Happy New Year!

End Nov to End Dec 2023

It’s been a few weeks since our last update and a lot has been going on!

We had a meeting at the end of November with Rob & Caroline (Ortomarine) about a new even we are working on with them in partnership with Aquavista – the proprietor of over 30 Marinas, dotted around the country, of which Brinklow, our home marina, is one. You may recall a few years back we helped with running their “Electric Propulsion Trials” event (May 2021)? Well it’s about time for another event and this will take the form of a gathering of serial hybrid boats. The event was formally launched in the first week in December and is called “Electrika“.

Electrika will be held in May 2024 and we hope to gather together existing owners and potential owners – including those who are interested in converting from diesel to electric propulsion – plus the manufacturers (Vetus, Energy Solutions, etc etc) of all the component parts of an electric hybrid boat. There will be a program of talks and the opportunity for attendees to ask questions of those with real life experience of owning an electric serial hybrid boat and hopefully to experience some “silent cruising”. And it will all take place at Brinklow Waterside and Marina – which has a good central position both on the canal network and national highways. and it’s just an hour from London, and 40 minutes from Birmingham, by train.

Our job is to make it happen and carry out all the myriad admin tasks associated with putting on an event of this nature. Here is a link to the Electrika website, which Paul designed. The event is free to exhibitors and attendees alike and tickets are already available via the website for those interested in electric boating.

It was Paul’s birthday, too, at the end of November and we celebrated it with dinner out at an excellent pub called The Bell Inn, in Ladbroke, just south of Southam in Warwickshire. It was very homely, with a roaring fire, some good guest ales and delicious food. it was also dog friendly and we all had a very pleasant evening. Here’s Paul with one of his presents

Never a truer word!

The following weekend, our fellow Ortomariners, Helen & Russell Green, on board their boat Professor Pat Pending, popped into the Marina for a couple of days. It just so happened that that very weekend – a very chilly. frosty, foggy one – saw a group of Brinklow moorers getting together to film the Brinklow Christmas Extravaganza movie. With mulled wine and mince pies as an incentive, we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, singing and toasting Christmas. Here’s the resultant movie. Blink and you’ll miss us!

Oh that singing!

The following week was MOT week – always an anxious time when you have an older car. As we are taking a long drive in Spring next year, (oooh!) we also took the opportunity to have the timing chain replaced and an overall service. Luckily, Sally Skoda – our 11 year old Skoda Excellence Estate, passed with no advisories, so all good. Phew.

You may remember from our last blog that a small but perfectly formed group of us had been rehearsing since late October for a Mummers play. Sunday 10th was performance day and we had a great time entertain our fellow moorers. Our first port of call in the village was The Raven – where the play was very well received, then the Bull’s Head – a foody pub, where we left the diners looking a little bemused and thence to the White Lion – where the football (Spurs v Newcastle!) was luckily in halftime. And finally, we made a return visit to the Raven for a repeat performance and a few drinks.We collected for Charity at each of the five performances and amassed a total of just over £200 to be split between the local (Myton) hospice, Aortic Aneurysm research and the Community Garden, here at Brinklow. I had great fun directing the cast and we are already talking about what to do next year.

Monday 11th (busy week!) was the Brinklow Christmas Quiz – not only was it AT Christmas time, it had a Christmas theme too, and a couple pf the rounds were a complete gift! One was on Christmas Carols (I pretty much know every word of every Christmas Carol as I have sung them for many years in choirs) although I could not remember of which country Wenceslas was King. It was Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic). I shall never forget that fact! And another round was on Pantomimes – now there is hardly a panto that I have not either been in or directed so we did rather well on that round too and ended up winning the entire quiz. We donated a chunk of our winnings to the Crisis at Christmas charity, it being the season of goodwill and all that!

The boys helping with the Christmas Booze picture round

I know many of you have not been sleeping well, worrying about our oven woes, but I am happy to report that one (or maybe all?) of the three components that the engineer fitted on his recent visit, seems to have fixed the problem once and for all. I am reluctant to be more definite at this point, but you may describe me as “quietly hopeful”! What a saga it has been!

I spent the remainder of the week getting ready to go home for Christmas. We left Brinklow on Thursday and the appointments started the very next day – an appointment with our solicitor to sign our amended wills and then an annual check-up for the boys at the Vet.

We also had our annual MOT at the docs on Monday, lunch with Beth’s Mum in Horndean on Tuesday and then Carols on the Camber on Wednesday. We have been attending this for some years now and it’s such a lovely thing to do. iIng Carols, drink Mulled Wine in the company of good friends and then go for a meal together afterwards. It really kicks off Christmas for me.

Christmas was the usual blur – ladies lunches, visits to see Santa, visits to see old friends, a visit from my brother, the day itself, Boxing Day – all hurtled by and suddenly it was time to leave. Being with our son and his wife and our grandson was wonderful. He is such a joy – a happy smiley little boy and a credit to his Ma & Pa.

Of course, being us, going home was never going to be a simple affair. No – we would break our journey back to Rugby by visiting my brother and his family in London (Beckenham) to mark our Niece Evie’s 18th birthday. We expected very little traffic on the roads – how wrong could we be? The approach to the M25 was particularly bonkers and we arrived a good hour later than anticipated, after a drag through Tolworth, Sutton, Wallington and Croydon.

It was great to see all the fam and we stayed for a couple of hours before heading off towards the M1 and the North. Our satnav app, Waze, routed us through Central London, and as there was no Congestion Charge in operation (as it’s suspended for Christmas) and as Waze is usually pretty reliable we went for it. We went over Waterloo Bridge and were treated to an awesome view of the London Waterfront. It really is stunning. We also got to see some of the Christmas Lights and actually it wasn’t a bad route. The M1 on the other hand was dire. We finally arrived home, after a quick stop-off in Newbold for some bread for toast, at about 19:40. It had hammered down with rain and we were queuing nose to tail for some miles for no apparent reason. It really was a relief to be home.

We unpacked the bare minimum that night. Thanks to Ortomarine’s clever automation software OrtomateTM, we had arrived home to a lovely, toasty boat, having been able to switch on the heating from somewhere on the M1. It was a rough and windy night and the next day looked a bit rough too, so we decided to postpone our planned trip out on the boat for one day. We used that spare time to unpack and find homes for our new stuff.

Fri 29th seemed a far better looking day and we set off, after emptying the loo and topping up with diesel just before 10:30. We turned right out of the Marina entrance and a problem immediately presented itself. A boat, which had come adrift from the bank, was width-ways (or “Full Suez”!) across the canal. Presumably Storm Gerrit had been the culprit?

I dropped Paul off in the bridge and he went to investigate. Luckily the bow rope, which was no longer attached to the bank, still had the mooring spike attached, but there was no safe way of getting the bow in. We therefore needed to play a very slowmo version of bumper cars. I had no desire to damage either boat and so I approached at the slowest possible speed, aimed at a spot near the bow and very gently kissed the recalcitrant boat. That kiss was enough to gently nudge his bow in towards the bank so that the bow rope could be grabbed. I passed Paul the lump hammer and he hammered the spike back in. Unfortunately the banks are very soft, being waterladen after all the recent rain. and it probably would only take a couple of speeding boats to dislodge it again. We hope the owner will be back soon.

We went on our merry way and I dropped Paul off in Newbold to pick up a few supplies, the most important of which being ice! I picked him up at the next bridge and we pressed on. The sun had tried to shine a couple of times and there had even been a few patches of blue sky (although not quite enough to make a pair of sailor’s trousers, as my Grandmother used to say) but the grey that seems omnipresent at the moment was soon back and there were a few threatening spots of rain. It did not come to much until we were mid-way through the Hillmorton Three locks. We decided that – if there was any space above the locks, we’d call it a day. We passed the lock moorings and to our pleasure, there was plenty of room. The saying goes that there is no such things as as bad weather – only bad clothing. Well I can do cold, I can do wet but cold and wet is a step too far and I was glad to come indoors.

We left our nice mooring at the top of Hillmorton Locks on Saturday morning and headed out towards Braunston, our head into a stiff and chilly breeze. I had brought the heated neck scarf that George & Beth had bought me for Christmas into play. What a joy! So cosy! It made that keen wind a little more bearable. We popped into Dunchurch Pools Marina to pick up a bottle of Marine 16, the diesel additive that we use to ward off the dreaded “diesel bug”. And it has been successful so far, which is a jolly good thing as the bug can wreck your fuel injectors resulting in expensive remedial action and you also need to get your fuel “polished” to remove any traces of the bug.

As it was still very chilly we decided to turn back towards Rugby and pulled up on a handy bit of Armco. A nice peaceful mooring, with no road or rail noise. Perfect. And so it was until around 5 am, when Paul got up for a pee. He noticed that we were leaning at an odd angle. It had rained so much all night that, despite this being a long pound of some 8 miles, the water levels had changed! He had to stick a dressing gown on and go and slacken our stern mooring. In all our years of cruising, we have never, ever had to do this before. But the rain had pelted down. I hope that all the reservoirs that were so empty last year are now fully topped up!

We had used our Saturday productively, though, carrying out the annual clean of the area underneath our dinette. No matter how careful we are, it gets crumbs, dog hair, pens etc and sometimes other treasures trapped underneath. I was thrilled to find a pair of scissors I had lost a couple of months back!

As we slipped our mooring on Sunday (NYE), with the wind behind us, there were places where you could not actually tell where the canal stopped and the towpath began. The towpath was an absolute quagmire too, and the boys have to have their paws cleaned before they come back indoors after walks, but the floor is still a bit grubby, despite our best efforts! But that’s winter boating for you. And I ain’t complaining.

We had decided to return to our mooring above Hillmorton Locks for New Years Eve. It seems quite quiet (other than a little train noise) and we hope that any firework noise will be fairly distant. Poor Ted gets so stressed by it all. The rain spat at us occasionally but nothing too horrendous and our aim was to be moored by the time the next band of rain swept through. As we slipped silently along, we could often hear the trickle of water pouring off the waterlogged land into the canal. We reached our destination just as the rain came on a bit more strongly and quickly tied up and got ourselves settled for the rest of the day.

We spent the afternoon making some Old Nick polo shirts with my Cricut Joy Xtra, using my new heat mat and press which were Christmas presents. And they were much easier to use than the conventional iron method. I’m looking forward to becoming more familiar with the Cricut and gettin’ creative!

New Year arrived accompanied by a flurry of fireworks – nearer than we had hoped and Ted was a bit miffed by it all. We had to stay up until 1 am (by which time the fireworks are meant to be over) just to keep him company and soothe him, poor boy. But he’s worth it.

New Year’s Day started beautifully with blue skies and sunshine, but it soon deteriorated to the familiar grey, sadly. We polished off the Hillmorton 3 in style and spotted – for the first time (I assume you can’t see it in summer because of all the leaves on the trees) the rather lovely St John the Baptist church. The last leg of our journey home was a bit of a log. Even though there was no wind, it felt several degrees colder. and we were both glad to get tied up and come indoors. Winter Boating is lovely – you just need to enjoy it in slightly smaller chunks. And that heated scarf could not have come at a better time and I highly recommend one to all winter boaters. It’s excellent.

And that rather neatly brings me to the end of this catch-up. We are very much looking forward to this year’s cruising. We have plans! But they’ll keep until next time. So – a Happy New Year from all aboard Old Nick. We have all left some people behind in 2023, but we will carry them forward in our hearts as we march bravely into the unknown that is 2024. Here’s to a good one!

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