NB Muleless

NB Muleless
Moored at Alrewas Sept 2013

Monday, 16 February 2015

Surviving being frozen in on a modern narrowboat!

And before all you veterans out their say anything – this blog is for all our family and friends who wondered how we coped!

On 26 January we left All Oaks Wood, and topped up the water tank at Rose Narrowboats.

Whilst we were there the fuel boat Auriga came by, so Gary nipped over and opened the swing bridge for him.


We moored up at Hawkesbury Junction at 3.30pm and settled in for a couple of nights stay.

The original plan was to get topped up with diesel from Callisto on Tuesday and then head down into Coventry Basin on Wednesday. The plans changed slightly as Callisto had to wait for a diesel delivery at the junction Wednesday morning before he could fill us up.


There was some very sleety rain, so I stayed in the warm whilst Gary and Mark did the necessary – even Cally had her coat on ready for the bad weather!


As we waved Mark and Cally goodbye for the foreseeable future there was a really heavy cloudburst – so we stayed where we were, and just visited the Greyhound Inn for lunch!

On Thursday, instead of taking the boat down into the basin, we decided to visit Coventry by bus to do our retail therapy (20 minutes by bus - 2 1/2 hours by boat!) – and of course had to visit “Spoons” for Curry Club!

When it was time to return to the boat, the snow that had been falling on and off for most of the day, turned into a blizzard! We were surprised how white everything had become!

We were soon back aboard and all cozy and warm!

Friday dawned with a snowy landscape – but the canal wasnt frozen.


The forecast for the next couple of days was windy, so we thought that we would stay at Hawskesbury Junction, but would top up with water and move through the stop lock and moor on the Coventry Canal – just around the corner!



On Sunday we had decided to visit the Greyhound again, this time for Sunday Lunch – and to our surprise found ourselves surrounded by Wasps fans (Coventry Rugby team) in a very busy pub – but we still had a very enjoyable dinner!

At midnight, we had just snuggled up in bed when a text came through – the announcement of the birth of Natalie and Matt’s baby boy – Aiden Paul, weighing in at a healthy 5lb 8oz! Congratulations to Mum and Dad and both sets of Grandparents!

Aiden Paul

Monday morning we discovered that the canal had frozen over and this time it was nearly an inch thick! We wouldnt be going anywhere!

At about 11am, one of the boats that normally moors on the permit holder side, but had moored on the towpath side further in front of us, made a move! First he had to turn around (which took a time to break up the ice enough) and then he headed back past us all the way to the junction, turned around again, headed back to the water point, filled up and then returned to his mooring which was just a boat length behind us! There was a lot of ice breaking involved!



No-one else was brave enough to move – but by 1.30 we bit the bullet and thought we would try to reverse back to the water point to fill up!

It took a whilst (moving backwards through slabs of ice, when steering in reverse normally can be tricky!) but we made it, and filled up our water tank and then returned to our mooring spot, hoping that the next day if the canal didnt freeze overnight we would be able to move straight off!

No chance! The next morning the canal had re-frozen (even thicker this time – with ice sheets piling up in places) and we had a sprinkling of snow on top too – very pretty!


So we stayed put again!

When we returned from a visit to the shop the ice was melting slightly on top – but it was still solid – good job we went for water the day before!


The next day the ice was even thicker as no-one had broken it up again.

Thursday was Garys 60th birthday. We watched the boat opposite us break the ice and head to the water point and reverse back to his mooring.


Still no-one else was moving so the ice ahead on the canal stayed solid!

Our toilet tank had now filled up to almost capacity – and as there was no chance of reaching a marina for a pump out – we had to do a self pump out!

As it was Garys birthday we decided that 4 tubs would do and with luck we would be able to get to Starline in Nuneaton for a pump out before we filled up again! (or we would have to do some more tubs at that time).

Poor Gary had to put the tub on our trolley and wheel it about 350yds (including up and over the bridge over the junction) and then lift the tub to empty it into the elsan and wheel it back empty – 4 times! Its a good job he’s a very fit and healthy 60!!!! Of course, I did my bit too – I pumped! (As a guide one tub would be about as heavy as 2 car batteries.)

After all that work we headed to the Greyhound Inn again for a celebratory dinner and drinks!

Friday dawned as a lovely sunny day – with very thick ice again!

At about 10am there was a loud crunching/crashing sound and a hire boat battled its way past us!


As the day went on the ice melted a bit more and there were large patches with no ice so we thought it was time to reverse back for water again!



By the time we had filled up and were returning to our mooring spot we were hopeful that the ice would all melt by morning.


Unfortunately we were wrong again! Saturday the canal had frozen over solid again!

Yvonne and Roy and were coming to visit, (and bringing Freddy one of their grandsons too) so again we headed to the Greyhound! We had a lovely meal on the table right by the fire, so we were toasty and warm. Freddy had a good kiddy meal too – a nice small piece of battered fish with chips and beans – excellent value at £4.99 – no naff fish fingers there!

We went for a walk along the canal and Freddy and Gary tried breaking some ice!

Our visitors left and we retired to the boat – full as usual!

On Sunday the canal was still frozen (surprise!).

We decided to walk to the Tesco in Bedworth to top up our supplies – and we found a Wetherspoons! So we went in for Sunday Lunch – and a lovely one it was too!

As we returned to the boat we noticed the ice had been broken up by a boat moving through, and the sun was strong enough to melt it again – dare we hope to be able to get away!

Monday morning we looked out – and the ice was melting – we could escape!

We had soon reversed back to the water point and were topping up the tank and then we were off – bye bye Hawkesbury Junction – hope we dont see you again too soon!


We encountered several “ice flows” as we went, but nothing too solid.


We stopped off at Starline in Nuneaton for our pump out and some diesel – at 65p/l we topped everything right up!

At 4.20pm we moored up at the top of the Atherstone flight – a change of scenery and different shops at last!

The technical bit!

After reading some other blogs and how they cope as new boaters (NB AmyJo) and their first winter cruising instead of in a marina (NB Ferndale) I thought I would do the same.

Planning is key – we watch the weather forecast avidly (not that it is always right!) and during these winter months we plan to only stop near water points and elsan points. This means we now have longer journeys than our summer “norm”, but that we have one or two rest days in between.

Our water tank will last us a week (or possibly longer if I try hard!), but we dont skimp with water. Yes, we turn of the shower whilst soaping up, and dont run the tap whilst brushing teeth – but as Gary will tell you, I still wallow in the shower!

Whilst we were at Hawkesbury I only used the washing machine when we were at the water point – but then I usually only put it on every other day anyway!

If we hadn’t been able to move to the water point we would have used our “other” tub and ferried 25 litres of water a time from the water point – even if that meant lots of trips – as at least this would have kept Gary from getting bored which is actually the biggest problem if we stay too long in one place!!!

We keep the boat warm using the diesel Reflex stove (which we kept running 24/7 whilst it was icy, on the lowest setting) and our Hurricane runs the central heating and hot water to supplement this. So overnight, if the temperature really drops, the heating kicks in, and in the morning it runs for 2 hours raising the temperature to daytime level (and then only kicking in occasionally during the day) and also supplying hot water for me to wallow in, in the shower!

If we are on the move, we turn off the Reflex and use the heat exchanger from the engine to run the radiators as we move, so the boat is always warm when we stop, and Gary then lights the Reflex at his leisure.

Our loo tank will last us about 3 weeks normally, but we like to do a self pump out when we can before it gets half full – just in case!

Our other main need is electricity – battery power! Our batteries will last us about 5 days before needing charging – remember we are all electric – no gas!

We can disconnect the prop and then run the engine in gear (no prop turning) so that we can engage the hybrid generator to charge the batteries quicker – but Gary doesnt like to do this too often, and as this time we were able to reverse the boat to the water point every few days we opted to just run the engine “normally” using just the twin 24amp alternators to charge whilst in “neutral”. This meant we ran the engine for about 1 hour each afternoon, and then again for less than an hour whilst we cooked dinner.

I still used the dishwasher on a 30min wash programme daily, we keep all the saloon/dinette/galley lights on all the time during darkness, we have 240volt fridge and freezer (normal household appliances), and my Sky+HD box and TV always on standby and the inverter NEVER turned off.

Gary likes to listen to music – but I like to watch TV – and I never have to worry about having enough power – just make sure the satellite dish is pointing the right way.

Our criteria when planning the boat was to be able to live on board the same as we did in our house – without having to worry about having enough power – and the hybrid system definitely achieves this goal – I even use my hairdryer whenever I want!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Visitors, visiting and finally on the move again!

We seem to have been lurking around the Braunston area for months – and it is a lovely area – but we will be really glad to move on again!

We were expecting visitors, so moved back from Brownsover to Braunston on 8 January, and again it was me steering the boat through Hillmorton Locks!

We started well – Gary just looking apprehensive as usual!


The bottom lock went well, and I headed off slowly through the pound.


No pictures of the next lock – as it went a bit wrong!!

Gary had the gates open for me on the right hand lock of the pair – but I got the angle all wrong on the approach and managed to hit the approach wall – and seriously tip the boat at the same time as I scraped into the lock!

Gary kept his cool (well done!!) closed the gates behind me and opened the paddles – then went to look for any damage!

Apart from a fresh scrape to the thickest part of the bow, there was no visible damage, so despite now being really nervous, I carried on.

Entry to the last lock went fine (phew!) and we were soon out of the top!


As soon as Gary was back on board I had to go into the boat to check on damage inside – a few things had slid about, I had to carefully open cupboards and push tins and jars back away from the doors – a couple of glasses had “leant over” in their cabinet – but nothing had broken – a miracle!!!

We were soon safetly moored up in Braunston again, ready for our visitors on Sunday.

Nicky and I went to school together in Portsmouth, and although we havent seen much of each other over the years, we do catch up occasionally.

We met Nicky, husband Nick, and son Ewan in the Boathouse Pub and had a great couple of hours catching up.


Then of course it was back to the boat for a guided tour and some posh coffees!


It was great to see you all, hopefully we will see you again soon!

We had been moored in front of NB Inca whilst at Braunston this time, we had not met before, but it didnt take long to get chatting – it seems Gary and Carolyn read this blog – and I now read theirs too! We didnt get chance to meet up for a drink – but I’m sure we will get the chance soon! The two Garys were soon comparing notes on oil changing – and we were soon shown the oil extraction pump that Gary uses (much smaller and easier to store than the one Keith on NB Oakfield has).

We had to move again – this time back to Wigrams Marina ready for another trip down south and waved goodbye to Gary as he was doing his oil change!


Another trip down south, staying with Mum again – she will get fed up with us soon!

This time we visited Terry and Wendy and admired their new kitchen (which is still a work in progress, but coming along lovely).

Friday evening was a gathering of ex-railway workers in Havant, we had a great evening and Gary was pleased to see so many “old” friends!

Saturday evening we met up with one of my old work mates Debbie and her partner Alan in ‘Spoons at Port Solent!


Deb and Alan have the canal boating bug – they have been with a group of friends for 3 years running – hopefully they will visit us on the boat soon!

Deb and I worked out that we have known each other for about 35 years! It is definitely a week for getting together with “old friends”.


All too soon our visiting was done and Sunday we headed back to the boat.

Monday afternoon we moved out of the marina and moored just outside. The car was taken back and we settled down to a relaxing evening.

Tuesday morning we woke to the canal totally frozen over, and after testing the ice we decided it was too thick to move in!

We went for a walk, testing the ice as we went.



As we walked back we passed this boat “ice breaking” – it was struggling with the bends!


As we got back to the boat, these boats went past apparently heading for Rugby – I dont think they made it that day!


The next day the ice had mostly melted, so we headed back to Braunston!

I needed a haircut and Charisma in Braunston had done a good job last time. We topped up with some wine in the shop and then wandered along to the locks to see the work in progress.

The pounds below and above the Admiral Nelson are completely drained and the lock has been set up ready for the open day on Sunday 25th.




Thursday was time to leave Braunston for the forseeable future! At last!

Of course first we had to top up the water tank – using our new mini hose from The Range (purchased whilst down south).


We had decided that our fab flat “food safe” hose wasnt quite long enough at times and when we saw this one, which is really small but still 10m long (so easy to store in our “gas locker”) we thought we would give it a try. The hose seems to be silicone like, really soft and easy to handle and roll up.

So then we were off, heading for Hillmorton locks again (ooh-er!)

So here we go again, for the last time this season, down the Hillmorton locks!

No dramas this time (phew!) everything went smoothly, so just a few photos of Gary doing his death defying leaps (I’m not brave enough and my legs are too short!)!


We moored up on the 24hr moorings at Brownsover – right opposite NB Oakfield and NB Inca!

The next day the canal was frozen again – but it didnt matter, we did our shopping and had a short conversation across the canal with Keith and Ann, and then relaxed on the boat. A boat had broken the ice in the afternoon, but there was still a lot around, so we stayed put.

Saturday we headed off again waving goodbye to NB Oakfield and Inca on the way.


We topped up the water tank again at Newbold and then moored up at All Oaks Wood.

Sunday the canal was frozen again – but not for too long – NB Parisien Star came past, breaking the thinning ice as they went.


Its a shame we didnt meet Elly and Mick whilst they were on the canals!

We treated ourselves to brunch this morning – the first chance to try the free range eggs (and mini eggs) given to us by Nicky and Nick (from their own chickens) – delicious!


Onwards tomorrow – heading for more retail thereapy in Ikea Coventry whilst waiting for the stoppages to finish!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Christmas and New Year Catch Up

First off a belated HAPPY NEW YEAR to all our readers!!!

We havent moved far – we stayed in Wigrams Marina until 30 December, and then moved up to Braunston for over the New Year, then moved on to Brownsover for shopping and a trip to the Cinema to see the third instalment of The Hobbit.

We did do some miles in the car though – with a visit down south to family and friends for christmas.

We had a great evening and catch up with June and Chris and admired their fabulous new house extension!


They now have an ultra posh utility room and fabulous dining room!

Mum had organised a family get together, and we had a great afternoon with 4 generations of family!


We also had a great evening with Matt at the Slug and Lettuce in Fareham – complete with cocktails for me and Matt as Gary was driving for a change! (So no photos – too many cocktails!!!)

We headed back to the boat on 23 December, and had a quiet restful Christmas Day, just the two of us, for our second on the boat!



Boxing day we headed to Yvonne and Roys for the other half of the family get together!


We had originally planned to leave the Marina on the 27th, but decided to have an extra day to relax and catch up with the washing etc.

On the 28th we woke to a frozen over marina, so had to stay a bit longer!


On the 29th the ice was thicker, so again we didnt leave!

The marina was open for business and someone obviously needed diesel badly, as they forced their way to the service wharf – making their own channel on the way. The noise was really odd – not just cracking and splitting the ice but metallic like sounds too!

I did a video and put it up on YouTube here – have a listen to the odd sounds!


Once they had broken the ice and created a turning space another boat followed them in too. The marina’s pump out machine was frozen up – so no pump outs (good job we had ours when we arrived at the marina!).


I dont think the ducks were too keen on the ice!


We went for a walk around the marina and checked on the state of the canal at the entrance.



The canal had a clear path (still ice at the sides) from Braunston (to the right in the pic) and to Calcutt (straight on under the bridge) but to Napton (left) had still been solid until one of the boats that visited the services turned that way – we could hear him breaking the ice until long after he was out of sight!



Our mooring was right down the front by the service wharf, and we were hoping that all that movement meant we could escape the marina the next day.


We’d had enough of the marina by now, so on the 30th we made our escape – although first we had to fill with water (from the next pontoon over as our tap was frozen!) and break the ice behind us.



Once we had reversed past the end of the pontoon we could turn in the non frozen bit in the middle and then head out of the marina – breaking the ice on the way!


A short video of our escape is here.

Once out of the marina the route to Braunston had been used by other boats, so although there was ice about it had been broken already.


We made it to Braunston and moored up by the junction – phew!

New Years Eve dawned – and the canal was frozen again!


Being at Braunston means boats always moving – so at 11 oclock (quite late for Braunston) a boat did come through and broke the ice!


I was fascinated by the piles of ice floating about!


In the afternoon we went for a walk past the marina which still had a lot of thick ice.


Our walk took us to the Admiral Nelson – where we spent a pleasant few hours before returning to the boat for dinner – and discovering on the way that the Boathouse was already shut at 8pm!

By midnight there were no signs of life around us, so we decided not to blow the horn – next year though I will be trying harder to recruit support!!!!

New Years Day – Gary decides to do the engine and gear box oil change all goes well to start with.

Tom and Jan went past on NB Waiouru, spotted Gary working in the engine bay and Tom quipped about Gary doing Toms oil change too – the next day we read about Toms disaster!!!

Our problem came when Gary tried to remove the oil from the gear box! He couldnt remove the drain plug as it is inaccessible, so we tried to syphon the oil out – unsuccessfully!

After quite a long time trying, Ann from NB Oakfield was passing and stopped to say hello. On hearing our predicament went to fetch Keith and his pump.

Thank god for other boaters who are so helpful. Keith arrived with his special engine/gearbox oil pump and saved the day! With the oil situation sorted out we invited them over later for drinks to say thank you!

Last winter we often saw NB Oakfield, and even moored in the same area a few times, but never got a chance to meet properly – we have now!


We were invited to NB Oakfield the next night for the next instalment! and then Keith even volunteered to pop over the next morning to check out our accumulator!

Thanks for a great couple of evenings Anne and Keith and all the help (we have now bought a bike pump and tyre pressure gauge!).

So on the 4th of Jan we were ready to leave Braunston to head to Brownsover – and it was foggy – really foggy!

We had moved the boat the previous day so that we could do a pump out and fill with water, but we still wanted a full water tank before we left, and the tap by the elsan was frozen, but Gary had spotted someone using the tap by the stop house so we headed up there, as we got closer we could make out the boat in the fog it was NB Waiouru!


Tom was just finished filling, so Gary hovered with Muleless and I hopped off to say hello.

After telling Tom and Jan to try the New Inn at the top of Buckby locks for Sunday Lunch they pulled away – we wont see them again for a whilst, they are heading towards London.


The fog was really thick – we couldnt even see Butchers Bridge from the Gongoozlers Rest!


When the water tank was full, we put our tunnel light on ready for the journey!


We turned in the marina entrance and headed back to the junction – passing another boat on the way- luckily not in the bridge hole!


As we passed the junction and approached NB Oakfield (with the solar panels on the left ahead) there was a boat stopped on the water point – and another just coming past him!


Gary had to quickly reverse Muleless to prevent a head on collision and we only just kept out of the hire boat’s way as he squeezed through without slowing down!


As we headed past Oakfield Keith popped his head out to see what was going on!


As you can see there wasnt much room to manoeuvre!


Luckily that was our only close encounter on a very foggy journey! Traveling in a car at 30 mph would have been scary, but doing 3 mph we could always see well enough!


As we approached Hillmorton Locks we were quite close before we could see them.


A boat had just come up and very kindly opened the gate again for us to go straight in – and then Gary hopped off to work the locks!


This time I kept the camera to get a steerers eye view – but the battery on the camera had other ideas and I only managed a couple of photos!


No-one else was coming up or down, and there was no wind again and this time I made a perfect entry to the middle lock!

I think Gary is still a bit apprehensive when I am steering!


The top pound was really high and the water was coming over the top of the gate as I went down.


I made a good entry into the bottom lock and picked Gary up at the lock mouth after he closed the gate when I exited, so I was quite pleased with myself!!

We were soon moored up at Brownsover and as I said at the beginning of the blog we have shopped and been to the cinema. We enjoyed The Hobbit, it is a shame that was the last one in the series!