MAL AND DAVE RACE AGAINST TIME: BATTLING PUNCTURES, SCOTSMEN AND (ANOTHER) STEAMING ENGINE HATCH

The start at Kings Norton

Day 1: ‘Sail’ or ‘No Sail’?

Arrived at Kings Norton in the car after a journey from Cardiff. Found the boat OK and loaded it up with all our gear from the car.

Were advised to move that afternoon as the area was a bit dodgy!! So we put the key in the ignition, said a prayer, turned the key and whoopie the engine started.

We set off for our first “sail” since our previous “no sail” when the boat broke down at Elton. What a baptism we had, as we were quickly approaching the Wast Hills Tunnel, built in 1796 and is 2726 yards long (one of the longest in the UK !!) with large bats in the roof and three boats coming towards us in the dark – frightening to say the least.

Wast Hill Tunnel

Anyway, we survived and eventually moored up outside The Hopwood House Inn. We decided to have a meal at the pub and on getting off the boat Dave’s foot went through the wooden decking at the stern of the boat into the engine compartment, fortunately no damage was done. Had a nice meal and returned to the boat finding the gas had run out, not to worry, but a bit of a struggle to change over to a full cylinder in the dark. Lit the lovely log burner and snuggled round the fire with a nice mug of coffee.

Day 2: The night club of nostalgia..

Dave cycled back to Kings Norton first thing to collect car and then drove to Hopwood Inn and left car in car park.

Tried to start the engine and… Shock horror…. Nothing! Checked everything but still no good. Rang Lewis in desperation and it turned out you need to ensure the cutout knob is pushed back in after using it to stop the engine – simple when you know how…Set off for Tardebigge top lock and went through Shortwood Tunnel a mere 613yds long.

Shortwood Tunnel

Called at Anglo Welsh marina to fill up with fuel and water. Matt who helped us there was great, he managed to fit a piece of wood where the broken deckboard was and told us that the flight of 30 locks we have to go through next could take up to 7 hours!

30 locks at Tardebigge

Matt was an arts graduate from Goldsmiths and in his spare time renovates old canal hardware with roses and castles design. We went through Tardebigge Tunnel (580yards) and then moored up by Tardebigge top lock. We went to investigate and realised that the old canal engine house that is there used to be a nightclub which we had been to in our youth and Dave’s cousin used to be a DJ there! Dave fetched the car with some difficulties. Eg closed paths and rain and we settled in for night. We soon realised the lights were fading fast and the fridge wasn’t working – aaaaah the leisure battery was flat..great. All was not lost as we met a resident canal bargee and he offered to give us a 240volt electric hookup off his boat for the night. What a saviour!

Day  3: Tardebigge Locks – The longest set in the U.K!

Up at 7am had shower courtesy of the Canal Trust facilities at Tardebigge and set off by 8.30 on the longest flight of locks in the UK! The first lock (the deepest in UK) went well..then on with the next 29.. Only passed 1 boat on our way up, who said they had seen our boat before on the Grand Union canal and recognised orange netting. About lock 40 met a guy called Bernie with dog Bosun and he kindly gave us a hand by opening locks up ahead. He lived on a boat at Stoke Pound where we stayed overnight by a really smart pub called ‘The Queens Head’. Dave cycled back to Tardebigge for the car and met a couple in the car park who had just got permission to turn their boat into a gallery -both artists!

We did it 30 locks!!

Day 4: Electricity failure and Dave has a puncture!

Set off in misty rain about 8am, we have 12 locks today (easy peasy). First drama of day was the bike was nearly pulled off the top of boat by overhanging trees, all ok in the end. Raining properly by 11.00, nearly at end of locks so press on before coffee. Arrive at Hanbury junction by 1.30am and decide to stay here overnight with an electrical hook up as battery still not holding power nor is the starter battery, tested both batteries and think that the alternator is not working properly. Dave went off on bike to collect car but has a puncture half way, so had to walk the rest of the way.

Day 5: Bowman: 2679

Underway by 8.30 with batteries fully charged , no locks today – plain sailing . Just approaching Dunhampstead tunnel (only 230 yards long) when we noticed steam coming from engine, fortunately the other end of the tunnel was Brookline boat holidays so Dave cycled to see if they could help.

Engine problem

 Internation rescue

15 mins later he came chugging back on a barge with Paul who then towed us through the tunnel to his boatyard. They did not have the right hose to fit the engine so we contacted international rescue who promptly came and supplied a second hand part that did the job. Paul and Dave gave us some antifreeze to top up engine and were on our way by 3pm.

Also we had met Andy of the Forge Studio who painted canalware beautifully. Stopped at Tibberton overnight and dined in the Speedy Plough it was curry and a pint for £6.50 – very nice!

Day 6: Will we make it?

Started about 8.30 am. 6 locks to do today and pressure was on to get through the locks before they were closed for winter maintenance (you can almost see this as being a challenge for Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear!!) We were getting into really urban industrial areas and now reached lock 4 which was about to close for repair – only one paddle and one gate working, a very victorian lock keepers house with a bridge nearby. Now into outskirts of Worcester and nearing Diglis Basin.

Good steering Mal

Arrived at basin which was full to capacity. We were unsure what to do about mooring. Following advice from one guy, Dave performed a very skillful reverse manoeuvre, but was immediately hailed by Scottish bargee who told us that if we stayed there we would run aground as the water level was going to be lowered for maintenance. The only thing to do was go through locks 1 and 2 and moor on The Diglis River floating pontoon on the River Severn. Managed this through two massive locks opened by volunteers. Phew we made it! We then checked with the river lock keeper to ensure it was ok to leave FC there. Arrived home late that night tired but thrilled that we had got so far, looking forward to the next time! 

The end of the canal

 

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LEWIS AND DEBBIE TAKE TO THE WATERS..

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After my previous 8 day stint on my own it was good to have my friend Debbie with me – she had at least been on a narrow boat before even if it was 20 years ago.

We arrived at lunchtime on Weds 21st October after only a 3 hour drive from Cardiff to find the boat where Amber had left it. A couple of problems were immediately apparent – the leisure battery for the lights and water pumps was flat (the fridge had been left on and had drained it), and the boat was seemingly firmly aground. The engine started fine though and once we had loaded all our bags and parked the car in the convenient layby, we managed to get going fairly easily, the boat not as stuck as it seemed at first. We had some locks to pass through, and so I was able to introduce Deb to their workings. We found a convenient supermarket in Leamington to stock up on treats, and after a while the leisure battery had enough charge to run the water pumps and lights. We stopped for the night on the western outskirts of Warwick, having been assisted through one of the locks by a boat moving in the same direction, who suggested we look out for them in the morning, as they’d be able to help us with the Hatton flight of 21 locks which was our treat for tomorrow. I had the fun of cycling back through Warwick and Leamington to pick up the car – this took me longer than expected due to slack map reading…

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After a good night’s sleep we set off early the next morning – after 10 minutes we were at the first of the Hatton locks. By the time we’d got through, the boat we’d met the previous night caught up with us, so we paired up with them to go up the flight – the locks being wide enough for both boats to go together. Deb worked and chatted to their crew, and learned more about lock operation as we worked our way up. We stopped for lunch near the top where the locks spread out a bit, and there’s a convenient cafe. The afternoon was much easier, no locks and pleasant weather, enlivened by a 400m tunnel, much appreciated by Debbie, and a couple of hand operated drawbridges, which Debs wound up and down (the volunteer lockkeeper on the Hatton flight had said she’d not be able to). We moored for the night in the middle of Kingswood junction, and I cycled off to fetch the car (much easier, being largely downhill after coming up all those locks).

Next morning we had another flight of locks – having now moved onto the Stratford canal (from the Grand union), the locks are narrow so we had to do them all by ourselves. Only 18 of them, with a stop after the first few for a handy canalside shop. Again we had lunch near the top, and an easier afternoon heading up towards Birmingham along a long level section. We paused briefly to visit a bread and cake shop seemingly in the middle of nowhere (though actually surrounded by some extremely wealthy villages, who no doubt can afford their excellent produce). We parked up for the night next to a ghostly derelict house, and close to a marina, though we didn’t actually need anything – the boat was going well… The cycle back to the car again involved pleasant downhill sections due to the locks we’d come up, though the roads were full of Chelsea tractors, and other expensive, aggressively driven, large cars. We learned that evening that we’d be leaving the boat moored for Dave and Mal to carry on on Monday, so we could have an easy day on Saturday, going the last few miles to King’s Norton junction and then packing up and driving back to Cardiff.

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Before we set off in the morning I managed to make temporary repair to the front light (which had let us down at the last tunnel) so we were properly equipped for another 400m underground experience before we got to our destination. It was a quiet morning’s run through the southern edge of suburban Birmingham, with the canal largely treelined, and just occasional views of tower blocks behind the vegetation. We did have to negotiate and operate an electric lift bridge on a fairly busy road – it proved straightforward and quick, so the traffic queues were not long. We negotiated the tunnel and arrived at King’s Norton where we found a suitable mooring where we could leave the boat for a couple of days. i cycled back for the car, this time through council estates and towerblocks at first, though out into the countryside later – no locks today and hills to get over, but the drizzle which had been on and off all morning let up till I’d got safely into the car. I found a convenient parking spot close enough to the boat and we proceeded to move all our stuff back to the car, and lock up the boat (remembering to turn off the fridge!). The drive back to Cardiff only took two hours – a measure of our progress over our few days aboard.

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Tunnels, Staircase locks and Jimmy has a crash course in boating!

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Arrived to meet my Dad to do the handover and was shown the local attractions including a fab canal ware shop (I spent a mini fortune on tat!) a chandlery and a lovely pub called The New Inn.

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After my Dad left I decided to dine at the pub to await James’ arrival. This involved a quick walk down the towpath. It also meant passing the meanest swan on the waterways..luckily Tam and I made it without a peck but it took about 10 minutes of standoff and the swan did not back down. Pretty scary!

The next day, with all the family on deck, we set off for James’ first ever day boating! Unluckily for him the first thing we encounter is … a tunnel! Braunston tunnel is cold, dark and unnervingly windy and as Tam was being really clingy  so James had to do most of the steering.

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We encountered a few boats as we made our way through and mostly managed to pass without drama..

..Until, just as we were leaving the tunnel, I knocked the front of a boat passing! I shouted sorry into the darkness. We then had to wait for the boat to pass at an excruciatingly slow pace. We didn’t make eye contact, the three of us just stood staring ahead..wishing to be out of the tunnel and into the light! Very embarrassing!

James baptism of fire didn’t end there. We came out of the tunnel and straight into a set of eight locks. I didn’t have a chance to explain how they worked – we just had to go for it. Luckily we were sharing the lock with a very patient couple who did most of the work all the way down..!

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After the locks Tam is ready for a nap. James jumps out and walks down the towpath at the same pace as I drive.

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When asleep we bung him in the bow and chug along the canal which is lock free for the afternoon. The evening brings a lovely walk at dusk, then, after Tam is in bed, James and I set ourselves up with wine, books and art in front of a cosy fire.

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The next day we manage three locks before seeing anyone on the waters. We get to the top of another staircase and go in with a family who have hired a boat for a week, completely new to boating, and this was their first day.

It was a comedy sketch going down the next seven locks..

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Granddad was driving but frequently letting go of the tiller to turn round to talk to daughter manning the locks. Grandma was yelling at Grandad to look where he was going from the front of the boat. Two grumpy teenagers reluctantly helped to turn the paddles.

By the end James and I felt like experts and were even instructing the teenagers on good lock practice. All this whilst Tam was in the baby carrier excitedly pointing and bossing everyone around!

That eve we had a well deserved pub dinner and pint.

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On our last morning we were all on deck. We turned the ignition key and tried to accelerate but the boat didn’t move an inch. James tried to push the boat off the the bank but it wouldn’t budge, We were well and truly stuck. Eventually with some clever work with the barge pole (this pole really has come in handy!) we managed to dislodge ourselves from the suction of silt that had glued us to the bank and we were off.

We had only travelled half a day before we had to find a suitable place to moor. We had to leave the boat safely for Lewis to take over in a few days. We happened to be between two locks at a flight called Fosse locks. It seemed decent enough with road access. After mooring and packing our next task was to find some way of getting back to our van. Several unsuccessful calls were made to taxi firms in Leamington Spa. They claimed to not have a clue where we were we, had never heard of ‘Fosse’ and would not send any cars our way. We started to panic.

In desperation we sheepishly knocked on the window of a neighbouring boat down to ask if they knew anyone who could help. After explaining our situation the lovely Manon and Vicki offered to give us a lift back. The kindness of canal folk!

On our way out of Leamington we stopped at The Cape of Good Hope Pub. We had a slap up meal and drove home. It only took 2 hours as opposed to the 4 we started with..

..The Boat Studio is moving closer..

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Day 16-21 Dad goes lone boating.

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For this post I am going to transcribe the text message conversation between my dad and I for the week he was boating alone…

Friday 9th October

LEWIS: Got away at 12.30ish, just parked at Oundle Marina. Gear box problem at Ashton Lock (stuck in reverse) managed to fix it myself. Will decide tomorrow whether to stay on our go home.

AMBER: Oh well done Dad! That sounds stressful being stuck in reverse.We are good in Venice having food. Hope tomorrow goes okay let me know what you decide. Hope gearbox problem is not recurring?

Saturday 10th October

LEWIS: Now at upper Ringstead lock, moored to the riverbank as no 48s visible. Boat doing fine, but can’t find anywhere to get diesel. Not run out yet but worry for tomorrow. Hope Venice is well. Will text 2morow.L X

AMBER: Okay, glad boat going okay. Have you used the spare jerry can we bought before leaving? Hope you find somewhere. I vaguely remember someone saying it’s really not good to let it run dry?! Venice good seen lots of art! Good luck for tomoz. A x

Sunday 11th October

LEWIS: Hi Amber, over nighting in Wellingborogh tonight. Fuel problem solved twice. 24 hour tesco across the road, filled 2 cans, then fuel boat came by put 80 litres for £60 – should get us most the way home. Sunny again today, Northampton tomoro. L

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AMBER: Yay! Good news all round then! So good you will be in Northampton tomorrow – well done. Glad to hear the weather has held out for you.

Monday 12th October

LEWIS: Not quite N’Hampton – in the outskirts. Fixed broken cooling pipe this morning. Loads of steam. Tomorrow the canal. Saving phone battery for weds, thurs. Hope u got home safe, C u soon. L x

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AMBER: Hi. Oh dear about broken cooling pipe?! Glad you almost on the canal. Does that mean you’re staying till thurs or coming home weds? We still plan to get there thurs eve. Are you able to charge phone from 12v using croc clips when boat moving? Be good to have a phone convo. We home safe. Just going to pick up Tam now. A x

LEWIS: Hi Amber, phone batt dodgy, but there is a pub again so may ring later. Im at the top of the run of locks at Long Buckby just before Norton Junction on a 48hr mooring, with useful stuff near by. Main rd access and parking about 50m away. C u here tomoro!L

Postcode is NN6 7PW, The New Inn, Long Buckby.

And that is where we found him ready to handover to James, Tam and I for our little family stint..and that is a whole different story! Till next time xx

Day 7 – 14: Mal and Dave stuck in Elton with Cliff the mechanic!

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Arrived on beautiful sunny morning to the picturesque village of Elton with the knowledge that the boat had broken down but could be repaired . We were met by Lewis and a man on crutches who surprisingly turned out to be the mechanic, also reunited with our gorgeous grandson Tam. Going nowhere that day we settled in and then ate out in the local pub.  By lunchtime the next day we knew we were going to be staying in Elton till at least Friday, we said goodbye to the crew who knackered the boat (only joking) and lit the log burner for a cosy evening on board.

Spent Thursday at Woolsthorpe the home of Sir Isaac Newton and of course Dave had to have a photograph taken with an apple on his head, from the original tree.

Another log fire that evening but things were getting serious we now had no battery power or water but were looking forward to the boat being repaired the next day.  The mechanic ‘hopped’ on board the next day but proceeded to tell us that the starter motor and alternator needed attention and the exhaust needed replacing, and he could not do this work till the following week.  We were gutted that we weren’t able to make progress with the boat and returned home to Cardiff that night.

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We had however, met some really nice people John and Cath who had built their lovely boat from scratch from sheet metal and showed us round it very proudly, we offered to swap boats but they didn’t seem to think it was a good idea!

Arrived home in Cardiff disappointed but very much looking forward to our next visit when we hope to sail somewhere!

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DAY 6 & 7:… and then it really goes wrong….

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We woke up next to the lovely village of Elton ready to power on to Oundle to meet Mal and Dave, who were to take over the next leg of the journey. I turn the key and have the usual debacle with the boat not starting but it is seems even more stubborn than usual. We open up the engine  and try the magic wrench trick, but this time nothing but sparks, the engine won’t turn over. Lewis tries giving the starter engine a whack (this is a respected mechanical technique) but to no avail. Half an hour of alternate sparking and whacking and a little bit of the old Mottram family friction but still no joy. We had to face the fact that the boat wouldn’t go and we needed help.
Amber made the call to the Canal and River Rescue (the boaty AA) and a couple of hours later the lovely Cliff Wall(!) arrived to have a look.
Meanwhile Mal and Dave were winging their way to us expecting a lovely boat holiday. Of course we warned them that the boat was broken down but at that point we hoped it would be fixed the same day… and also we were desperate to see some new faces! So, whilst Cliff Wall was taking a look at our engine, Mal and Dave arrived like a breath of fresh air and Amber’s relief and Tamlin’s excitement was so lovely to see.
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Day 6 was spent wandering the picturesque town of Elton,stressing about the boat, drinking coffee at a garden centre, stressing about the boat, relaxing by the river, stressing about the boat, and chatting to our neighbours, Chop and Glenda, who turned out to hail from Rhiwbina. It’s a small world!
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Chop told us loads of reassuring tales of the trials of boat ownership, floods and fires in the engine and the like. We ended our 6th and least successful boating day with a prosecco toast and a pub dinner… Pie and Chips, YES!
Day 7 (Thursday) We were to leave Mal and Dave on the boat, we were a bit worried that we hadn’t had a proper chance to go for a drive with them and show them the ropes, but even more worried that the boat wasn’t going to go at all… It felt like a sad end to the first stage of our journey, but there wasn’t much we could do, so we left them to their bizarre static-boat-camping holiday just outside Peterborough (the stuff of dreams). The worst part was that the longer the engine was off the less battery there was so the lights and the water pump were failing too. Glamorous. Let’s call it the joys of boating life, and fingers crossed it won’t be for long.
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DAY 4: SMOOTH RUNNING ON THE BOAT BUT AMBER HAS A BUMPY RIDE. DAY 5: TUMBLING AROUND IN LOCKS

March to Outwell drive goes smoothly but Tam gets a case of cabin fever. In the middle of town, down a deep ravine we have to pull over and do a dodgy bike-and-baby-off-the-boat manouvre.

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I cycle off down the road with Tam on the back. The road eventually turns away from the river and my only choice for keeping the river in sight is to cycle on an extremely bumpy track which gets tougher the further along I go. There are deep puddles, brambles and mud. I persevere, determined to keep the river in sight. After a while I notice it has gone very quiet behind me. I look over my shoulder and see Tam lolling around on his seat fast asleep. 

The poor boy is being bounced all over the place and his head keeps banging the bike seat. I take out a scarf from my bag and try and wrap it around his shoulders to create a cushion and pedal on.

The path finally smoothes out and turns into dream cycle track…for about 200m… before turning back into bumpy path.

After a while I glance back and notice the scarf has fallen off. Reluctantly I turn back down the track of doom to retrieve it!

Eventually my path stops and turns into a super fast road with heavy lorries speeding by. The road follows the river: I have no choice but to join it. Finally the road goes over a bridge and I see a path I can join running alongside the river. Happy to be off the road I follow this until I notice the river getting thinner and shallower. Also the bridges are too low for a boat to fit under…

It suddenly dawns on me I have been following the wrong river! Tam wakes up and starts crying and I start to feel a bit hot and desperate. I am lost.Trying not to panic I head toward where I think the correct river might be ask a billion passers by and eventually by some miracle find the River Nene and our arranged meeting place at Stanground lock. 

The boat arrives soon after. Stanground lives up to its name as we are trapped behind the lock, as we failed to give the lock keeper 24hours notice. Surrounded by goats, horses and cats, we bedded down lockside.

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Day 5: We wake up at Stanground and a lovely lock keeper comes and lets us through. This puts us on the New River Nene. We head in to Peterborough to do some shopping (and empty the toilet again, lush).

We’d been having problems starting the boat since our first day and by Peterborough we felt we should do something about it so whilst I got out and went to Tesco Ellie and Lewis turned the boat around and went to a boatyard. 

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At the boatyard the mechanic looked at our starter motor but said it’d take more than a day to fix it. He showed us a shortcut to starting the motor using a wrench to connect 2 electric terminals, it seemed to work like magic, so we decided to make do with that. He also pointed out that the source of our super smokey engine was a cracked exhaust pipe that had been sloppily mended with tape. He did a quick fix on that and The French Connection was back on it’s way. 

Ellie and Lewis arrived back in Peterborough completely covered in black soot and engine grease, looking like a couple of chimney sweeps. We headed out of town and onto the beautiful meandering river. This part of the journey was marked largely by the great number of locks to go through. The river is pretty powerful and inside the lock we found the boat was being violently knocked around which was a little bit scary! But Tam especially enjoyed winding the windlass to open the locks, so sometimes it was hard to control the flow of water!

By the end of the day we needed to find a safe place to moor and we realised how few public moorings there were on the river. As dusk arrived we were soon under pressure to get to the next mooring place. Finally, as the sun was setting we went through Elton Lock and found a place to moor, as the stress dissipated we were treated to a most spectacular sunset.

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DAY 2: PANIC, POO AND DRIVING IN THE DARK/ DAY 3: LOCKS, WINDMILLS AND ELLIE CRACKS…

Woke up in Ely to another sunny day, but when we go to fill the kettle the taps run dry. Panic! We immediately assume the worst, something on our boat is broken, there ensues a lot of faffing, looking at pumps, wires, tanks etc… Just thinking we will have to call for back up when Lewis finds the ON button! Amber admits that she had flicked this particular switch earlier not knowing what it was for. But, oh well, the sense of relief more than makes up for the drama… on with the day.

Unfortunately the next task is emptying the toilet cassette (what fun). Amber and I take turns with this wretch-y job, only Amber manages to make it look glamorous!

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We stopped for a lovely picnic lunch…

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but apart from the odd smokey engine the rest of the day was uneventful…

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That is until Denver Lock… this was the first lock of our journey and the last hurdle of the day so we were a bit anxious. It is a massive tidal lock manned by a lock-keeper. It opens onto the tidal steam of the Hundred Foot Drain (or something) and so it only runs when the tide is right. Luckily we arrive with an hour to spare at 5pm so wait for the lock keeper to arrive to travel through. And we wait and we wait.

He does arrive, a lovely man, but so do lots of yachts who want to go through too, and they have the advantage of not needing to go through a second lock on the other side. This makes us a low priority as we have to wait for the second lock (Salter’s Lode) to be ready.

So we wait, and wait. It’s starting to get dark when our turn finally comes…

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We knew that we were under pressure as we would be out on the tidal stream in the dark looking for the narrow entrance to the second lock and a safe place to moor.

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When we see it we’ve already gone past and Lewis keeps his cool turning the 54ft boat upstream, in the pitch black… it takes a couple of goes and some jibes from an impatient lock-keeper but we make it! Once we were moored Lewis admitted he had been a bit nervous about the whole thing!

Day 3… not such a bad day…

We had a good start to the day on the Old Nene River. We had to phone ahead to a lock a couple of hours drive away and we pootled our way to it. Amber and Tam got off along the way and cycled to meet us there. The lock was fine until… on the other side with neither Lewis or Amber on board I had to navigate out of the lock, around some waiting boats and to a tiny pontoon where Amber, Lewis and Tam were waiting…. With Amber and Lewis shouting instructions I made several attempts but the pressure got to me (obviously)… drifting in the middle of the river I imagined a scene where I had to abandon them in the middle of nowhere and carry on the journey alone (unable to moor or reverse very well), yikes!

Finally, I sort of crashed myself into the opposite bank and Lewis having lost patience with me traversed the lock, scaled the bank and jumped aboard… I had a little cry and we got on with the day.

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After that it was all pumpkins and windmills….

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And now we are in the rowdy centre of a town called March with tin cups of red wine and a good night’s sleep to look forward to… hopefully.

-Ellie (and Amber)

THE BOAT STUDIO DOES NOT MOVE..AND OTHER DISASTERS

Woke up after a great night’s sleep on the boat to a gorgeous sunny day. We were all in a great mood and ready to get going. Doing some checks, we noticed the water tank was low; the first task was to turn the boat around and fill up. Lewis turns the key in the ignition and NOTHING and again and another 20 times, still NOTHING…. ARRGGGHHHH!

Meanwhile at the bow Amber is getting Tam ready with a bowl of cheerios and a lovely photo opportunity…

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Moments later he fell of the ledge face first and bashed his nose. Things were taking a turn for the bleak…

Back at the stern, Lewis and I are looking at every switch and lever in the engine trying to figure out why the boat won’t start…

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We couldn’t, so we called Jeremy the boat man and while we waited we decided to turn the boat manually to fill up with water.

Tam and Amber were feeling pretty bad but luckily the boat yard was full of lovely old diggers to cheer Tam up. The boy loves diggers.

Jeremy arrived, turned the key once, twice and guess what… the boat roared into life and we felt a bit silly.

Finally we were on our way. It was a gorgeous day for driving but a bit of a strong wind on a very winding river.

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We made great progress until I beached the boat! ARRRGGHH (again!). We were firmly wedged in some deep mud and it took a lot of shoving off with the pole and back and forth with the engine to get free again… but we did. (The engine started to smoke but we’re not going to worry about that).

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On our way again but we decided to pull over for Tam to have a stroll in the pram. Mooring is always  tricky especially in a strong wind and tempers were starting to fray in the Mottram clan leading to a bit of a domestic.

Finally on dry land and before they had got very far the front wheel fell off the pram… needless to say at this point Amber was at the very end of her tether. We all got back on the boat and Tam took a nap in their lovely cabin.

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We had to keep going, spirits tested but not broken!

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As we approached Ely, our first night destination, the afternoon sun blazed off the cathedral the river widened and it was all pretty majestic. We could have shown you if the GoPro hadn’t packed up at that point.

Seemingly against the odds we made it to Ely! Yippee!

We refueled the boat and ourselves with ice cream and chips.

Day 1 and it’s safe to say we faced some of our worst-case-scenarios. Undefeated, we’re ready to see what day 2 brings.

-Ellie

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The Boat Studio moves.

This is my first ever blog. Bear with me. I don’t have a flair for this writing malarky!

In a couple of days The Boat Studio, a boat formerly known as The French Connection, will be making her way on a journey along some of the country’s finest waterways before mooring for the winter on the Gloucester – Sharpness Canal.

When there, she will undergo a transformation to become what we envisage as The Boat Studio; a multi adaptable space suitable for artists, writers and musicians to residency in during the summer months.

I can’t quite believe that we have got this stage already!

This idea has been floating around my head since I was a teenager. At art school, during lunch hours, I supped tea with friends and day dreamed about what creative projects we might embark upon when we finished uni. Over time The Boat Studio went from being a nice idea to a firm intention.

Last year artist Ellie Young and I launched a crowd funding campaign to buy a boat and have since been raising money in all manner of ways..Merchandise selling, Painting portraits (check em out at http://ellieyoungart.com/) gigs, stalls, and art auctions.

And now, with LOTS of support from family and friends, we actually own a boat.

Unbelievable.

And now we have to move it at 4mph across a large chunk of the centre of the UK.

This is one of the ways I want to document this voyage – a blog..so now I am a blogger..pfft!

Thankfully you’ll be hearing from a variety of voices over the next few weeks as everyone involved on the big move will be updating the blog as they journey along the waterways…providing we don’t sink or get stuck in a lock or all fall ill with Weil’s disease.

On Wednesday 23rd, as in 2 days time, ohmygod ohmygod, Ellie, Lewis, me and baby Tamlin will head down to prepare our boat for the trip.

On the morning of the Thursday 24th we set sail.

Or rather start the engine hold the tiller and chug along – very slowly.

I am nervous but very very excited. My almost two year old son is coming along for the ride which both amuses and terrifies me. I don’t know how this little ball of curiosity and exploration will take to being confined to a narrow lump of steel for long stretches. I will have a bike for escaping and the countryside along the river or canal will be our playground..and ducks..(yay for ducks!) will surely be a hit.

I have no idea how its going to work or even if it will work. I’m positive things will go wrong along the way and our new purchase will surprise us with quirks we haven’t even imagined. But it will also be an epic adventure so please do follow us as we bumble along with it!

Ooh the next installment will be from the cabin!

Till then!

Amber

Dates of TBS maiden voyage:

September 23rd-30th: Amber, Ellie, Lewis and Baby Tamlin will take the boat as far as Northampton.

30th-7th: Dave and Mal Charlton will take it possibly as far a Stratford- Upon-Avon.

7th-14th: Lewis Mottram and someone else will take it to Gloucester.

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