Cruising Polly Anna
2001 - Getting her home, and a few trial runs.
2002 - The first long trips - Easter on the Ashby and The Thames
2003 - Crick and Milton Keynes
2003 - London and the Tideway
2003 - London and the Return, and Welford
Moving the boat from Springwood Haven to Bugbrooke was an exercise in logistics and a chance to get to know our new boat. Most of the route was not new to us because the previous year we had cruised the Leceistershire Ring, passing Valley Cruises base and getting as far as Norton Junction before heading north. What was to complicate matters was that our daughter was at school on the Friday, Monday and Tuesday, so we faced some very short days and lots of miles! We still decided to move the boat as soon as we got it because stoppages were due to cut off our access to Bugbrooke.
Friday 9/11/01: Dropped Elizabeth off at school and headed for Valley Cruises. By the time all the formalities were complete, we cast off at 12:30 and headed for Hawksbury Junction - about 7.5 lock free miles which took us 2' 40" in chilly but mainly dry weather. We took turns at steering and poking about the boat until it was time to moor up - before the turn into the North Oxford and the stop lock. We had called a taxi to take us back to the car, but things became stressful as it turned up late, and the painfully slow track leading to and from Valley Cruises and the traffic in Nuneaton combined to make us late picking up our daughter from her after school club.
Saturday 10/11/01: Now things started to get even more complex! We took two cars, left one at Norton Junction, took the other to Hawksbury via Midland Chandlers for a small collection of bits (including a BWB key!), and got under way by 12:30. The weather was damp, so we pressed on. Our daughter soon made the main cabin "hers" with colouring books and pencils everywhere. 4' 15" saw us complete the 11 miles and 1 stop lock to Newbold, where we knew we had a choice of pubs! In fact, the Barley Mow, where we had eaten on our last holiday, was both very full and very noisy, so we tried The Boat, and were happy with the result.
Sunday 11/11/01: We woke to find the inverter had cut out overnight - we were running a small 240v nightlight for Elizabeth to make her feel a bit more "at home" - so decided that more than two cabin batteries were going to be required, with the possible addition of an alternator contoller. The boat has a 240v fridge and a 600w Sterling inverter/charger. One bit of bad news was the our 14" combi TV/Video found the 240v too rough to play videos so some thought was going to be required on the whole electrics side of the boat. It took 7'30" to travel the 16.5 miles and 9 locks to Norton Junction, where we started the great car shuffle again, driving back to Hawksbury in the Mini, picking up the Rover dropping the Mini at Weltonfield and then driving home. Phew.
Monday 12/11/01: Another short day, but we decided to stick with two cars so that we weren't at the mercy of taxis. Now on a stretch of the canal new to us (not for long!) Bucky locks seemed harder work than Braunston - or perhaps I was getting tired. Only 4 hour crusing, 7 locks and 4.3 miles to Weedon, where we moored above the Heart of England.
Tuesday 13/11/01: The final leg - only 4 miles to Bugbrooke which we took our time over - even stopping for lunch. Our mooring in the marina was not yet available - Paul had arranged for winter moorings on the towpath if they were going to be needed - we found a space just before the winding hole. Our new boat was at her home mooring (almost) and by now we had settled on a new name - Pollyanna.
The very next weekend, we were back for more! A space for us had materialised in the marina, and we wanted to take the boat to a boatfitter to discuss stage one of the refitting plan. This time my mother joined us, only a couple of hours to High House Wharf and back, but at the end of the journey I blightly turned into Bugbrooke marina without hardly touching the sides. Little did I realise that it was pure luck; when a wind is blowing it is quite a feat to get a boat of 63' in. In fact, on the next trip we made such a hash of it we discovered that the winding hole just north of the marina could be used to turn our boat, even though it is marked as 60'!
In the time before our first holiday, we visited Weedon twice where the food at the Crossroads hotel has become such a firm favourite of Fiona's that I can't persude her to try any of the other pubs, and Stoke Bruerne where the Navigation Inn (with lots of childrens attractions) and the trinkets in the canal muesum are my daughter's favourite. We were going to do great things at Christmas, but the boat was firmly frozen in!
Good Friday 29th March. Arrived at Gayton Junction to pick up the boat from the GJBC, Fiona set off about 3:30 towards Bugbrooke, while Brian (my father-in law) and I drove the cars to Bugbrooke and walked back down the towpath, boarding at bridge 41. We arrived at Bugbrooke and moored in the marina by 4:45, loaded up the boat and retired to The Wharf for dinner after which Brian and Judith left us to continue their holiday. The pub was very busy, and we took a table in the restaurant, where the food was quite good value. Some confusion over the Orange Sorbet. Fiona got very hot in the night, we turned the heating off and then Elizabeth woke up cold. The central heating has not been properly bled and is very noisy. We also finished up another gas bottle.
Easter Saturday 30th March. Lovely Sunny Spring day. Left the Marina about 9:30 and pottered up towards Weedon. We went quite slowly, with even more than the usual number of moored boats holding us up, and then encountered a queue at the bottom of the Buckby locks. A quick trip to the Chandlery didn't produce anything we needed, but I bought Elizabeth a stapler, which she then tried out on her finger, so we got to try out the first aid kit for the first time. It was about 12 before we were in the bottom lock and about 2:15 before we got to the top. This particular flight of wide locks are hard work, with some of the gates and gear too hard for smaller people! We had lunch on the move and then entered Braunston Tunnel behind a boat that negotiated it at tickover, the problem being that their tickover was slower than ours. It was easier steering in the tunnel once I had taken my sunglasses off. The six locks down to Braunston were a lot easier, but we only just got to Midland Chandlers by 5:20 to buy the bits needed for the curtain poles. It saved us a lot of money, as we had no time for browsing! We didn't expect to get a decent mooring here on an Easter Saturday, and we were right, and ended up a couple of feet from the bank above bridge 88 on the North Oxford. Walked to the Mill House, which had just started a Carvery to the dismay of some of the regulars, but we had a good meal and walked home content.
Easter Sunday 31st March. Raining when we woke, and due to a cockup on the clocks going forward front I got up at 7, thinking it was 8. Got underway at 10:10 and despite the traffic got through Hillmorton locks and stopped at Rugby by 13:30. Walked to the retail park to buy some brass screws but ended up with a KFC Twister instead. Set off again at 15:10 and stopped at All Oaks wood at 5:00 and then walked into Brinklow. The Raven was shut at 6, the White Lion had a garden but no food, the Dun Cow has shut down but the Bull's Head (on the Coventry Road, not Broad Street) was all we could hope for - a pudding too far.
Easter Monday 1st April. Left at 08:50 and arrived at Hawksbury Junction at 11:30 to fill up with water. Negotiated the stop lock thanks to Elizabeth and stopped at the Greyhound for a good lunch. Set off again about 2:30 and made Stoke Golding at 6:30, getting to the pub about 7. The Ashby canal is both interesting and shallow!
Tuesday 2nd April: Set off about 10, and made a quick stop at the Sutton Cheney Wharf, where we bought much needed coffee and milk, and some Ashby Canal mugs. Got to the Battlefield Moorings about 11:30 and visited the Battlefield Centre, had lunch, Elizabeth went to the shop to buy a china ornament and then took a trip on the diesel train! Set off again at 3:40 and arrived at Snarestone at 6:30. Went to the Globe.
Wednesday 3rd April. Got underway before 10, then turned round at the present head of navigation. By 11:10 we were going past last nights mooring. The weather was great and we ploughed on all day. First stop was for gas at the Ashby Boat Co., second for milk and cash at the new Marina above bridge 17. We moored at the Limekilns pub which had a garden for Elizabeth to play in about 6:30.
Thursday 4th April. A 9:30 start - we wanted to get to Newbold today, but Pollyanna's first breakdown happened at 11:10 just before bridge 6, when the alternator belt broke. I also crushed a finger lifting the steps out to investigate. It had been squealing on and off for the last few days. Fortunately, a call to Valley Cruises pointed us in the direction of Trinity motors, or the parts department, a 50 min walk away. They had the belt, some spanners and a taxi firm number, and we were underway again by 3:10. We had wanted to stop at Ansty anyway, where the Rose and Castle turned out to be probably the best pub of the trip.
Friday 5th April. Set off at heading for Braunston at 9:20, stopped for gas and bits at Rose Narrowboats, slowed down to drop Fiona off for bread etc. at Newbold, and finally moored above Braunston locks at 6:40. The Admiral Nelson was very busy, but once we got away from the skittles table we had a good meal. Today we made up the time lost yesterday due to the broken belt and should be able to cruise gently back to base!
Saturday 6th April. A gentle start to the day, that saw us stopping at the New Inn for lunch, to build up my strength for the Buckby flight. Stopped at Whilton Marina for a pump-out, and to fill up with diesel, then stopped the night at Weedon.
Sunday 7th April. Just a couple of hours to the marina where we loaded the car, then Fiona drove the the GJBC at Gayton so I could return the boat for the finishing touches to the shower room.
So our first proper holiday was over. I liked the Ashby canal a great deal and could have spent more time on the trip. I'm slowly getting over boat-hire syndrome, where you try to cram as much travelling in as possible to get your money's worth!