Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Roger & Pat take a ride...in a car.

Vic and I try out my new "Sooper-Dooper" umbrella bracket, somewhere in Warwickshire
It’s been very much a week of “firsts” on The Cat’s Whiskers. Our first major breakdown; Pat’s first stint of helming and attempting a flight of locks for over 12 months, and the first time we have needed to light our fire this season.
The last time we blogged we were on the Grand Union, chugging towards Braunston. We knew some pals of ours, Ian and Irene, on “Free Spirit” were somewhere behind us and as we were taking on water in that delightful canal village, they chugged around the corner, basically going the same way as us. So the next couple of days we cruised with them and Irene and I got pretty good at leaving and entering locks side by side. We said goodbye just before Leamington Spa, and, I expect we will meet up with them in Central Birmingham later this week, as they are heading up to the Trent & Mersey, much as we are.
Almost "super-glued" together. Some "Boating Ballet" from TCW and Irene on "Free Spirit"
The weather throughout last week turned colder and on a few occasions, considerably wetter, than we had experienced for many months. Pat has adopted the role of “Chief Fire Officer”, and I know better to suggest how to light the fire, when she is coaxing it into life. We spent last Friday night in Leamington Spa, and on Saturday morning welcomed a couple of old boating chums, we knew from cruising the Kennet & Avon, last summer Barry & Helen. And they had their car with them! What excitement followed.  A ride in a car is a real treat for us, and they took us down to the brand new, and barely-opened, Cropredy Marina, on the South Oxford Canal. They have reserved a mooring for their boat “Midnight”, from next spring. We last saw the marina when it was barely a hole in the ground in July, and it is amazing what has been achieved in that short space of time. Pat was impressed and it would not surprise me if that is where TCW rests the winter after next. Watch this space.
Pat & Helen by the large basin at the new Cropredy Marina

The large basin at Cropredy Marina. We liked it.
We were back in time for the short cruise into the outskirts of Warwick, by the “Cape” pub, one of my favourites. Barry & Helen re-joined us the following morning when it was tipping down, and after a walk up the Hatton Flight to see if “Free Spirit” had started its ascent, we went shopping instead, to one of those huge Tesco’s that seem to sell everything under one roof.
Our next guest, our old pal, Vic, arrived by bus mid-afternoon, and after lunch in the local Wetherspoons, we sat out in the rain Monday morning.
The climb out of Warwick, is via the Hatton Flight of locks, some 21 of them, and they have hydraulic paddles and need a lot of winding. We teamed up with another boat, whose crew were moving a hire company boat, and half way up, I pushed the Morse control forward and nothing happened. I had tickover, but nothing else, forwards or backwards. There was clearly something wrong with the throttle cable mechanism so we tied the two boats together, and completed the rest of the flight breasted up. The breakdown was accompanied by driving rain, so it was an eventful ascent.
A call to the “Canal & River Rescue” team, saw a marine engineer arrive within the hour, and 30 minutes later he had fitted a new throttle cable (it had snapped) and we were on our way. It was the first time we had used this service, (a kind of AA of the waterways) and we were both very impressed with the service and their attitude on the phone. I know a number of boaters have had negative experiences with them, but ours was very good.

The RCR engineer fixes a new throttle cable for us at the top of the Hatton Flight
Today we turned on to the Stratford-on-Avon canal, and headed north. This is the first time we have been on a narrow canal since June, and Pat had said she would have a go at helming once we made the turn.
She was as good as her word, and made a faultless climb up  the Lapworth flight. I think she found it a bit boring. She likes to influence the lock opening operation and interact with other boaters, but she stuck at it, and both Vic and I were very impressed with her helming skills.

Come on Pat, cheer up. Only another eight more locks to do.
Vic returned home this afternoon, so we are now on our own again, beside the village of Hockley Heath. It’s a good mooring and we know most of the boats around us. Birmingham beckons in a couple of days, but we might sit it out tomorrow (Wednesday), as the forecast is more rain but a brighter few days to follow.

Back on narrow canals again. One of the top locks on the Lapworth flight on the North Stratford

Toodaloo chums.

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