Sunday 20 October 2019

Feeling guilty for wanting solitude

I am quite often admonished for seeking out solitude. I am happy to take such as I have in the past thought myself a 'miserable' person ! However as  grow older and more comfortable in this skin I feel more at ease with my desire to be alone, often with nature and never more so that since moving to our Staffordshire cottage in the moorlands.

When I say I, I mean we -  have two lovely places to spend time at the boat and the cottage both provide peace and quiet and lovely places to walk that are so lightly inhabited that if I'm lucky I can walk for a couple of hours and not meet anyone. I'm not antisocial, I can be very sociable but I do crave my own bit of quiet. I think that is why I struggled in the dry dock, like a caged bird if you like (only an ugly bird to be fair.)

So in the spirit of seeking solitude I recently really enjoyed a wet  and therefore quite solitudinal (not even a word I am sure) walk around one of the local reservoirs to me.

Titteswoth Resevoir 4th October 2019

Easy spot the reservoir is quite full  

Looking back from the start to the other end - the dam wall end 

Tuesday 15 October 2019

Almost essential I do these things

I have some good friends down south who ride bikes. They also like military history, especially one called John who is a Guild of Battlefield guides member and an oracle of military history.

We have over the last few years established a pattern of a European motorcycle trip to follow a particular period of war history - this takes place May time and then a local museums meet up over a long weekend in late September. John organises both brilliantly

So for my record we were in Fareham staying at the Red Lion for a long weekend visiting said places of interest for the weekend of the 27-29th September

Why the title  - obvious as one of the significant observations is the staggering loss of life matched with unimaginable bravery of soldiers and civilians during the conflicts we revisit. My life is just so easy and therefore I have to honour the sacrifice by doing things these brave people could not do whilst thinking of them and silently thanking them for my peace and prosperity.

These words from Major Dick Winters who was the cement in Easy Company still makes me feel incredibly humble.

“Before I dozed off, I did not forget to get on my knees and thank God for helping me to live through this day and to ask His help on D+1. I would live this war one day at a time, and I promised myself that if I survived, I would find a small farm somewhere in the Pennsylvania countryside and spend the remainder of my life in quiet and peace.”
― Dick Winters, Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters

Our base ....

Our bikes ...

The boy band...

It was choppy in Solent waters 

The submarine museum is well worth a visit  - done it twice now and still in awe of the living conditions of the crew and the engine room noise and smell must have been intense 

So many boats just bobbing around waiting for their owners to take them out !

Fort Nelson, one of a ring of forts around Portsmouth built to defend this essential port, used many times - the last being for the defence of Portsmouth in the second world war. Four million bricks used and it was built 60 years after our cottage !!

The contractor who build it was responsible for much of the railways infrastructure of the time also 

Grey hair no hair and dayglo.... good men.

Friday 11 October 2019

The freedom solo cruise

Where was I .....

Day twelve Seventh day in the dock - freedom day ! I have negotiated a later start (7am) for the dock to be flooded as there was no other boat following me in. The day was starting bright which bode well for me as I was solo for today and a bit of the next day,

The top stop plank was lifted and the dock started to fill pleasingly.

Gary and his daughter were very efficient, Percy was pulled clear and then I was invited to start the engine to allow me to perform the wind and get Percy pointed to home.

Gary was readying the dock to be emptied again as I think he was going to give it a decent de-sludge 

... and we were off 

Waiting while I turned the Stourton locks as they were all empty and no boats about.

A beautiful autumn cruise

It was a reverse route to the outward trip. No help at any of the locks but thats no big issue. Just took my time, only raised one paddle at most locks to have full control of Percy. We ended up at Swindon visitor moorings for the night, same spot as the outward journey. 

Now single handling is relatively easy if you take your time and think things through. Since escaping the dry dock I was thinking evermore of the sequence and more importantly the control of Percy as I ascended Bottersham staircase locks. Only two in the staircase  but very leaky and as I would have to have the bottom chamber empty and the top chamber full with very leaky top chamber gates. Normally I leave Percy in forward to ride up the gates but not possible in this very deep leaky lock. so it would be rope control and a slow rise  - that was my plan. I walked up to the staircase that evening to agree with myself the plan of approach ! I took advantage of the chip shop again on my walk back and retired for the night dreaming of staircase locks !

Saturday morning I (we) had a plan. My lovely crew member Rachel was to drive to Shebdon and then Mandy our neighbour was to drive Rachel to The Bratch with a rendezvous time of 10.30am !! All I had to do was navigate the couple of locks before the staircase then a couple more and get help at the Bratch - or so I thought !

A beautiful early morning readying for my long day. 

The staircase comes into sight...

No one about so I was happy to tackle the locks on my own slowly... the upper chamber is empty at this point.

After climbing out I closed the gates and secured the centre line 

 I then filled the top lock and started to empty it into the lower chamber using just one paddle allowing me to walk below to hold Percy mid chamber. Just as the chambers were balanced and I had opened the gates another boater appeared and invited me to get on board and he'd bring me up. Pleasingly he was an experienced boater and signalled and asked how much I wanted the paddles opened so I has a controlled accent of the top chamber. 

Happy days I set to to make it to the Bratch for the crew arrival...

Now this flight is staffed so I was more relaxed about tackling it single handed. It was all clear, empty ready for me no other boats about so I moored up and walked to let the lock keeper know I was ready to come up. He knew I was on my own as I told him so. He was less than helpful advising me to bring the boat in and close the bottom gates behind me and he'd bring me up. Now that meant a climb up the wet slippy ladder to close the gates while he stood at the paddle end watching as I then climbed back down and along the gunwales  - very unhelpful. He was also quite uncommunicative all the way up... his loss as I was planning on buying one of the windlass holders at the top.

Despite this small irritation these locks are still a favourite and will be a motorcycle destination in the near future.

Now talk about planning, just as I was a the top of the final chamber I was hailed by Rachel and Mandy who's timing was perfect as was mine !

So now Rachel as I set to to hit a destination of Wheaton Aston on the Shroppie as we did not need a long day on the Sunday as Rachel was in London on the Monday am. Indeed this whole day's travel and some more was done over two and a bit days on the way down. Lovely cruising weather and we met a few boats all out enjoying a early autumn cruise.

Even beautiful nature was out enjoying the day 

It was so nice to have crew to share the locks with ....

This one was resting  - they look so prehistoric .... more so in the trees 

Back across Stretton aqueduct 

Then after about 9 hours we were approaching our destination - Wheaton Aston 

Rachel bringing Percy to the Wheaton Aston lock landing 

We found a mooring and phoned the pub to see if there were any free tables - there were not so the Bangladeshi restaurant in the village centre got our business and good food and service it was indeed. Always a great way to end a long days cruise.

Next morning we had a relatively short four and a bit hours cruise back to Shebdon. It was somewhat lengthened by finding the junior equivalent of the national fishing match (held the day before) happening between Wheaton Aston and High Onn.

At the same time we met as many boats as we had seen the previous day it would seem. It was not helped by the hire boat that had nipped out in front of us just after we set off thinking it was take it in turn time as the bridge holes... resulting in the flow coming towards us getting a little into trouble as one boat stopped to 'allow' the hire boat through. We held in a gap and let what must have been five boats through the bridge hole. It gave me time to talk to the junior anglers (they were not fishing yet)

No dramas saw us back from the blacking cruise with a few more hours on the clock, the engine rebuild full tested and a well protected hull for another couple of years and the roof repaired and repainted.

Would I do it again.... yes certainly as I know how good a job has been done. One significant learning point is do it locally so you can get home shower and rest between sessions. Stourbridge was ok this time as we needed to be close to the boat painter, next time I'll use either the Stafford boat club facilities or Stone boat yard, both half an hour from home. I will still take a week to do it to allow the Intertuf to cure.... hard work but worth it.