years whilst we learn to change a spray foamed hull into a home.

Now any blog messages containing "you don't want to do it like that..." or "what you want is..." will be [sumirally​] ignored cos I'm always right. Apparently.

OOooh how exciting!

With driving up to boat builders and driving down to engine builders we've been doing less cruising than we have for several years and spending most of our spare time getting Lois Jane ready for sale towards the end of the year. A fair bit of outside work needs doing and a bit of inside fettling to get it somewhere back to the IWA show boat it was in Birmingham 2000.

More to follow for cruising, LJ fettling and details (lots of which seem to change on a daily basis) of 70 foot Tug Boat, temporary build name TAPATAHI - Maori word for Simplicity, our build ethos.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Twisting The CEO's Ear

Love him or hate him, the CEO of the Canal and River Trust has always been approachable.

We first met Richard Parry at an invited meeting in Birmingham soon after he took the helm...

Continued at The Pen Maker's Journey

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Ch Ch Ch Changes

We felt it needed a bit of a change around for two main reasons (and several minor ones)

Firstly the original blog (link) was really meant to be a gap year diary and now we're well on our way to year eight calling it a gap year or a career break seems a bit daft... and we ain't going back! 

Secondly, the old blog title, Lois Jane - loving the dream isn't going to be relevant soon.

Minor change wise, Deb has written loads of blog entries for our pen selling site The Pen Maker's Boat Blog. They can be quite repetitive but its nice to include with the pen's build blog a bit of what we have been up to cruising wise. It really is probably a lot easier to read (or not to) if in the pen blogs we keep to just about the pens but have a link to our travels blog, probably with a 'lead in' paragraph.

Now Blogger doesn't make it easy (not to me anyway) to change the name of a blog so we're having to re title our travels blog to make it more recognisable to pen buyers, are you still following me? So this blog (Lois Jane - living the dream) will be stopping soon and changing over to the new, yet to be published one, The Pen Maker's Journey. I'll carry on cross posting for a bit so anyone can follow over or not if they want to clear their feed up a bit. It would be appreciated if the boater blogging stalwarts could list us in their feeds though ;)

Friday, 6 July 2018

January - June 2018

We saw 2018 in at Boxmoor, and stayed our full 14 days, it was only a 10 minute drive to my temporary winter job. Dudley loves it there with daily walks across the fields right on the door step and plenty of space for ball throwing. When the time came to leave we had to continued down though a couple of locks to Hemel before being able to turn and head back to Berkhamsted, where we moored in the Crystal Palace pound. Closer to work now, it was only a 5 minute walk, we were also close to Berkhamsted Castle so that now became the daily walk for Dudley and there is also a park very close by. Our final stop in Berkhamsted was in the Waitrose pound and before we knew it my six week contract was over and time to tackle the Tring summit and hope there was some water there.

Winding at Hemel

Action shot of Dudley at Berkhamsted Castle

Replacing the lock gate at the Rising Sun Lock

Shame they don't take the opportunity of clearing the rubbish from the bottom of the lock

We managed to drag across the summit and stopped at Bulbourne, we soon realised it wasn't an ideal spot as the bank was quite high and it was difficult getting on and off the boat. So the next day we moved down a couple of locks and moored up right next to the reservoir. We had only intended staying a couple of days for Jess and Lee to visit, but then it turned much colder and we got iced in for a while. Mum also came to visit for my Birthday. A couple of days later the ice had melted enough for us to continue on our way.

Our next stop was by Slapton Locks for a couple of days before continuing onto Leighton Buzzard, then Cosgrove and onto Stoke Bruerne by the middle of March. We did our usual stop Whilton at the bottom of the Buckby Locks then tackled the Buckby flight again, they didn't seem as bad now, and if you ignore the hum of the traffic from the M1 it is quite rural in the middle. We stopped again just before Braunston Tunnel. Then tackled the tunnel and locks, went through Braunston and stopped a couple of miles out on the Oxford Canal. I think it's the first time we've been through Braunston and not stopped.

New Bypass near Weedon

Braunston bottom lock
Total miles on Grand Union 70 miles and 76 locks

It was a nice peaceful mooring in the countryside and the canal briefly iced over again, not for long and we were soon on our way again to Rugby, we managed to get a space at Brownsover on the park side, which turned out to be really good as when I walked the otherside with Dudley it was extremely muddy. Our last stop on the Oxford Canal was at Sutton Stop where we moored up just before the lock. It was the end of March now so we decided to stay for Easter, the weather was awful with rain and wind but we did manage to open up the Pen Maker's Boat shop on Easter Sunday and make a few sales in a bit of a break in the weather.

Total miles on Oxford Canal 22 miles and 3 locks

As usual James managed the turn onto the Coventry Canal at Hawkesbury Junction in one and we continued onto Atherstone. We then did Atherstone to Fazeley in one (a long day for us), we turned left at Fazeley Juntion onto the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal and stopped outside the old Mill. We always have to call into Kudos the Indian restaurant when stopping at Fazeley and this was no exception.

Total miles on the Coventry Canal 21 miles and 14 locks

We didn't travel far on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, only down the Canal Pools at Kingsbury Water park at the bottom of the Curdworth locks. We spent about a week there catching up with pen making, then turned around and headed back to Fazeley and turned left at the Junction.

Total miles on Birmingham and Fazeley Canal 6 miles and 0 locks

We went straight through Fazeley this time and it was very quiet, only two boats on all the visitor moorings. At Fradley Junction we turned left onto the Trent and Mersey. We were hoping to get moored up above the locks at Fradley but all the moorings were full at Shade House and we didn't fancy rough mooring there so carried on to Handsacre and squeezed into a space just as it was getting dark. Next day was Rugeley where we stayed a couple of days and caught up with shopping. Then cupboards stocked we headed off, turning left at Great Haywood Junction on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, stopping at Tixall Wide then stayed for about a week before heading to Penkridge. We visited the market there and must admit I was quite disappointed, I used to think it was a great market. Next stop was Autherley Junction and a quick top up shop at Morrisons.

Very quiet at Fazeley
Shugborough Hall
Total from Fazeley Juntion to Autherley Junction  43 miles and 17 locks

At Autherley Junction we turned right onto the Shropshire Union and carried on to Wheaton Aston, we found another good Indian restaurant here - the atmosphere of the place wasn't that good but it was fairly quiet so maybe better on a busy night, the food was great though. The next day was a visit to Turner's garage to top up the diesel tank and an overnight stop at Gnosall then onwards to Norbury Junction for their May Day Bank Holiday festival.

Unusual for a British Bank Holiday the weather was fantastic, there were good crowds at the festival and many new and repeat customers for the Pen Maker's Boat. As usual we had a fab time and the atmosphere was great, even though at times I was incredibly hot - when we arrived at our allocated space we commented that it would get the sun all day so it would be brilliant for the solar and we wouldn't have to run the engine for the lathe - but it was wall to wall sunshine and no shade and I was stood out in it all day - I'm not complaining though we had a great time. After the festival we had to make a quick unplanned sad trip to Wales for a funeral.

Autherley Junction to Norbury Junction 15 miles and 2 locks

We had a couple of weeks to get to our next event which was also quite a trek - we were heading for Langley Mill at the end of the Erewash Canal for their 50th Anniversary Rally. We were quite looking forward to this one, we'd not been along the Erewash before and was one we wanted to tick off the list. So it was about turn at Norbury Junction and back the way we came. Luckily we had got the pen stock up to a reasonable level so didn't have to worry too much about factoring in 'work' stops along the way.

So back along the Shroppie stopping at Gnosall again and then Autherley Junction. We turned left onto the Staffs and Worcs again, stopping at Penkridge by the Cross Keys Pub. We carried on past Tixall Wide, turned right at the Junction onto the Trent and Mersey and stopped just below Great Haywood Lock. We had another stop in Rugeley and then onto Fradley opposite the cafe.

Through the narrow section

Fradley Junction

Norbury Junction to Fradley Junction 48 miles and 19 locks

We left Fradley and arrived at Burton-upon-Trent around lunchtime, after a few hours stop we continued on stopping for water at Horninglow Basin and a quick trip to the chippy just round the corner from there, we then continued onto Willington. Arriving at around 7pm we thought we'd just carry on until we found a space and were very surprised to be able to moor up right outside the pub there. Later the next day we continued on and stopped just above Aston Lock in what looked like a nice remote location, about half an hour later a few gravel lorries passed just the other side of the hedge - not a problem for us as it was late in the day and they would be finishing soon and we would be off early the next day. So peace and quiet resumed just after 5pm when they all clocked off.

One of the river sections

Above Aston Lock


The next day we continued to Sawley Cut and stayed a couple of days enjoying some really lovely weather again. Then through Sawley Locks and left the Trent and Mersey Canal for the River Trent, only for a short stretch before we turned left onto the Erewash Canal and new waters for us. They're  double locks on the Erewash, and once through Trent Lock we met up with Nickie on nb Kernow who was to be our lock buddy for the trip up to The Great Northern Basin at Langley Mill.

Sawley Cut
We stopped at around half way up at Ilkestone by a nice big park and Nickie and I went off for a lovely walk with the dogs. Next day we continued up to Langley Mill and into our mooring spaces for the Rally. Nickie was just below the last lock and ours just just above. Ian was Harbour Master for the Rally and it was lovely to catch up with him and Irene (nb Freespirit) again.

Really lovely apartment conversion of one of the mills
Once up into the Basin we were then on the Cromwell Canal, very briefly as our allocated space was in front of the swing bridge and actually on the Nottingham Canal. So in the space of around 10 minutes we'd been on three different canals - Erewash, Cromwell then Nottingham.

Ready for the Rally
Fradley Junction to Great Northern Basin, Langley Mill 40 miles and 34 locks

The weather for the Rally weekend was fab and the organisation of the event was the best we've experienced, from receiving the invitation to attend to our arrival. The event itself was brilliant and it was clear a lot of hours and hard work was put in by all the organisers. There was a dog show, so Dudley took part and was runner up in the 'Handsome Dog' category. It was lovely to catch up with so many other traders who we haven't seen in a long time and nice to spend a bit more time with Sheila and Jim from 'The Coffee Boat' nb Islonian.

After the Rally was over we made our way back down the Erewash Canal, stopping at the bottom just above Trent Lock for a few days, we were hoping to be able to get onto the pontoons on the River Trent but they were full the whole time - hopefully we'll manage next time we're that way. We made our way back up Sawley Locks and onto the Trent and Mersey Canal again. Then back to Willington and spent a couple of nights by the footbridge over to Mercia Marina, we then left Lois Jane in the marina for a couple of days for a visit down to Jess and Lee in Poole. Once back at the boat we moved up to near the pub in Willington again and then continued onto Stretton just outside Burton. It was a  great spot and right near a park so Dudley was happy as he could do some serious ball chasing again. We then moved up to Shobnall Fields at Burton and were on the park side so again Dudley was happy. We're now moored up at Branston water park where he can practice his swimming and keep cool in the lovely weather we have been having for some weeks now.

Footbridge to Mercia Marina

Shobnall Fields

Branston Water Park

Great Northern Basin, Langley Mill to Branston Water Park 32 miles and 25 locks

We're in no hurry to be anywhere at the moment, we have nothing booked in for The Pen Maker's Boat until the end of August - but there are exciting things happening which I will let James write about as he is taking over the blog again - so hopefully there should be more regular posts!!!

Total so far for 2018  297 miles and 190 locks