Saturday, August 17, 2019

On VIC 32 North-East through the Great Glen

Boating with a difference!  No, we haven't taken Zindagi up to Scotland, but we have just had an amazing boat trip north-east from Fort William up to Inverness, via the Great Glen, including Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness – and out onto salt water at either end!

Here is the VIC 32 at 9.45 on Sunday night, 11th August, at Corpach Basin near Fort William.  We arrived in the afternoon and were welcomed on board, shown our cabin and given the first of a series of really excellent meals, as well as meeting the crew of 5 and our 7 fellow-passengers.

The boat is unique, so why not follow this link to find out more?  We really can't do justice to it here !

Out through the sea lock and full steam ahead out onto Loch Eil . . .

. . . with glass-like tranquility ahead

Heading back to Corpach and the summit of Ben Nevis makes a rare appearance!

Into the first lock from Corpach, heading towards the Banavie locks – 'Neptune's Staircase'.

Starting up the staircase . . .

. . . and moored at the top.  Locks are still locks, just like on the English system, but these are big locks, thick ropes on the boat and every lock is manned.

Ed the engineer, enthusiastically introducing his beloved steam engine.

The saloon at night.  The candles are still alight, but all seem to have gone to bed!

View for'ard from the wheelhouse . . .

. . . with Alan the skipper at the wheel.  

We were all encouraged to have a go at the wheel,

so here is Val having her turn on Loch Ness – concentrating!

Buffet lunch just waiting to be eaten.  Really fantastic food!

Jim (first mate) eating on deck, while Colin and Alistair (cooks) prepare the next meal.

The Bridge of Oich.  Interesting suspension bridge of unusual construction. 
More details.

Moored below Cullochy Lock, overnight Tuesday / Wednesday.

Then down Fort Augustus locks . . .

. . . and into Loch Ness, all 23 miles of it!  But you can't see the other end because of the curvature of the earth!

And so to the basin at Inverness on Thursday evening.

But that was not quite the end of our trip . . .

We steamed out from the Beauly Firth, under the A9 on the Kessock Bridge, and out into the Moray Firth, hoping to see some of their famous bottle-nosed dolphins.

Yes, we did see some, as did these dolphin-watchers on Chanonry Point, but they were just a too quick for the camera !

So, back to Inverness Basin in time for another excellent lunch, before boarding taxi and minibus to take us back to Corpach.

Farewell, VIC 32 and your wonderful crew, and all our fellow-passengers.

I wonder whether we may meet again?

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

First Trip from Hatherton

Having moved Zindagi to Hatherton Marina in early October, we knew that we would need to get up there again soon to prepare the boat for the colder months.  We also wanted to replace the old carpet, which had been down on the floor since the boat was built in early 2007!
As we came towards the end of November, it looked like there might be a few days of dry and sunny (if cold!) weather coming in the West Midlands, so perhaps there might be the chance of snatching a few days travelling . . .

First things first!  Taking up the old carpet was very easy.  Fitting the new one was a bit more tricky!

But the end result is not too bad!  Still a little tidying up and re-tensioning to be done on a subsequent visit, but a definite improvement on the old carpet.

So, what was the weather forecast like?  Could we manage a few days' cruising?  No rain in the West Midlands for about 4 days, pretty cold but bright and sunny.  We decided to have a go!

12 locks and about 15 miles in a generally northward direction would take us to Great Haywood, where the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal meets the Trent & Mersey Canal.  We went through Great Haywood Junction several times during our canal travelling years, and it was in fact the place we started from on our first-ever canal holiday back in 1976.

So, Tuesday 28th November saw us getting back into our old travelling routine:  Do the engine checks, take down the TV aerial and wind turbine, start the engine and cast off the moorings.  Oh yes, and don't forget to disconnect the mains power hook-up – one of the little luxuries of marina mooring! 

Then a couple of miles of chugging to reach Gailey, with its lock-keeper's lookout tower right next to the A5, where the lock allows the canal to dive 8ft 6in under Watling Street.  I know we went through one lock when we were taking Zindagi to Hatherton Marina, but that was Autherley Stop Lock, with a fall of only 6 inches.  Gailey Lock was a real lock at last!  We were beginning to feel more at home on the canals again.

Here we are again, in what looks like (and really is) a remote rural lock.  What you can't see or hear is the roar of the M6 just a few yards away!  Not to worry; the canal and motorway soon parted company, leaving us in peace again.  The contrast of old and new transport systems struck us when we first came this way 41 years ago.  

We still enjoy the 'slow lane'!

Amazing to think that these peaceful canals were the 'motorways' of their time, always bustling with working boats carrying payloads of all descriptions, and yet the simple architecture of the locks and bridges has been there all the time, with a beauty of their own.

Wednesday afternoon, and we reached Tixall Lock, the last on this short run, but the first lock we ever went through.  One of the staff from the hire company at Great Haywood had been there to help all the newcomers to boating and explain how to work a lock.  We have been through a few since then!

And so to the end of the outward journey, Tixall Wide.  A lovely lake west of Great Haywood Junction and the canal just opens out into it.  Was it widened to 'gentrify' the appearance of the working canal for the landed gentry in their nearby stately homes, or was it a natural lake which just happened to lie in the path of the canal?  Nobody seems to know for sure.

The light was fading in late afternoon, so we just took a broad sweep round in the Wide (no 3-point turns needed here!) and moored up for the night, pointing back the way we had come.

Thursday morning was crisp – and icy!  The Wide itself was pretty clear, but an approaching boat had to cut a path through the thin ice.  Very useful for us as we started on our return journey.

Still no rain and bright sun, but it was cold!  We had to do a little ice-breaking in some places but most of the work had been done for us.  More of a problem was steering into the brightness of the very low sun, especially as it was also reflecting off the water!  Val needed to approach the locks with even more care than usual, at times almost driving 'blind'!

And so back to Zindagi's new home at Hatherton by Friday lunchtime.  The gamble on the weather had paid off, we had had 4 very enjoyable days together, back on the canals again and feeling very much like old times.  Now we are looking forward to some more – and longer – explorations in 2018.  We already have an 'Explorer Cruise' booked with the Birmingham Canal Navigations Society (BCNS) in June and hopefully we shall be out on Zindagi  a few times before then.

If you want to follow our route, you can click on 'Where Zindagi Is Now' and then zoom out to see the map of the whole area.  Just follow the thin blue line of the canal as it snakes west and then vaguely northwards from Hatherton towards Great Haywood.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Zindagi Flies Again . . .

. . . twice in one day!

Yes, the time had come to move Zindagi back onto the main canal system, so we made arrangements for a lorry trip and a crane at each end of the journey.

We chugged away from our moorings at Orchard Farm on the afternoon of Monday 2nd October, and then moored a short distance away, at the Tiverton Road Bridge, the same place where we had the boat craned in almost exactly 3 years ago.

A night on board (first one for a while), in readiness for an early start on Tuesday morning.  We had Lottie, Adam's Rottweiler, staying with us while he was working overseas, so she came too.

The lift went smoothly.  Same crane operator and same driver as last time, but a novel way of attaching the boat to the lorry – very neat!
Then in the car and up to Hatherton Marina, Zindagi's new home mooring, where we left the car and got a lift from Dawn to her base at Industry Narrowboats near Stretton Aqueduct on the Shropshire Union, where we had arranged to have the boat craned in.
Not quite such a smooth craning-in!  It looked a bit scary at one point, when the boat was rocking around on the end of the chains, but in the end she was back in water, unscathed, and with only a few small things inside that had moved around!

Back on board with Lottie (though she fell in on the way!) and chugging southwards towards Autherley Junction, where the 'Shroppie' branches off the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal.  We moored up for the night just a short distance from the junction and the 6 inch (!) stop lock.
Wednesday morning saw us going through our first lock in three years, then onto the 'Staffs & Worcs' and northeastwards up to Hatherton.  We have not been this way for several years, but it was amazing how familiar it seemed, as we often knew what was round the next corner!
Quite a tight fit to get Zindagi's 57 feet round to reverse into our mooring, especially as it was a fairly windy morning, but we managed OK, made it all secure and left her there in her new home, before taking Lottie back to Adam in Shrewsbury and setting off on our way.

No disrespects to the Grand Western Canal in Devon, but it was really great to be back on 'real canals' again.  We both felt as if we were back on our watery travels again, like old times.  No plans to do any long-term living on board, but we really hope to be able to get out for a few odd weeks, hopefully with a few friends to join us from time to time.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Zindagi's First Trip on the Grand Westernl!

When we moved 'Zindagi' to the Grand Western in October 2014, one of our main objectives was to be able to do some maintenance work without needing to travel 4 hours + each way to get to the boat.  Well, we have managed to get some work done, but we have also enjoyed a little travelling on the canal.

 Just a few weeks after we arrived, we took two days out and went pretty much as far as we could!  Well, there are only 11 navigable miles, and we can't even do all of that as there isn't room for us to turn at the end!

So, leaving the moorings ...

We chugged to 'Swing Bridge' (which isn't a swing bridge - I wonder how long ago it used to swing?) and walked into Halberton, knowing that the Barge Inn served meals - we had eaten there once before when exploring the canal on foot.

Well, no meal there this time, as they no longer had a chef, so it was back on board and chug on to the Globe at Sampford Peverell,

After a pleasant meal there, slowly on and past the little chapel at Ayshford Court,

and then we moored up for the night after Ebear Bridge but before we got too close to the railway line.  Nice to enjoy the old routine of the evening, night and morning on Zindagi again!

Dave's morning walk took him past Fossend and Fenacre Bridges, seeing this impressive brood of 8 cygnets, all apparently in fine fettle - as well as their parents!

And as far as Whipcott bridge, where a fallen tree would prevent even small craft going further.  That was beyond our furthest turning point, in any case, so we were not expecting to take Zindagi that far.

We had been told that there was an inlet just north of Great Fossend Bridge, which would be OK for us to turn in, so we went through the bridge and were just beginning to turn into the inlet when we ran aground in mid-channel!

Not a good sign, so we decided to reverse to just south of the bridge in the hope that we would be able to turn there.  We did, but with just about 4 inches to spare!  At 57 ft long, Zindagi is probably the longest boat on the canal . . .

On our return journey, the swan family followed us some of the way.

Back to the Lift Bridge at Tiverton Road Car Park - where we had been craned in a few weeks earlier - ducks all lined up as a reception committee.

Then past the moorings and on towards Tiverton, where we turned at Tidcombe Bridge.  We probably need to look at the canal on foot before we venture any further into Tiverton on board - the information we have been given on winding holes (turning spaces) does NOT include the maximum length of boats that can turn!

Then back to the moorings after an enjoyable 2-day trip.

A pleasant introduction to Zindagi's new home!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Grand Union to Grand Western - in a day!

As we have become more and more involved with life back in Devon, having Zindagi moored at Blisworth has become more and more difficult to justify.  4 hours driving - exactly 200 miles - before we could start to do anything with the boat at all, whether that was maintenance (increasingly needed, 18 months after we stopped cruising) or even getting out for even a few days' cruising.  Since moving back to Devon in January 2013, we had been out for precisely one week!

Time for decisions!  We drove up to Bradford-on-Avon on the Kennet and Avon Canal and looked at possible moorings there.  OK, but that would still make a 2-hour trip to get to the boat.  Would we get to it any more often?

How about having it transported down to Devon on a lorry and placed on a hardstanding in a friend's farmyard?  Expensive for transport, but hopefully fairly cheap for hardstanding rental, and we would be able to get the maintenance done!  We enquired, but unfortunately the friends we had in mind did not have enough spare space and other possibilities came to nothing, except for one very expensive option.

Then Val thought of the Grand Western Canal at Tiverton.  Only 20 miles from home, just 11 landlocked miles of navigable canal.  We enquired and, yes, we could have a mooring.  The mooring and the licence were quite a bit cheaper than leaving Zindagi at Blisworth, but of course we still had to pay for the craning out onto a lorry, transport down to Devon and then craning in - definitely NOT cheap!  

Moving day was set for 17th October, but Shireen and Thor had a half-term break before that, so they joined us for just 2 days the weekend before, and we went for a sort 'there and back' trip.

Then a few days to pack up the 'breakables' ready for the trip by road, and also to spend a little time with some of our Blisworth friends.  Here we are in the 'Queen Eleanor', Val with Alan & Jan, Mary, Sally and Dianne.  Thank you, Sally for arranging the get-together!  A little sadness at the breaking of our obvious link with Blisworth by moving Zindagi, but we feel sure that this will be 'Auf Wiedersehen' and not 'Farewell' and that we will get back for the occasional visit - and maybe get some return visits in Lapford!

Friday 17th came, and we chugged the half mile round to Gayton marina to be craned out, as we have done twice before to get the bottom of the boat blacked, but this time it was onto a lorry!

All ready to go - once the lorry driver had got a buckled wheel replaced!

The driver told us he was taking a different route, so we had a surprise when we overtook the boat on the M4!  Quite a bizarre experience . . .

Shortly after 3 in the afternoon, and Zindagi was being craned into the Grand Western Canal near Halberton.  All had gone remarkably smoothly.

Just a short chug to our new moorings at Orchard Farm . . .

. . . and Zindagi was in her new home!