the empty tinFinal coat slapped on, there was time for other delights like carpet shampooingblacking and cleaning out the engine bay. Three days in dim light plus the crazy hour shift added to by the clock stopping in the middle of the night resulted in a fairly trippy, disorienting experience – gin and tonics onboard Foxglove was a welcome re-introduction to life beyond the dry dock, thank low pound in Stoneyou Roy and Clare!

Water levels in Stone have been all over the place for a couple of days now, varying degrees of emptiness. Paid up, we waited quite happily while enormous amounts of water were sent from locks above, every minute of drying time counts…especially when you’ve glooped an extra third coat of blacking on the front of the boat – a bit ambitious given the drying time available.

By late morniblackedng the water was rising, burly men balanced on the bow, lines of  hire boat engines screamed at full pelt attempting waiting for the waterto blast waves under our hull and finally get us afloat. It did eventually happen.

No way were we brave enough to take a lock of precious water, so wanting to head down, we headed up, turned and then back down bringing ‘our own’ water with us. Stone has been like social central today, we’ve seen so many familiar faces and met a few new ones too.

It crept up on us but chugging back past Canal Cruising we realised we’d become quite attached to the dsteering Foxglovery dock and the little bench next to the Magnolia tree we drank tea and ate cake from. Perhaps marginally dreading blacking before hand meant it didn’t need to deliver much to impress but we’ve really enjoyed the last three days.

Black Noir Nero Schwarz Preto

Canal Criusing StoneRacing along with blacking brushes early (ish) this morning, the second coat was dontwo coats...e by mid-day. The afternoon continued with the same black theme…a quick roller touch up along the gunnels and some black stuff on the stove. Everyobandsne here at Canal Cruising is great, they’re getting used to our ‘Should it look/sound/feel like that?’ questions; although they were a little taken back to find us investigating what the prop sounds like when it rotateCanal Cruising Stone - dry docks at great speed in mid air. Keeping arms and necks well back they watched in fascination – in all their years they’d never seen a prop fly so fast at head height.

Bright and sunny, a couple of trips into Stone provided welcome doses of daylight away from the gloom of the dry dock. Almost there, one last layer in the morning plus a final coat on the bands and we’ll be good to go….



The Underworld

Henley-on-ThamesSome votes travelled a very long way (you know who you are…  UG!), others endured a less arduous journey but each one counted and the count was good! So a massive thanks to everyone who took the trouble to vote this way…your votes go to print – September in the 2015 IWA calendar, yippeeeee….

THANKYOU!Canal Cruising dry dock

dry dock StoneIt’s not often we’re up at narrowboat ‘o’ clock but this morning there was no choice. Murk walked, bed made, showered and dazed on the tiller by 7.30am we stared ahead, astounded… beaten to the lock by a hardcore floppy hatter.

Canal Cruising was in full swing, we were soon shuffled into the dry dock watching the water drain around us. After plenty of murky water fumbles and clearish water peering the bottom of the boat in broad day light waspressure washing a lovely sight to see. No sooner had the last dregs of water disappeared down the sluice, Nick stood, all pearly white, armed with the dressed for blackinghe pressure washer. As the algae and rust flew from the hull it was reassuring to hear comments along the lines of ‘all looks alright to me,’ ‘seen a lot worse than that’ and ‘not in bad shape’. A front anode wblackingas cast adrift somewhere on our travels but the good news was we only needed two replacements, under the sternthey were soon welded in place giving us an astonishing boat total of nine anodes in various states of decay.

The warmish breeze along with towelling down soon dried the hull. Sanding followed scraping, which was followed by the first coat of gloopy black.

Filed it under ‘an experience’, Nick also muttered something about sticking pins in his eyes but we were a little premature – this whole blacking thing is almost quite fun and provides an intriguing insight into the world beneath the floor.

Canal Cruising is a beautiful higgle piggle of old buildings, living in dry dock is like sleeping in a museum. – with shoreline to boot!


while we black...while we black...while we black...






The Night Before Blacking


weed hatchA newly reinforced weed hatch back where it should be – thank you Kev! – we set off on the short trip to Stone. Never seen so few boats moored below the lock, perhaps it’sinto Stone the fun fair effect.

Water filled we moved up through The Star lock and across to the car park moorings. Some of the most functional moorings on the network, Morrisons, hardware sweed hatchtores, chandlers, boatyard all just a couple of minutes away. Dodging the showers we finished off the last of the pre-blacking ‘things to do’ list things.

Still a boat in there at the moment but apparently the dry dock will be ready for us early in the morning. Checked if we needed to let themoored in Stone fire out, ‘that all depends on which dry dock you’re in’ …a little while later a flick through the diary revealed we were lucky enough to be in the newly felted dry dock meaning fires out. Here’s hoping it warms up.

The bedroom port hole bung is in place and definitely staying there tonight. A peek out is quite likely to reveal a very hairy, very white, very large man smoking topless on his stern. Hmmm nice.


Spring Cruising

Tixall WideHaving stopped for a day at Tixall Wide it turned out we’d waited for the really grotty weather. Cold, wet, muddy….pretty much the worst travelling day for a very long time. Moan moan. Daffodils hung their heads and lambs weren’t springing about, we even passed one sorry field with dead lambs dotted about all over the place, born on a bad day.

Totally drenched we chugged on past Aston Marina, up through the lock, then mGreat Haywoodoored just on from the marina entrance, no luxury moorings facilities for us, no no no, you can’t beat a towpath. Gin in hand Sandon Lockwe descended on Sue and Kev, delivering half a weed hatch for the master welder to put right, they continue to be our boaty angels.

A few windy rainy days seem to have had everyone on hold, brighter this morning with plenty of boats on the move. Just back from Stone armed with varnish and wood filler to finish the port-hole re-vamp. Engine running with no weed hatch works just fine but moving would probably be a step too far.


Tixall BridgeAnother blowy one. The trip to Tixall Wide was peppered with boats ziTixall Lockpping along at great speed attempting to out steer the wind. One couple were especially overwhelmed having Tixall Widebegun the Four Counties Ring yesterday afternoon, miles to cover vs days left were already leaning in the wrong direction.

For the most part travelling the same stretch is never quite as enchanting second time round but today was different, all green and daffodilly it looked completely different to the frozen planet we scraped through last year. Arriving at Tixall Wide the wind moored the boat for us, no second or third shuffle on the cards tonight, up against the piling we were definitely there to stay.

Not another boat in sight, it’s good to be back in Wonderland.

Dog Walking Machine

Penkridgeblacking boutiqueApparently you don’t have a dog walking machine and bark yourself.

Arriving in Penkridge yesterday afternoon there were a couple of moorings free above the lock, perfect as it meant unlimited hairwashing before dropping through the lock and away from the waterpoint – a familiar one, we trudged there lots of times when the ice was thick last January.

Saturday is market day, so, with blacking in mind we headed on in. This ones for you Sar…yeah yeah, the gas man onesie was a 26 inch leg, he Staffordhire and Worcesterreally is that SHORT.

Squally showers arrive in a hurry just lately, having been caught in one yesterday afternoon, we ate lunch watching the sky darken and decided not to offer ourselves up for another soaking. Murk had other ideas. Trying our best to ignore him, he had all the time in the world and didn’t let up so eventually we pulled on waterproofs in readiness for rain.

It only took an hour or so. Dog walked, batteries charged, water tank topped and a mid-lock drop visit to Midland Chandlers we smacked our way in to moor figuring it was the quickest, easiest way given the howling wind.

Joining Ends

Staffordshire and WorcesterWeighing in at £100,000 in 1766, it took Dutch navies five years to complete aloComptonngside hundreds of sheep who ran, puddling clay to ensure a water tight canal bed. Today we covered the last little stretch, meaning all 46 miles of the Staffordshire and Worcester move to the ‘completed’ list.

It might not shout the deepest tunnel, highest aqueduct or longest flcompleting the Staffordshire and Worcesteright but every inch of the Staffordshire and Worcester is well worth travelling. We liked it alot.

A lunch stop in Compton, a quick look around then back onboard very pleased to have hit Sainsbury’s hard yesterday, a micro-supermarket isducklings 2014 always bad news. Sainsbury’s Local/Tesco Express are classified as waterway disasters on this boat.

The outskirts of Wolverhampton soon gave way to countryside, we spotted our first 2014 ducklings and moored by a field of crops as the sun went down.

Wally Was There

lock block on Staffordshire and WorcesterFurious early morning engine revving, we looked out to see a criss-cross of poles wavingStaffordshire and Worcester about a jam stuck boat. Armed with pole Nick headed off to investigate. A good lock flush through saw the boatfree wood fly like a champagne cork, speedily disappearing off round the bend. Not long after the lock block shot away, one nice big chunk of oak bobbed along, easily fished and split for the fire.

Watching Great Canal Journeys we figured that having followed the film crew up from Tuel Lane Lock onto themoored on Great Canal Journeys Rochdale last September, there was a pretty good chance the we might pop up somewhere. Sure enough the boat was there in Hebden Bridge, not that surprising considering we were there so long we wondered if we’d ever escape the Hebden grip.

A blustery ride today with a few unexpected stops. Our usual water fill routine went out the window as we listened in horror to a couple telling torrid tales of their ride up the Ouse into York – that’ll be an interestingmoored in Hebden Bridge one. Stop two almost didn’t happen, despite the fact we could see Sainsbury’s from the canal, we figured it couldn’t be there, ‘Around Me’ said it wasn’t. Must remember to look up and away from the screen The Bratchoccasionally. Lugging bags of same old same old back, we loaded the fridge with food for another spin of the menu wheel, consoling ourselves ‘that’s okay we live on a narrowboat’, the pep talk was blown out the water, when, soon after we sat drinking tea on Lois Jane listening as the menu king rattled off his latest culinary creations.

Up through The Bratch we moored no less than three times as the sky turned navy. Permanent moorings with no boats looked appealing but seemed emptily wrong. 48hr moorings on a bend – were on a bend. And finally out into the land of no confusing instructions was just right.


Exactly no miles covered today. The sun shone again so the scruffed side of the boat gotpainting sanded, washed and painted.

In between the eStaffordshire and Worcesterndless supply of Sunday sport Nick took it upon himself to sort out time, apparently things were ‘all over the place’, not sure that reallyStaffordshire and Worcester matters in a world where we often don’t have the foggiest what day it is, but time is now untangled, every clock in sync – a little madness is a good thing right?

We seem to be out of walker reach but well in the land of cyclists and the odd scrambler, none of which Murk moves for – having completed nine hours of towpath patrol he’s taken himself to bed.