Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Our first introduction to NB Sonia Louise

18 Dec - Our journey time to Bluewater Boats is usually around 2 1/2hrs, today we got caught in traffic which added another half an hour, still not bad though and an easy drive from Somerset. 

Having got excited about the photos sent through to us previously, today was no different.  Our first glimpse of NB Sonia Louise was as we pulled into the builders yard, eager to view our boat for the first time, we decided to do this before coffee.

The steel shed looked very full and industrious with two boats being built side by side, ours and a narrow beam Dutch barge, two very different looking boats.

It amazes me the variety of styles in build here all at various stages, they include 62ft x 12ft 2 bed, 2 bathroom wide beam, a 60ft x 12ft 6" bespoke 1 bed, 2 bathroom wide beam, a 15 metre cruising barge designed by Andrew Wolstenholme, a 70ft bespoke narrow beam Dutch barge, our 65ft bespoke Narrowboat and a 60ft wide beam.

Here are some further pictures of progress so far
Rear rubbing strakes and their rather decorative details being added

The bow shape being constructed, front rubbing strakes being added and bow thruster tube made
Our next visit will be mid January, this will coincide with Bluewater boats winter open day.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Our first glimpse

5 Dec

We've asked our boat builder to keep us updated with pictures between our visits to them, we are really pleased with the progress that is being made at this early stage.

Here is one of the first photos that have been sent through.

NB Sonia Louise - in the steel shed
The hull sides have been welded to the base plate and 'steel ribs' are being welded to the inside, base and sides to add strength to the structure.

Our boat will be 65ft long, a lot of welding to take place still.  The next stage will be for the rubbing strakes to be added and welded, as well as the stern and bow shapes to be formed.

I love the craftsmanship here already and can't wait to see her in a basic unpainted state.

Monday, 23 November 2015

23 November 2015 And so it starts...

We now have the confirmation that our boat build officially started today, woa hooooo.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Summer breakfasts - alfresco

During the school holidays I've resorted to travelling early on my runs down to Exeter to see my mum, in a bid to stay safe and away from the long traffic delays encountered in these parts.  Luckily for me there are alternative routes that avoid the M5 motorway. Its also allowed me some peaceful morning time to eat breakfast outside at some lovely locations around my home town.

My favourite breakfast spot this summer has been around the Exe estuary, where the Exeter ship canal starts, with big views across the estuary to Topsham, Lympstone and Exmouth.
Turf Lock, Exeter - where the canal meets the sea.

We're hoping next year will mean alfresco breakfasts with other stunning views across canals and rivers.

Since August we've been busy getting down the detail of our boat build plans and sharing this with our boat builder, exciting times ahead, with hopefully more to blog about when the build starts end of Nov/beginning Dec.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

A long walk, time for reflection and memories

29 April Sometimes you just need some time to yourself, having taken a couple of days off work to benefit from a long weekend I took myself off to the Kennet & Avon, a lovely day weather-wise was forecast.  I packed a very old Nicholson's, and set out from Semmington.  Lots of green, spring flowers and hedgerows bursting with life. It took me an hour and a half to reach here - the Caen Hill lock flight
The base of the middle section of the Caen Hill flight
I had a lovely light lunch in the cafĂ© near the top, and just took in the view, what a perfect day.  Martin and I have worked this flight a couple of times, even been stopped here mid flight to await repairs to a lock gate that had been lifted off its hinges by a wide beam in front of us.  Suitably refreshed it was time to return to Semmington.
Semmington is there, somewhere way in the distance
 And the reflection, a lovely day with my own thoughts and to remember my dad.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Our unscheduled halt at Barby Marina

Day 11 & 12 A very wet day, and we slipped out of Bosworth Marina just as the workforce were arriving. Another easy day planned and a promise of an evening meal at one of our favourite places in this area.  We stopped at the visitor moorings at Sutton Wharf to dry out and have coffee, very nice and with that the rain stopped although it remained overcast. We moved off again and stopped just a short way further on at bridge 30, easy access for our evening meal.  An afternoon walk was in order and a lazy afternoon, and then it was time to go to the Dog and Hedgehog for a superb meal, good job we'd booked too it was packed, a bit of a surprise being a Monday. Tuesday, again a short day and reluctant to get off the Ashby we stopped for our last night on this lovely canal at Bridge 5.

Day 13  We made our way off the Ashby, and on towards Hillmorton locks the last 3 of this holiday, making our total for the trip 101, 5 tunnels and over 150 miles. the weather was very odd today with a huge hailstorm just past Newbold tunnel, I was told to stay out of the weather so made myself comfy by the back steps. We made it steadily to the third, making sure to keep to the centre channel as the boat ahead had ran aground several times.  Out of the locks we moored against the Armco, we were rewarded with a lovely rainbow followed by a moonlit night.

Day 14  As we cast off today the wind had picked up, we'd also decided as we were within easy reach of the hire boat base we'd make it in today rather than stay out for the last night, so I set to with cleaning and packing.  We soon hit a problem though, a fuel problem, so a call to the hire base after battling the wind to get the boat back into the side, not easy with intermittent engine power. A representative turned up within about an hour, and after dipping the fuel tank decided it wasn't lack of fuel, a few things checked and the ability to engage drive we were underway once more.  for 10 mins all seemed well, but then the same problem returned, another phone call to the base, but not that good a reception with our news. We plodded on again trying one last time, we were now coming along Barby straight with all the moored boats, intermittent power and strong wind, it took all our effort to gain some control, by fending off, by use of boat pole to keep the bow pointing in right direction.  We hit one moored boat very gently and although initially met my an angry owner he soon understood 'why'.  By now we'd had enough, and as Barby Marina was now the next opportunity we made it in, mooring with great difficulty just inside the entrance by the pump out.  Another call to the hire base and our decision made we were adamant we would not be taking it back to their base in this condition. So the same representative came back with a colleague and Martin was soon being taken back to the hire base to collect our car.  A very trying day and now glad to be on our way home, the end of our summer holiday.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Our date with Ashby

Day 8 Our second week enjoying the lack of big locks and the sound of the bird life we made our way onto the Ashby Canal, tranquil and very different in character to the Rivers we'd travelled on and certainly no big towns to get through.  We moored for the night at Bridge 5, enjoying the evening sun and the sunset.

Day 9 A big day for us as we were heading for Bosworth Marina and our first overnight stay, and a taste of what will be in store for when we moor our own boat here. Not a rushed day we enjoyed the pace, but did get caught behind another incredibly slow boat, having to knock out of gear to keep our distance, the wind had picked up in time for our arrival at the marina, typical! still we arrived at the water point outside and filled the tank.  Two smiling people greeted us Sue and George who now own Caxton.

We turn into the marina entrance and under the bridge, and felt the full force of the wind in our faces, this could be interesting.  After a couple of attempts to get alongside the pontoon (we now know the marina is big enough to pirouette with a boat) With some great boat handling in difficult conditions Martin brought the boat in safely, boat secured we were soon enjoying the great company and hospitality of Sue and George.

Our first view of Bosworth Marina from the water, very exciting
Day 10 Switch off day, doing what we want, when we want.  We ventured up the hill to Market Bosworth, we've done this every time we've visited the marina during the construction, its a lovely town and the walk is easy. A pint in the Red Lion, a read of the Sunday paper, some bargains purchased from the Co-op store, we ventured back down the hill.

A mooring with a view
Our goodbyes made to Sue and George, we settled in for our second night, making the most of the evening sunshine and the sunset.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Days 6 & 7

I've left the second half of our holiday blog till now, due mainly to lack of time but also as something nice to think and write about during the winter.

Day 6  Leaving Shardlow early morning we took the opportunity to fill with water, we're pretty careful with water usage but like most boaters don't like to miss the chance of filling, with no other boats around it was ideal. The day again was full of sun, quite warm to begin with although as the day wore on it got colder, we passed a CR&T guy walking the path logging boat details, very re-assuring to see.  Stenson lock was soon in sight, and I steered into this, making my request to Martin 'please be gentle with the paddles'.  Just a little to early for refreshments at the Bubble Inn instead we timed it just right arriving at Willington at lunch time.  When we left making our way towards Branston Water park the clouds got darker and darker, we were now also held up by a boat in front with lots of crew and much running around, I never like to see this and we decided to hang back and let them sort themselves out, we had a cup of tea and some cake whilst we waited for them to clear the lock, luckily for us they pulled over before Bridge 34, curtains pulled and not sign of anyone as we passed.  Our day ended   above Barton Turns lock, plenty of wide grass bank and a handy pub for dinner, where we were made very welcome and enjoyed our huge dinner.

Day 7  Earlyish mornings appear to be a trend on this holiday, but we are both used to them in our day life, we planned to motor on a bit and stop for breakfast at a suitable spot, that turned out to be Alrewas and probably a mistake, we were having our breakfast when a boat departed from behind us, no problem we thought, they'll be clear of the lock before we get there, plus the lock now has some really useful stays to keep the bottom gates closed, complete with operating instructions. Over half  an hour later we made our way to the lock, me walking and Martin steering, I found that there were two boats waiting below the lock, nothing coming down, one a share boat and the other the boat that had set off whilst we were having breakfast.  It was a very, very slow trip to Fradley Junction, with boats stacking up behind the two in front, I went forward at each lock to try and move things along which I think worked but the lady on the boat in front would do everything but work the locks, talking to anyone and everyone instead.  I know boating is not a race and we certainly take things at a slower pace taking it in turns to work the locks or steer the boat, but this was so slow, minus tick over is almost going backwards.  It did however give me the chance to photograph my first kingfisher, not too clear but you can make it out, we've seen so many on this holiday.
Kingfisher near Fradley Junction
Our day finished at the Samual Barlow pub, Alvecote, just short of Polesworth our day 9 mooring last time we did this route.