Well, we have just ended our second week on board Captain Hastings and are still going strong. This week has had its ups and downs. The best thing about this week was our daughter Emily and our son in law Elliott joining us on Saturday for an evening meal in a local pub next to the first lock in Stone, Staffordshire. It was great to catch up with each other, all of us sharing stories of the past weeks. Emily looks great considering she is pregnant with her first baby, stressing as usual about her job as a teacher and how the young people are not getting on with their work. This is definitely something Sandra and I are not missing! As we waived them goodbye and headed back to the boat we were both quite sad that we wouldn’t be seeing them again for a month or so. We miss Emily our only child a great deal.
Before this however, we have had quite an eventful week in one way or another.
Leaving the boatyard in Streethay, who fitted our new battery bank last week, we headed for Willington, this was out of our way, but we did this to ensure the batteries charged OK. If there had been any problems, in theory we could pop back to the boatyard on our return. We were going back to the boatyard anyway as I had negotiated a free pump out! We went through Willington and turned the boat just outside of the village, very close to hundreds and hundreds of poly tunnels growing strawberries. We had a lovely night in the middle of the open countryside. The next day we had our pump out and fed back to the guy that the new battery bank was fine (little did we know how wrong we could be!). We then moved onto Fradley and moored up late afternoon. The weather was gorgeously sunny and not too cold. We chatted to some friendly boaters sitting on the cut having a glass or two and then went to the ‘Mucky Duck’ where to our surprise we had quite a nice meal (haddock and chips). We also met a strange couple from the music industry (father and son) who promptly capitalised a good quantity of our time. The younger guy so keen to tell us he was a budding rock star and that his band was currently number 4 in the rock album charts. They both moved on when they realised that neither of us were particular impressed or indeed interested – but it was nice to chat and listen to other peoples life aspirations.
The next day we continued our journey north and headed to Rugeley in Staffordshire. Here we could stock up on essentials as very close to the canal is a Tesco and also a great fruit and veg shop a short distance away. Mooring up was a disaster! As we reversed into a spot we got something major wrapped around the propeller (prop). It almost stopped the engine. I immediately went into neutral and we floated across the canal. I used our bow thrusters to bring us to the tow bath and a really friendly boater jumped off his narrow boat to assist. When we had moored up we tried the engine again slowly and to our amazement the propeller seemed clear of any obstruction. We did our shopping and on the return decided that we couldn’t be bothered to go to the Indian restaurant as planned, but instead we would have a takeway, which we did, and fully enjoyed.
Moving on towards Shugborough the family estate of the Earl of Lichfield I realised that the boat was struggling to go forward and that it seemed to be veering to the right. We stopped so I could open the weed and inspect the propeller to see if anything was trapped in there. Not a very nice job, and made more difficult by an overly active imagination. I had read somewhere that a guy did the same and found a decapitated human head in there. I needed to be prepared!! Unfortunately, as I tried to lever the lid off I realised that it was completely stuck. I would need assistance. During this, I also looked at the Mastervolt readout – which is a remote unit managing the charging of batteries and the inverter (changing DC into AC) to my shock the batteries were only at 55%. Something was wrong here also. It was getting quite late in the afternoon, so both of these problems would have to wait until the next day. During the evening I frantically posted our issue regarding the Masstervolt readout onto our boating forums (via Facebook) and found that possibly the main issue was that it wasn’t calibrated properly to the charger/inverter unit, but this couldn’t be done until the batteries were 100% charged. We would therefore have to moor soon at a marina to charge our batteries and to re-set the system. The propeller was more of a concern at present; we did not want to put extra strain on the drive shaft. I decided to call Anglo Welsh who run the boatyard at Great Haywood. They agreed to look at the boat so long as it was the following day and before 10.30am as they had to deal with the hire fleet. We both had a sleepless, stressing somewhat about the prop and indeed the electrical system on the boat. I was also angry with myself for not ever checking the weed hatch in the past, had I have done this the lid would have been easily removed – you learn!
Next day we had an early start, batteries down to 51%, low for new batteries; there was definitely a problem here. At Great Haywood, Anglo Welsh were amazing, removed the weed hatch lid and unbelievably pulled out a whole ‘parka’ coat with fur collar still intact! Whilst there we filled up with water, which had been made difficult as some idiot the night before had decided to moor up on part of the jetty, he shouldn’t have done that. When another boat came alongside, he told him this with the result being an outburst of abusive language. Unbelievable, sometime you witness the worse in people. As we were rolling up the water hose in readiness for us to move on we promptly dropped the whole thing into the canal. We both looked at each other, could anything else happen to us in such a short period? We spent the next ten minutes trying to fish it out of the canal, just as I had given up and was walking back to the boat; Sandra gave out a shout that she had got it. We smiled at each other – good things do happen!
The next day we met our daughter and arranged to Moor at Festival Park Marina in Stoke on Trent, this would take us a couple of days to get there, so after staying at Stone, we headed for Barlaston where Neil Morrissey of ‘Men Behaving Badly’ fame has a pub called the Plume of Feathers. Our intention was to moor close and have a meal there; in fact when we had moored up in the glorious sun, we just couldn’t be bothered. A glass of wine and a home cooked meal took preference. We also put the generator on – just in case the batteries were at fault.
Onto Stoke the next day and some quite deep locks to go through. Unfortunately Sandra had a mishap going under a bridge just before a lock earlier in the week. She bumped the boat and was stressed by being rushed by a boater behind. She was not going to drive the boat through the locks, until she could find her confidence again. We went through all the locks with help from some volunteers and we were also badgered in a friendly way by ‘Bob the Lock’ a young guy obsessed by canals and boats. He gave me a business card saying he would do our washing if we needed, go shopping for us and indeed help us through the next ‘26’ locks!! We took his card out of kindness and just in case – you never know.
We ended our second week moored at the Marina, plugged into the electrics and the headache a head of us trying to re-set the damn Mastervolt unit – which should have been done properly by Streethay in the first place! Roll on week 3!