Tuesday August 15th dawned bright and sunny. Time to move! I cruised away from Whittington at seven AM with four miles in front of me until I reached Fradley Junction service point where I could fill up the water tank and dump my rubbish. Fradley is also where the Coventry meets the Trent & Mersey canal. It is a crazy-busy place with boats heading in three different directions so an early start was a good thing.
I reached Fradley by 9 AM and creeped past a long, long line of moored boats to find one spot open near the second water point before the swing bridge. Pulling in I moored up in front a lovely all wooden boat that was over fifty years old. I started water filling the tank and carried three black rubbish bags to the garbage collection point. On my return I started a load of laundry--just to get the water in for a wash and then I stopped it. Now that I am single handing I have to think of these things ahead of time as I cannot just nip down the stern stairs after I commence cruising again to start a load of washing so I load the washer, put in the soap and let the machine fill with wash water and then I turn it off and wait to start the wash until I am ready to cruise off again to re-start the washing machine and let it continue the cycle.
While the water tank finished filling I opened and closed the swing bridge after four boats so their owners didn't have to step off and one bloke on a working boat was single handing it and very grateful for my help. As I stood there at the bridge I was thinking,
"Why does it take so long to fill my tank?"
I finally figured it out after asking myself this question for months now. I was moored up about twelve feet away from the water point but I have 100 feet of hose!! I have since purchased a 25 foot hose but I have to figure out how to make a hose fitting like Les did for the longer hose. I cannot switch it out because my darling husband glued it in place so it will neva' eva', eva' come apart!! Les bought the bits and pieces to make the end fitting at Screwfix so I need to take a picture of what I have and then visit Screwfix and ask them if they can figure out what pieces I need. Then I have to figure out how to put it all together. I hate puzzles!! Oh well...life is one big puzzle lately.
"No my boat won't fit there."
"Do you mind if I slip in and moor up while I wait for you to go up?"
"Not at all, go for it." And with that he came around me on my left as I slowly backed up another boat length so he could slip into the lock landing. Eventually the lock emptied and the boat inside cruised slowly out. I cruised slowly in asking the voluntary lock keeper if I needed to get off and help.
"Hi, I am single handing. do you need me to get off and help? I just need to know before I being the boat inside the lock."
"Nope you're fine but we could all do with a cup of coffee," and he winked at me. Helping out were two women with windlasses and a young girl about age nine. I didn't see any boat nearby that they might be attached to so I figured they were just out on a sunny day helping to lock boats through and doing a bit of gongoozling (staring at boats and boaters). While the lock began to fill I dashed down to the galley, pulled off four paper towels and came back up with them filled with two Brownies for each lockee.
"I don't have coffee but I do have freshly baked Brownies for each of you."
"Ooh lass now that will go down a treat! I will tuck mine up with me lunch" says the lock keeper. The two women and young girl were shy and appreciative. We chatted about where I was from and why I was on my own. The volunteer lock keeper came to me and asked quietly what had taken my husband. I explained about the cancer.
"Oh lass I am so sorry for your loss. I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2013. They caught it early. I have a stoma but needed no treatment other than surgery."
"Well you are fortunate indeed. I hope your health goes from strength to strength and I am grateful for your help today."
|Taken in front of the White Swan Pub AKA the Mucky Duck. The blue lines in the distance mark the the bottom lock gate. This gives one a very good idea of how crowded with boats it is here at Fradley Middle lock.|
As I stepped back on board NBV I tried forward gear and it went fine. Reverse? Not so good! The engine coughed and sputtered. I needed to either find a place to pull over and go down the weed hatch or see if some gear shifting of forward and reverse would loosen whatever it was. I decided to try and cruise to a place that was safe enough to pull over in case I couldn't get the engine started again but by the time I found such a place whatever it was had mostly dropped away from the prop. Onward I cruised slowly because the boat still felt laggy--as if there might be some little bit of something still stuck. I covered the six miles slowly and the small boat behind me was lovely and patient all six miles to the canal side Tesco at Rugeley. The weather was forecast to change from sunny and mild to sheets of rain and gusting winds by later afternoon or early evening. The wind was already rising.
After pulling in, mooring up, closing all the curtains on the boat, locking both bow and stern doors and getting my trolley and backpack organized I was delighted to find that the small boat which had been so patient had pulled up just in front of me and was none other than the two women and the young girl who had assisted me through Fradley Middle lock earlier. Dad was on the boat, and they too were preparing to go for groceries. I nipped back inside NBV and came out with more Brownies for everyone--and an extra one for dad.
"Thank you again for all your help today and your patience with my slow cruising. I think I have something around my prop which slowed me down. Here's an extra Brownie for Dad as you didn't get any of the first round."
"Wow! Thank you so much! We were just talking about having a tea break with some biscuits but this will be much better. That's very kind of you."
We parted with smiles and off I went to top up my larder. Of course I was tired as I had been up since 6:00 AM and hadn't eaten anything all day. I returned to the boat forty five minutes later with a half full trolley to find I didn't know where my keys were. Shit-shit-shit!!
I remembered removing them from the ignition and tossing them on the bed. Those were Les' keys but where were mine??? I always kept mine clipped to my backpack. I hadn't a clue and then panic set in. I started making my way around the boat to the large sliding window which was on the canal side of the boat. I had left the top half of that window open. While I held on to the roof railing with one hand, I maneuvered the window out and dropped it down inside the boat onto the dinette cushion. Then I stretched down and managed to undo the clip on the sliding window. My only problem was that I couldn't fit my short round self through it! Les could slip in that window--just barely--but not me.
Just at this moment the dad on the little boat in front spotted me hanging off the side of NBV with my grocery trolley abandoned against the bow of the boat. He came walking towards NBV.
"Are you okay?"
"Not really, I think I locked the keys inside the boat."
"Do you know where they are?"
"Yes; on the bed at the back. I've managed to get the sliding window open but I can't fit though it." The young dad came around from the bow and walked along the gunnel to me.
"I think I might be able to fit through there. Is it all right if I try?"
"Certainly! You can brace your legs on the dinette table. It is quite sturdy." In young dad went and within seconds he handed my keys out to me. I felt like such a knob head. I worked my way to the bow and unlocked the front door, releasing the young man who came to my rescue, thanking him profusely.
"It was nothing. I am so glad I could help," and off he went with a smile.
Back inside NBV with groceries I realized several things; I had the shakes from not eating all day. It was nearly three thirty PM. I was also too hot and as I felt my trouser pockets I found my keys! They were with me all the time although I never keep my keys in my pockets because it is too easy for things to fall out into the cut when mooring and un-mooring. What an idiot!!
I dared not stay overnight in Rugeley. Les always said it wasn't the best spot and Anne and Steve on NB Bracken had warned me that some juveniles had pulled the flowering pots off of the roof of several boats moored there for groceries two weeks ago. Despite feeling exhausted and rough around the edges it was time to push on and find a safe quiet place in the countryside.
I had a couple of crackers with cheese so the red warning light in the back of my brain would quit flashing, and the shakes subsided. Two miles and an hour and fifteen minutes later I was moored up just after bridge 70--Wolseley Bridge--another favorite spot of Les' at the foot of Cannock Chase. I had cruised a total of 13.5 miles over eight hours. After mooring up in the early evening sunshine I sat on the bow and just breathed in and out, remembering the past times Les and I moored here. Clearly I had pushed myself too far, too long. Another lesson learned. Down the weed hatch I went, groping around the prop to find it clean! I took a moment to label the upper left corner of the cover so it is always replaced properly; as most boaters are aware, failure to close the weed hatch exactly so can and does result in a sunken boat.
There is room for about five or six boats at this site with a set of stairs leading up from the tow path to the road above. Nearby is the Wolseley Arms pub which was a coaching Inn in the days before the railroad with a hundred horses stabled there. Across the way and around the corner is the Wyevale Gardening Centre and let me tell you! Their plant selections and gardening tools on offer are truly huge. The gift shop is amazing with something to suit everyone--man, woman, and child. I even found clothes in my size which were lovely and very inexpensive--a 50% off sale was taking place! I picked up a new fleece jacket for seventeen pounds.
Adjacent to the gardening centre is the Wolseley Nature Reserve where Les and I spent a delightful afternoon wandering the paths and enjoying the peace and quiet of nature while moored at bridge 70 back in 2012.
|The bright green line is where NBV was moored up on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Bridge 70. You can see the Colwich filling station up near the top.|
I didn't get the name of the folks who moored in front of me, or their boat's name either. We had three days of spouting rain so I didn't venture out much during it. He had long silver hair pulled into a pony tail and I watched him mop out his bilge after one particularly hard day's rain. I stepped out to move the solar panels around and said,
"It's not a job any of us enjoy doing, but I have to say it is nice to see someone besides myself down in the engine hold emptying the bilge!" He laughed and we chatted for a few minutes before he and his wife took advantage of a break in the weather to catch a bus into Stone for shopping.
I was blessed to have visitors on Thursday the 17th. Our lovely friend Carol Ives and her friend Sue were up from London for a funeral in Crewe and they stopped in for three hours to visit with me on their way home. We sat out on the bow in the late afternoon sunshine eating Brownies, drinking tea, talking and laughing, remembering Les. Carol and Sue are planning to come up and stay with me sometime before winter sets in for a weekend which I am looking forward to with joy.
|Sue and Carol with "The Brownies." A good time was had by all and a repeat visit will be most welcome!|
I walked over to the Colwich petrol station across the cut from where I was moored to pick up a Saturday paper and a Lotto ticket. I visited the Garden Centre looking for Tarragon--no joy. Finally before I left I planted a Daffodil with some of Les' ashes nearby.