Saturday, 31 August 2013

Worth a look

It's been a while since I've browsed or researched anything much.  We've had a bit more time on our hands since we've been stationary and I've come across these.

Narrowboat World
I saw this link on the blog of nb Fizzical Attraction and started reading... and reading... and reading.  I can't believe I haven't found this before.  It's a fountain of information from opinions in one direction or another to emergency phone numbers.  Well worth a browse.

Coal and diesel boats
Then there's this list of coal and diesel boats.  We keen an eye out for them wherever we are but now we'll have a better idea if there might be one in the area.  We'd much rather give our money to a working boat.

As for today..... I've been working most of the day.... Mick's been painting...  we've re-potted up our herb pot.... we've been walking.  There's been a cooler breeze but still blue skies.

The Cotton Patch

Mick noticed an older couple approaching the first lock.  He went off with his windlass to help them down the 13 Farmer's Locks.  They were very appreciative. 

Having chatted to a quilter while we were moored at Catherine-de-Barnes, she directed me to The Cotton Patch, a quilt shop in Birmingham.  I decided to catch the bus there today.  It was nice to have a look around and chat with the ladies in the shop.  I bought a couple of fabrics for my quilt.

This afternoon we had a walk and bought some new herbs for our roof top pots.  I worked to get ahead before our visitors arrive Monday, and Mick painted our boat hook pole.

As we walk around Birmingham, we've been seeing these little smart cars emblazoned with "Car2go".  We had a look on the internet at how the system works.  It sounds like a great idea for someone living in Birmingham and not having a car.  You just pay for the time you actually drive the car.  Interesting.

1. There are lovely buildings in Birmingham
2. Moored beside the pub in Cambrian Wharf
3. & 4. Car2Go

Friday, 30 August 2013

Three loops in a day

Cambrian Wharf, Gas St Basin, Cambrian Wharf : 4 miles, 0 locks
via Soho Loop, Icknield Port Loop, Oozell Loop
To date : 678 miles, 409 locks

We had arranged an engine service with "Away2Service".  Dave, the engineer, said to bring the boat around to Gas St Basin at 11.30am.  Seeing we'd lose our mooring spot, we decided we might as well make the most of it.  We did a load of washing, topped up our water and went for a bit of a cruise to fill in the couple of hours we still had spare.

We headed off down the main line first.... new territory for us.  It was dead quiet and so wide and straight.  Quite relaxing tootling along like that. 

We passed the first junction with the Soho Loop and turned in at the second one.  We thought there'd be more historic buildings along there but not as many as we expected.  We passed a prison and housing developments on one side but it was a little more industrial on the "island" formed by the loop. 

When we reached the junction with the main line we decided to continue on ahead and check out Icknield Port Loop on the other side.  There was an interesting looking wharf at the point of the loop with a huge reservoir beyond.  There must have been 6 or 8 half sunken rusty hulls crying out for rescue along the way. 

In our garden back home I had planted and coaxed a couple of buddleia plants in the front garden.  Here they seem to grow wild everywhere we look.  There were so many of them growing out of cracks in the brickwork along the canals today.  Some of them were thriving on neglect so much better than those we cared for so carefully at home. 

We still had plenty of time so turned off through Oozells Loop as well.  We've seen most of it on foot but it was nice see it from the water as well.  It's really just a long length of mooring now. 

That makes three loops today! The water taxi must have been sick of the sight of us.  We passed it several times along the way.

Making our way into Gas St Basin we were directed to reverse between two of the "Away2" boats with our stern against the end of the pontoon.  We left Dave to it and went to Wagamama for lunch.  We had a great view of the canal and a tasty lunch.  A wander around town and a few groceries for the next couple of days filled in the rest of the time.  Mick insisted I take a photo of the crowds near The Bullring.  It actually wasn't all that bad but he obviously disagreed.  There was a busker in the mall with two tiny children standing right in front of him putting on a show of their own.  The little boy in particular was bopping along enthusiastically.  I think the spectators should have given him the coins.  No sooner did his dad pick him up to walk away and so did everyone else!

By the time we got back to the boat the job was finished.  Great service and he even resolved a bit of a rattle we had in the engine bay.

We had our fingers crossed that we'd get a mooring back at Cambrian Wharf.  We ended up with a choice.  nb Winton's Folly have gone to Bourneville overnight to check out Cadbury World and another couple of boats had moved on too.  We chose WF's old mooring as I prefer our side hatch to be over the water rather than a pontoon.  The added bonus of this mooring.... which we only discovered once we had sorted everything out and come inside... is that there's a short little cruiser moored beside and that means a view from three of our windows rather than just the one.  Perfect!

This evening we had entertainment from the lockside again.  Today it was some guys on bikes doing tricks on the lock beam.




Thursday, 29 August 2013


We thought we'd make the most of being in the city and visit the Birmingham Sealife Centre.  It's right on the canal junction.  It was interesting for a look around.  At near on £20 at the door it's well worth buying a ticket online the day before.... only £10 then!  There was no flash photography allowed so it wasn't so easy to get a good photo.  There were small hammerhead sharks, stingrays and enormous sea turtles.

We also got a nice view down on the canal junction from the first floor.

This afternoon while Mick was out people watching, and I was in working, I went to the sink to get a glass of water and saw we had our very own "sealife".  There were dozens if little fish feeding on the gunk just beneath the water line of nb Winton's Folly.  Poking my head out the cratch and looking down the side of our own boat there were dozens more.  I wonder what they were.  They were about 3 inches long but probably youngsters.... silver bodies and many with red fins and tails.

We have an interesting view from our mooring.  We look straight towards the winding area and have enjoyed watching the differing skill levels as boats come in to turn around.  One of them used his bow thruster the entire way around.... even while his bow was wedged in the little notch cut out of the bank to increase the turning space.

The folk on the boat that came in yesterday and is sharing our pontoon said they'd seen us on the Shroppie many times with our little dog running along the roof.  It's obviously Dave they've seen all those times.  Reminds me of when I stumbled upon a photo on nb Fizzical Attraction's blog that showed our boat with the little dog peering out of the bow.  I showed the photo to Mick at the time and he said "Whose dog did you let in?".  He assumed I'd taken the photo.  We had a friendly labrador try her best to come onboard while we chatted with her owner the other day.  The fellow said a boater had asked him aboard to look at his boat once and since then the dog wants to get on every boat she sees.  Late yesterday we watched a woman with a guide dog open a lock gate, unwind the paddle and then the dog led her back to the boat.  We just love watching dogs enjoying boating.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Moored at Cambrian Wharf

It's not a bad mooring here at Cambrian Wharf.  We did hear a few folk out on the verandah of the pub but it didn't last long.  It was a peaceful night.  It's a shame all the marinas don't have such good pontoons.  The mooring points are decent hook things, the pontoons are wide and have excellent grippy stuff on them.

We went shopping today to buy a couple more warm tops for Winter.  Mick missed the main part of the cold at the beginning of the year so he'll be prepared for it this year.  We had  a good wander around on the way back... meandering our way down to the locks and then returning back to Cambrian Wharf along the towpath that brought us here in the first place. 

It feels strange walking beside historic old locks beneath modern buildings.  Being in Birmingham has reminded me of the books I've read a couple of times; Narrowboat Girl and Water Gypsies.  I have been reading them again while we've been here.  It has made me more aware of the signs of the old days as we walk around Birmingham.  We've walked under the pedestrian bridges many times in the last few days but today I noticed the worn rope marks in the steelwork.  Don't we always take things for granted once they become familiar.  I remember noticing these things all the time in the first weeks out on the boat.  I'm glad of the reminder and to be aware of them again.

Barry and Carol have visitors for a few days... their friends Mick and Jill and grandchildren Dylan and Teska.  There was a lot of excitement this afternoon and clambering along gunwales.

Mick wanted to order new seals for our hopper windows.  The old rubber isn't in good shape any more and Mick, the perfectionist, wants them to be all perfect again.  We walked to the post office to ask if they'd accept the parcel "Post Restante" and at the same time I had a couple of things to post.  What a shock to find an automated post office!  You have to serve yourself using a machine!!  Mick walked out in disgust, muttering away to himself about more jobs being made redundant.  He's right of course.

This afternoon a few more boats came into more in the wharf.  It's quite nice having the pontoons on a slight angle.  It means we can actually see out into the basin from our living room window.  A boat flying a NZ flag moored against the bank across from us and when I returned from my walk this evening Mick was having a a conversation called out across the water until they said to come over for a chat.  So we spent a pleasant hour or two chatting with Val and Don on nb Whio.  They bought their boat this year and will be doing 6 month cruises each year.  Lucky them!  Having the boat moored at Aylesbury meant it had to be craned out for them to go cruising and it will be craned back in mid September.  The collapsed lock wall on the Aylesbury Arm is due to be sorted in October but that's too late for them, they'll be back in NZ.