Thursday, 13 June 2013

Queues At The Loos

Get two or three boaters together and it won’t be long until they are talking about toilets. The argument between what is better - having a cassette arrangement or a large holding  tank, that can be pumped out at regular intervals, always creates a huge partisan response whenever one or other is championed on any of the on-line boaters’ forums.
We went for the cassette option and are very happy with the arrangement. These cassettes are not small, having a capacity of 20 litres, so we only have to empty them every few days.
But get five gentlemen on your boat, hit the pub most lunchtimes and evenings and top up with high calorific food, and they fill up alarmingly quickly.
So it was, that last weekend, when four my old boating mates joined TCW for the weekend, our cruising schedule became based around how quickly we could get between various sanitary stations, before they filled both of the on-board cassettes up.
Filling up with water at the top of the Farmers Bridge Flight in central Birmingham

Luckily we had some pretty good weather to complete our journey from Cambrian Wharf in central Birmingham to Tamworth, and the drop down the 14 locks at Farmers Bridge and the subsequent Aston flight to Spaghetti Junction on the Birmingham and Fazeley, went very well. What was noticeable, and is something we have commented on over the last week or so, is how few boats there seem to be out on the cut. We met just one boat as we left Birmingham and could have counted the boats we passed on one hand. You would have thought that the sun would have brought a load of boats out.
Breakfast time on TCW. Malc, Roy, Paul & Paul

Come on Birmingham. Get your act together.

I had been expecting to have all manner of things wrapped around the propeller, but when I checked the weed hatch that night, there was only a couple of plastic bags, and, for a change, no underwear, which is our speciality! Where the canal looked particularly bad, we dis-engaged the propeller between locks and pulled the boat through. The rubbish, as shown in the photos, was everywhere in the lower locks. They’re a messy lot round Birmingham. The one hire boat we had passed had reported they’d had to clear their weed hatch three times that day.

A very rare shot of Roger on lock duty

Just add a scythe and you have Old Father Time

I had been given advanced warnings of where not to moor as we trundled through the outer suburbs of Birmingham, so we cruised down to Minworth and stopped there for the night. While we checked out the local hostelries, our neighbours, in two plastic cruisers, amused themselves with lengths of string and magnets, fishing for anything metal they could retrieve and sell. They were very proud of their haul. It was a bit strange.
Crusing under Spaghetti Junction

And so we proceeded, via rubbish and sanitary points, to Tamworth, and moved back into Staffordshire again. The gentlemen departed early Monday morning and I saw them off at the railway station, and 15 minutes later, welcomed back Pat, who had been staying in a friend’s flat in the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham for the weekend.
We had been to Tamworth before a few times. Latterly to visit Elite Furnishings, who specialise in narrow boat furniture and supplied our couch, cum sofa bed. The canal skirts the outskirts of Tamworth, and our mooring was just a bit too far out to comfortably walk in, so our journeys back and forth were done by bus or by cab.
Monday afternoon Pat and I backtracked to empty the last cassette they had left, and take on water at Fazeley, cruising up to 7pm, which is quite unusual for us.
Paul with his "everlasting" tea mug

Another guest joined us Tuesday. Paul is my best pal’s  brother, who we have known for donkeys years and joined us last summer for a few days. This time he is on board until we get to Coventry this weekend.

Rob and Suzie, with their brand new home

And Tuesday night, we met up with Suzie and Rob on “Swamp Frogs”. Boaters who are readers of the magazine “Canal Boat”, will be aware that their boat is featured on this month’s cover and in greater depth inside the magazine. Their brand new boat, was on show at the Crick Boat Show a few weeks back, and features loads of space-saving ideas and innovations, It was really good to see them after so long, and have a good look over the boat. And it seems I might have persuaded them to purchase a ukeulele!
Can I have a tin of sardines please?

Finally, it seems those Midland felines can't keep away from The Cat's Whiskers. Must be the catnip we pump through the engine! No sooner had Ruby departed than a new pussy cat hopped on board to sample the hospitality in Polesworth.

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