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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 16

Posted by indigodream on 9 July, 2014

Friday 27th June

Brindly Place was buzzing with the floating market, trip boats and the crews assembling for the Dragon Boat racing - we left it all behind for the peace of the most rural urban canals around :-)

Brindly Place was buzzing with the floating market, trip boats and the crews assembling for the Dragon Boat racing – we left it all behind for the peace of the most rural urban canals around :-)

I managed to get the afternoon off and, after some kerfuffle with Ty’s vaccination certificate, we set off towards the boat mid-afternoon. We had a madly complicated dog-care arrangement in place, even  by Indigo Dream standards. Ty was going to stay with good friends Margaret and Roger with their greyhound Bess and Shari (experienced Indigo Dreamers) but they were away on Friday night so Ty would join Bess and Shari at their kennels in Tring for the night – Margaret and Roger would liberate all three hounds on Saturday lunchtime (Ollie would be cruising with us). On paper, it doesn’t look like that much of a detour, but it took over 2 hours to get from home to Tring, then, after dropping Ty off, we have another almost three hour trip to Birmingham. It is a long way to start off with, but the traffic was appallingly tedious. By the time we got to the boat I was beyond exhaustion and suffering from a major sense of humour failure – especially when we found that Indigo Dream wasn’t where we’d left her. Belatedly, CRT had put some mooring restriction signs up, reserving the spaces for the floating market boats and apologising for the short notice. Hah! When we moored there just 5 days ago there were NO signs. I don’t know who moved the boat, but we were now brested up to another boat that was obviously unoccupied and  had also been moored up before the signs went up. We hate being brested up as it makes access with the dogs difficult, plus someone had moved our boat without our permission. I reached the end of my tether – I went to bed and pulled the duvet over my head!

In the meantime, Richard made a heroic dash to Tesco to shop for tomorrow’s charity cruise – I did get up at 10pm to help him to put the shopping away but I was glad to get back to bed, as was Ollie, who’d been enjoying some beddy cuddles in Richard’s absence!

Saturday 28th June

Cambrian Wharf to Brades Locks and return

The fine "Jam Butty" full of exciting home-made preserves - shame the photos out of focus :-(

The fine “Jam Butty” full of exciting home-made preserves – shame the photos out of focus :-(

As so often happens, things looked better in the morning! We were brested up to a boat with a cruiser stern so Ollie was able to walk across in safety and Indigo Dream had been fastened securely – just as well, the local restaurant/party boats take no prisoners! A trading boat later fessed up to having moved Indigo Dream.

We had an early start – we were due to pick up today’s charity party at 10am at Cambrian Wharf, but we were now moored down by St Vincent Street Bridge and pointing the wrong way. We had to go down the cut to the nearest stub, turn round and head back to the wharf. There weren’t any moorings there but we did need to refresh the water tank so we filled up while waiting for our guests. The floating market was a strange mix of traders – needless to say, the Jam Butty was the smartest boat in the market and it was great to catch up with Andy and Helen in passing.

Our guests arrived in good time – we’d had advance warning that there would be four adults, two children (9 and 13) and our youngest ever Indigo Dreamer – baby Max, 5 months old! There was also Tinker – our 40th greyhound guest and whippet Ronnie. The baby was part of the reason why we had to leave Ty with friends – he hates boating anyway and when he’d met a baby for the first time last week, he was very disturbed, not nasty, but confused and uncertain. I thought it was best not to take any risks. Ollie, of course, took it all in his stride, I’m very proud of him as he gets on with people and hounds with equal aplomb – usually by plonking himself in his bed and letting fuss come to him!

We had originally planned a big locking day down then back up the Farmer’s Bridge flight but we realised during the week that there was another option, a loop along the New Main Line to the Gower Branch, up the Brades Locks then back along the Old Main Line returning to the New Main Line via the Smethwick locks. We gave the party both options and the loop trip won! This was a wise choice – as it turns out, central Birmingham had heavy rain all day – if we’d done the Farmer’s Bridge trip we’d have been in the middle of it. But by moving just a few miles out, we managed to miss the rain all day – we had a dry and sunny cruise, much to the envy of the trading boats!

Group photo on the Engine Arm aqueduct...

Group photo on the Engine Arm aqueduct…

We were blessed with another delightful group of guests. Mum had told the kids that they were allowed to bring a book each but absolutely no technology – they took this restriction with good grace and took a genuine interest in the boat, the canal and the dogs. Antonia, the 13-year old, likes sci-fi/fantasy so we were instantly on the same page! Everyone, apart from 9 year old Nicky, had a go at driving and Antonia was jubilant at having driven the boat without killing anyone :-D

We had lunch just above the Brades Locks – it was a tranquil spot undisturbed by traffic of any sort – we had the canal and towpath to ourselves. The hounds had a particularly good time – they all have good recall and enjoyed off-lead rummages along the towpath. Ollie, who doesn’t know he’s 11, had a game of chase with 3-year old Tinker and had a great time putting Ronnie in his place! Tinker and Ronnie also enjoyed running from one end of the boat to the other – by the afternoon they were worn out and finally ready to take advantage of the extra-large dog-snoozing deck. We did have one unfortunate incident where Tinker had an unexpected swim in the Engine Arm aqueduct – she wasn’t impressed and was less keen to get on the boat once she’d learn to associate it with water! She enjoyed being towelled down though and soon recovered her confidence while running down the towpath alongside the Smethwick Locks :-). On the way back we had a meander around the Soho Loop then Icknield Port loop. We haven’t been along the loops for years – it was interesting to note the changes, especially around Icknield Port.

Our guests seemed genuinely fascinated by the canal infrastructure, quickly became excellent drivers and really got what is about narrowboating. We have been so lucky, this is the second charity party we have had in two weekends and like the first they were a great group.

We got back to Cambrian Wharf late afternoon, marvelling at how soaked the towpaths were – we got the weather report from the traders – we couldn’t believe the rain they’d had when we’d been basking in sunshine all day! We dropped our guests off then moved back to our mooring brested up against the other narrowboat. It was a good spot for loading the next lot of shopping and the next mooring was a good half-mile down the towpath where we’d have had to rely on pins in hard ground (this was where all the other visitors had moved during the week). By now, Indigo Dream was causing some comment – we’d passed the traders twice this morning, then twice this afternoon – they were very curious to know what we were up to!

With the boat moored it was time to think about tomorrow’s charity cruise. We left Ollie on board, he was so very tired and starting to feel his muscles after running with the youngsters, and headed off for a Tesco Extra, around half an hour’s drive away. By the time we’d sorted Sunday’s catering, it was gone 8pm – where does the time go? I made us a quick pasta supper then we joined the Jam Butty for her launch party. Although the company was lovely, we were exhausted, so we left early and were in bed by 10pm. Ollie absolutely refused to leave his bed for a last wee walk and slept through until 6am – amazing how long your tanks can last when you’re too comfortable to move :-)

Photoblog:

Tinker was another natural Indigo Dreamer :-)

Tinker was another natural Indigo Dreamer :-)

Learning to drive takes some concentration :-)

Learning to drive takes some concentration :-)

The titanic pose! No icebergs in Birmingham, though it's worth looking out for the narrows around the "toll" islands :-)

The titanic pose! No icebergs in Birmingham, though it’s worth looking out for the narrows around the “toll” islands :-)

You can't have too many hound photos - and Tinker is the 40th greyhound Indigo Dreamer!

You can’t have too many hound photos – and Tinker is the 40th greyhound Indigo Dreamer!

And here's the youngest Indigo Dreamer - 5-month old baby Max and his mum :-)

And here’s the youngest Indigo Dreamer – 5-month old baby Max and his mum :-)

13 year old Antonia was a natural on the helm :-)

13 year old Antonia was a natural on the helm :-)

Sleepy hound :-)

Sleepy hound :-)

Even the super-active Ronnie whippet was ready for an afternoon snooze...

Even the super-active Ronnie whippet was ready for an afternoon snooze…

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 15

Posted by indigodream on 3 July, 2014

Sunday 22nd June

Hawne Basin to Sheepcote Bridge (Central Birmingham)

Gosty Hill tunnel is a tight squeeze at either end..

Gosty Hill tunnel is a tight squeeze at either end..

We had a rare cruise by ourselves today with no guests – hound or human. This gave us a relatively restful start to the day, with little pressure on time – we’re still adapting to Birmingham at normal i.e. not BCN Challenge, pace :-)

We’d moored overnight just outside the basin so no long goodbye, except for the local dog-walkers, who had become familiar in passing. Leaving was a poignant experience – we’ve had a good time here, yet I doubt whether we’ll be back for a couple of years.

Richard took us out and we managed to avoid any major prop-fouls apart from one sticky moment just before the Gosty Hill Tunnel. As Richard turned the prop in reverse then forwards, the smell of heavy hydrocarbons rose out of the black water. I’ve always wondered about the levels of pollution hereabouts – forget fracking, just dredge out the bottom of the canal here and at Spon Lane bottom, extract the oil and fuel Birmingham for a year :-)

Also just before you enter the tunnel are the impressive remains of the old Stewarts and Lloyds works. This was the company that pioneered the manufacture of steel tubes but is sadly no more. There is great photograph of what the works used to look like here.

Gosty Hill is quite obviously 1-way working and it’s straight enough to see it there’s boat in there but it can be hard to work out which direction they’re travelling in. This time, I remembered that someone had left the basin earlier so it was a boat going through ahead of us. We followed them in and before long we were catching up. As we neared the end of the tunnel, we realised that the boat in front was on stop – you’ve guessed it, they had a fouled prop in the narrows by where the tunnel tug boat used to live! They got clear and moved away just as we came up behind them. It was one of the Coombeswood Canal Trust’s trip boats and they courteously let us pass as soon as we were out of the narrows.

But Gosty Hill has a suprisingly high ceiling in the central section..

But Gosty Hill has a suprisingly high ceiling in the central section..

I don’t like helming through long tunnels – I get all disorientated, so Richard did the bulk of the driving in the morning – first through Gosty Hill then Netherton  – though I can manage Netherton – it has the propotions of a cathedral so it’s not so challenging for my senses! But first we had a typical Indigo Dream moment; as we came up to Netherton Tunnel, Richard spotted some cyclists dismounting to walk through the tunnel – they didn’t have any lights and faced a 2 mile walk in the pitch darkness. Richard offered them a lift, which they gratefully accepted! Our unexpected guests were a young couple who were very interested in hiring a narrowboat for a holiday but had never been on board before. I gave them a walk-through of the boat and had a happy half-hour talking over what they might look for in a hire boat. They were very impressed with the Indigo Dream, but I had to point out that a hire boat would only be half as nice (I didn’t tell them that it would also be twice as clean!).

We dropped our guests off at the far end of the tunnel and carried on towards the new mainline. It’s so tranquil along here – I wonder what it would be like to stop overnight here – it’s hard to believe that there would be trouble – it’s deserted. It would certainly be a fine place for the greyhounds.

I took over the helming after the tunnel so that Richard could get on with chores inside the boat – including a thorough clean ready for next weekend’s cruising.

I enjoyed my time on the helm – it gave me the chance to “join the dots” and cruise some of the sections that we missed during the BCN Challege. The new mainline is straight and deep, I can only imagine how the old boatmen must have greeted this canal equivalent of the M1. These days, it’s industrial surroundings are largely covered with drifts of wild flowers – so beautiful at this time of year.

My spirits lifted as we cruised along – it was a fine day and I LOVE every magnificent inch of the BCN – it’s a real joy to be back here.

Reflections in the ivy-clad X tunnel -

Reflections in the ivy-clad Galton tunnel -

As we got into central Birmingham, it was obvious that other boaters were enjoying the BCN too. The moorings were jam-packed – there were some traders who’d arrived early for the floating market the following weekend but most were visitors. While we were glad to see Birmingham so loved, we were dismayed to find that Cambrian Wharf and all the visitor moorings down as far as Sheepcote Bridge were full, with the exception of the 48-hour moorings close to the waterpoint.

We turned at Cambrian Wharf and moved back out past Sheepcote Bridge to find a miraculous space on the visitor moorings leading to St Vincent Street Bridge. They are 14 day moorings and we checked, then checked again, for mooring restrictions for the floating market but there were none. We moored up, grateful for the space, and quickly packed up for the long drive home – slightly complicated by a detour to Hawne Basin to pick up Richard’s car and an al fresco lunch at Starbucks. It had to be alfresco – it was far too hot to leave the dogs in the car while we ate!

Once we break through the 2-hour drive barrier, Sunday evenings have become a bit of a slog, but we’d had a great weekend’s cruising and added £100 to Perry Barr RGt’s coffers, so all very worthwhile.

Photoblog:

 

The new Mainline - magnificent!

The new Mainline – magnificent!

Spon Lane bottom lock - but we're going straight ahead today :-)

Spon Lane bottom lock – but we’re going straight ahead today :-)

A day of reflections - as if the M5 didn't make it's presence felt enough!

A day of reflections – as if the M5 didn’t make it’s presence felt enough!

The Engine Arm Aqueduct

The Engine Arm Aqueduct

You don't see many wild foxgloves around these days - I love seeing them here :-)

You don’t see many wild foxgloves around these days – I love seeing them here :-)

Ivy watch - see those factory buildings on the right? When we first came here the ivy was up to the roof, then they the next time they'c cut it down and I was sad, but now it's back! Nature wins - hurrah :-)

Ivy watch – see those factory buildings on the right? When we first came here the ivy was up to the roof, then the next time they’d cut it down and I was sad, but now it’s back! Nature wins – hurrah :-)

More drifts of wild flowers, or maybe a remnant of someone's garden carried in a load of topsoil - beautiful either way.

More drifts of wild flowers, or maybe the remains of someone’s garden carried in a load of topsoil – beautiful either way.

There are many remnants of the old canal infrastructure here - it's a fascinating landscape...

There are many remnants of the old canal infrastructure here – it’s a fascinating landscape…

Another remnant which loomed over the boat as we passed through the narrows...

Another remnant which loomed over the boat as we passed through the narrows…

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – day 14

Posted by indigodream on 1 July, 2014

Friday 20th June

Hawne Basin at sunset - it is a lovely place to moor and we were made very welcome...

Hawne Basin at sunset – it is a lovely place to moor and we were made very welcome…

Richard went up on Friday afternoon to get the boat ready for Saturday’s cruise – after almost a month of idleness (a good rest after the BCN Challenge!), the water tank needed refreshing and the toilet tank needed a pump-out. There was also food shopping to be done and Richard polished the boat – part of our strategy to put off having her repainted for yet another year.The good folk at Hawne Basin were very helpful and kindly let us moor the night on the water point which would allow easy access for the hounds.

I had to work, so I followed on with the hounds in the evening. It was the night before midsummer, so it was still just about light when I arrived at 10.30pm. Hawne Basin looked magnificent – perfect reflections in the  treacle-smooth water; earlier Richard had witnessed the brilliant sunset over the water (I’d seen it over the motorway!).

Ty was not thrilled to get to the boat, despite the fact that we had initiated “campaign Ty” a few days ago with conventional anti-anxiety therapy. Nontheless, we were all tired and soon went off to bed – busy day tomorrow.

Saturday 21st June

Hawne Basin to Parkhead Junction and back

We had an exciting day today – a few weeks ago, we offered Perry Barr Retired Greyhound Trust a couple of charity cruises. They decided to run two online auctions and today’s winning bidders were a groups of six greyhound lovers with their four greyhounds (King, Charlie, Daisy and Eddie)!

Group photo with all greyhounds facing the camera - regular readers will know that this is a photographic achievement!

Group photo with all greyhounds facing the camera – regular readers will know that this is a photographic achievement!

They were due at 10am, so we had time to move the boat out of the basin to the towpath, for easier loading. As we moved the boat we realised that we’d had a bit of a misunderstanding – I thought that Richard had paid for our mooring yesterday; Richard thought I’d paid for the mooring back in May – oops! I had to run back to office to pay – they apologised for charging me £80 odd – I laughed, it would cost almost that much for one night at Limehouse!

With all our bills paid, we found our guests and set off along the canal. Our plan was to go along the Dudley Canals as far as the Dudley Tunnel South Portal where we’d have a lunch and a dog-walk. Sadly, we didn’t make it that far – in fact, it took us so long to get from Hawne Basin to Windmill End that we had lunch by the Bumble Hole visitor centre! The problem was trash – we’ve rarely had to clear the prop so often and the crowning glory of the day was a car tyre, which took half an hour or more to cut off. It was the first properly hot day of the season and we suspect that a lot of the trash was “churn” – stuff that comes up from the bottom when the water warms up because we didn’t pick up anything on the last leg of the BCN Challenge.

Luckily our guests were a genial crowd and the menfolk were fascinated by the prop clearance – all part of boating life! We ladies just talked greyhounds – all day long! Charlie hound was a natural Indigo Dreamer and contender for the “Olympic Looking” squad; King’s take on boating was “wow, there’s a sofa” – that was it as far as he was concerned! Daisy and Eddie weren’t too sure about the whole thing – they seemed to take their cue from Ty, who was a complete jellyboy, despite being medicated to the eyeballs :-( Ollie, of course, took it all in his stride!

We had a lengthy lunch, with hounds and humans enjoying the green oasis of the Bumble Hole – we might have spent the rest of the day there but we really were keen for our guests to have the full Dudley Canal experience. This included a run-in with some exceptionally grumpy fishermen – that’s boating for you!

The canal is surprisingly elevated and gives great views down towards Merryhill, many lock miles below. Sadly, we had to turn back at Parkhead Junction – there wasn’t enough time for us to get up and down the locks – though our return journey was much faster – maybe we’d picked up all the trash on the way out!

Charlie - another Indigo Dreaming star :-)

Charlie – another Indigo Dreaming star :-)

The charity cruises are an interesting experience – essentially we are inviting groups of strangers to share our boat for the day with no ideas of what’s ahead. We do make the assumption that anyone involved with greyhounds will be good people! Our guests were a particularly delightful group of greyhound owners and I hope we’ll keep in touch – with Facebook we’re already friends and I hope that we meet again :-)

We got back to Hawne Basin by 5.30pm-ish though Charlie Greyhound didn’t leave until nearer 6pm – he loved the boat and didn’t want to leave – such a contrast with Ty, who’d have happily got into anyone’s car on the promise of never having to cruise again!

When our guests had gone, we sorted the first of the weekend’s car shuffles – we had both cars in Hawne Basin so we took both to our favourite car park in Brindley Drive (convenient for Cambrian Wharf) then brought Richard’s car back to Hawne Basin. The hounds came with us and we’d hoped to find a dog-friendly pub or pub garden where we could find some supper. We did try a TGI Friday, which had an outside terrace – we asked whether we could bring dogs onto the terrace – this was obviously not a question they’d had before! The answer was a long time coming, we could bring them on the terrace provided we didn’t actually sit on or near the tables, just in case someone was allergic to the dogs. This set my red lights flashing as “allergy” is such a spurious argument – there were pots planted with flowers and hanging baskets on the terrace – allergies to them will be far more common but no-one bothers with that; and don’t even get me started on the use of air fresheners in hotel bedrooms (I’m very allergic to so many of these)… Anyway, I stomped off in a huff and we went to plan B – a takeaway from a local chinese takeaway and the next episode of “Game of Thrones” Series 3. This lifted my spirits – the 3rd series is every bit as gripping as the first two, maybe more so, because I haven’t read the books this far so I don’t know what’s coming!

Photoblog:

Just a few more images from a lovely day’s cruise..

We had a very civilised lunch at the Bumble Hole moorings..

We had a very civilised lunch at the Bumble Hole moorings..

You can't have too many houndie photos - here's Charlie again - he really loved boating! He's wearing a cool coat which is a bit like a chamoiz leather - retains water without being heavy or dripping - clever!

You can’t have too many houndie photos – here’s Charlie again – he really loved boating! He’s wearing a cool coat which is a bit like a chamois leather – retains water without being heavy or dripping – clever!

Happy menfolk too :-)

Happy menfolk too :-)

Are we in Greece? Lovely Mediterranean scene of "wild" goats lazing in the sunshine - in Dudley! :-)

Are we in Greece? Lovely Mediterranean scene of “wild” goats lazing in the sunshine – in Dudley! :-)

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 0 Day 13

Posted by indigodream on 19 June, 2014

Rewind a LONG WAY back to Friday 23rd May

Knowle (above the locks) to Typhoo Basin

Henry and Archie limbering up for the BCN Challenge :-)

Henry and Archie limbering up for the BCN Challenge :-)

In the excitement of the BCN Challenge, I’d forgotten to record how we actually got to the start point from the top of the Knowle flight! It’s worth recording, because I think this is an under-used route which has some unexpectedly charming stretches – who could believe that Solihull would look so good :-)

We arrived at the boat Friday lunchtime, having rejected the option of the late-night drive on Thursday. It wasn’t a long cruise to Typhoo Basin and largely lock-free so we had plenty of time for a restful morning at home, followed by a leisurely drive up. Indigo Dream had been fine – I’d had some misgivings about the integrity of our pins in soft ground, but it’s quite possible that no-one had been past, let alone at speed. We loaded the hounds on and reversed back to the end of the lane that leads down to the locks – I got the car to the side of the canal and we loaded on the essential supplies that we’d need to fuel the BCN Challenge (mainly carbohydrates!).

We set off at noon and enjoyed the pastoral run up to Catherine De Barnes and beyond. It’s lock-free and quiet – it was cool and overcast at first, yet the towpath was deserted and we even saw a Kingfisher. At one time, Archie hound had an urgent need – we pulled over and let the three hounds have an off-lead bimble – even Herbie! It was peaceful  and lovely – a perfect mooring for hounds. I had to check the map to realise that we were, in fact, passing through the heart of Solihull and not far from the kennels used by Perry Barr RGT, one of the beneficiaries of the BCN Challenge money.

We were approaching the Camp Hill Locks when the rain started in earnest – oh my, it was a real rehearsal for the Challenge itself! We stopped at the excellent services offside at Camp Hill – neat, clean and secure, this was a great place to stock up with water before our descent into Birmingham. As we got to the top of the flight, we found the first of our crew. Sarah, Andy and greyhound Rosie had been visiting Henry H and they joined us just in time to assist us down the flight. Rosie’s still very excited by boating, so I had to lock all of the hounds indoors for the locking – I was practising my narrow lock entries (at speed) and couldn’t supervise deck hounds as well. Besides, the rain was now torrential and they were better off inside!

Excellent service at Camp Hill top lock...

Excellent service at Camp Hill top lock…

As I entered the first lock, it occurred to me that I hadn’t actually been in a narrow lock since 2011 – oh well, a good time to get my tiller-hand calibrated then!

We got to the last but one lock of the Camp Hill flight, near to where Sarah’s car was parked. We left the men to it and went off to do a car shuffle. Sarah drove me back to Knowle, then we dropped my car off near to Hawne Basin (canalside parking on Chancel Way) and took Sarah’s back to her pre-booked space in Brindley Place.

The last part of the day got a bit complicated – we knew that the boat was moored just outside Typhoo Basin and we knew that the final member of the crew, Christine, had found the boat. Sarah and I were in charge of finding a takeaway for supper but we had no idea how difficult it would be to find a decent chinese in the vicinity of the boat. We caught a cab down to the Bullring (within walking distance of the boat) and eventually ended up in Pizza Hut – we walked to the boat laden with five HUGE pizza boxes. Luckily it had stopped raining by then or they’d have been very soggy pizzas! There was the added complication that both of our phones had run out of charge so we couldn’t liaise with the boat crew, but we got there in the end.

The towpath to Typhoo Basin is locked at dusk, making it a very secure mooring spot, once we got the crew on board. We had our dinner on the towpath just outside, walked the hounds, then reversed into the basin for the night. I’m sure the towpath just outside would have been fine, it seemed very quiet, but why take the risk – we definitely needed our rest ready for the big challenge in the morning :-)

Note: I’m not that woefully behind on the blog – for complicated dog-sitting reasons we’re having a few weekends off boating after the Challenge – Indigo Dream is safely tucked up with the good folk of the Coombeswood Cruising Club in Hawne Basin. Our next odyssey cruises will put a bit more money into our favourite charity’s coffers :-)

Photoblog:

Here’s a selection of canalscapes from Knowle to Camp Hill – who knew that Solihull could be so rural :-)

r_BCN_23May14_13-40_043

r_BCN_23May14_13-52_046

r_BCN_23May14_14-23_048

Sad blot on the canalscape - a ruined boat well out in the navigation - looked totally burned out :-(

Sad blot on the canalscape – a ruined boat well out in the navigation – looked totally burned out :-(

Annoying blot on the landscape - why oh why do people have to fly-tip lots of black bags and other rubbish down here - where do they think it will go? Grrrr.....

Annoying blot on the landscape – why oh why do people have to fly-tip lots of black bags and other rubbish down here – where do they think it will go? Grrrr…..

That looks like an interesting mooring spot - now where is this??

That looks like an interesting mooring spot – now where is this??

 

 

 

 

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Boat Blog: BCN Challenge 2014 – the results!

Posted by indigodream on 9 June, 2014

Please support us - even a tiny donation can put a smile on a retired greyhound's face..

Please support us – even a tiny donation can put a smile on a retired greyhound’s face..

 

Sunday 6th June

A wonderful event :-)

A wonderful event :-)

Ok, cue the drumroll…..

The BCN Challenge results are out and Indigo Dream came….THIRD – again! Though actually that’s a step up on our 2011 performance as this year’s scoring rules made it difficult for boats of less than 70′ to get anywhere near the top – in fact, we’re the only “short” boat in the top six.

Second place went to nb Tawny Owl (last year’s winners) and the honours went to nb Clover – a magnificent performance and an epic route (though, in all fairness, none of us slouched round the system!).

A total of 39 boats were scored and we beat the 4th placed boat by 0.14 of a point! Nb Tawny Owl beat us by 7 points, but nb Clover was an unassailable 45 points ahead of us.

It’s a great result though, and it’s to our crew’s credit that we’re in the top three – nb Tawny Owl had a 16% bonus on mileage as a 70 footer and nb Clover had a 25% advantage on mileage for being a 70′ working boat.

Of course, the big result for us is the fundraising total – currently standing at £1,870 – I wonder if we could just get a few more donations to round it off at £2,000???

We’re planning to do the BCN Challenge for charity every 2 years – so next time do we:

  • persuade the BCN Challenge organisers to remove the length bonus so that shorter boats are in with a chance (I think this was the first year of the new rules)?
  • Whip our crew even harder and employ NATO strategists to plan our route?
  • Have Indigo Dream stretched to 70′?

Creative ideas welcomed!

Of course, we’ll have to be more diligent on the “treasure hunt” questions also – we got one wrong! That didn’t matter this time but, ooh, the competition is so hot….

It was a thoroughly enjoyable 24-hours, despite the weather, and I’m eternally grateful to the crew, human and canine, who yielded us such a great result.

Of course, we’re also immensely grateful to the BCN Society for organising this amazing event – it’s a great showcase for Birmingham’s unique canal network.

Photoblog:

We took very few photos – mainly because it was so difficult to keep the cameras dry! All the mini blog posts came from my phone – hastily deployed and stowed away in a waterproof pocket before the electrics could get soggy!

 

Anglesey Arm - well worth a visit...

Anglesey Arm – well worth a visit…

Passing the explorer cruise - nicely moored up and ready for the pub - we had another 6 hours cruising and an apolcalyptic thunderstorm to get through at this point - no wonder they all looked so smug :-)

Passing the explorer cruise – nicely moored up and ready for the pub – we had another 6 hours cruising and an apolcalyptic thunderstorm to get through at this point – no wonder they all looked so smug :-)

Where all the mode of travel come together - the aqueduct over the new Main line and the railway line at eye level and (not in this photos) the mighty M5 towering over the whole lot! It's a "must see" if you're in Birmingham.

Where all the mode of travel come together – the aqueduct over the new Main line and the railway line at eye level and (not in this photos) the mighty M5 towering over the whole lot! It’s a “must see” if you’re in Birmingham.

There are some short pounds between the Oldbury locks - and an usual amount of traffic :-D

There are some short pounds between the Oldbury locks – and an usual amount of traffic :-D

New crew member Rosie showing that she's a natural "Olympic Looker" :-)

New crew member Rosie showing that she’s a natural “Olympic Looker” :-)

Coming to the top of the Parkhead Locks...

Coming to the top of the Parkhead Locks…

The Parkhead locks are very interesting - you can only imagine how busy it must have been here in its heyday...

The Parkhead locks are very interesting – you can only imagine how busy it must have been here in its heyday…

 

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BCN Challenge: Route Summary

Posted by indigodream on 26 May, 2014

Please support us - even a tiny donation can put a smile on a retired greyhound's face..

Please support us – even a tiny donation can put a smile on a retired greyhound’s face..

STOP PRESS: Donations we’ve received today have pushed our fund-raising total through the £1700 mark – that’s the figure you see on the Justgiving site; BUT for the total amount the charities will receive, add gift aid and deduct credit card/justgiving fees, that figure’s just gone over £2000 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday 26th May

Here we are, home safely after a quite amazing weekend of cruising -I’m still mulling it all over and no doubt there will be a few blog posts to come.

Although I tried to blog as we went along, I may have missed a few bits so I thought I’d start by summarising our route – when we put our Challenge route into Canalplan, it estimated that it should have taken 5 days! In just 24 hours, we cruised 60 miles and got through 79 locks!

Back in March we spent a lot of time with the rules, a large BCN map and a planning spreadsheet with which we plotted 10 different routes – we really were going for it this year! However, we met many boats on the “big points” sections and the rules have been changed this year, so being only 60′ long we score 17% less than 70′  boats. This might be the most competitive Challenge ever and I predict that the results will be very close – we’ll find out in a few weeks’ time :-)

Our Challenge went to plan and we didn’t need to use any of the emergency shortcuts that we might have used if we’d had any unexpected delays. We cruised well below our hoped for 3.6mph in the lock-free pounds, but what saved our Challenge was our supersonic locking! The locking crew (Greygal, the Synth Prof, Famous knees Christine and Richard) were magnificent, with two lockwheelers and two ground crew working ahead and behind the boat. We’d estimated 6 minutes per lock in our planning but we think our actual time was nearer to four minutes per lock!

Here's a map of route - thanks to Canalplan's excellent website :-)

Here’s a map of route – thanks to the excellent Canalplan website :-)

Saturday:

1. Proofhouse Junction (Digbeth) to Aston Junction

2. Aston Junction to Salford Junction

3. Salford Junction to Newton Junction (Rushall Canal)

4. Newton Junction to Catshill Junction

5. Anglesey Arm (there and back)

6. Catshill Junction to Pelsall Junction

7. Cannock Extension Arm (there and back)

8. Pelsall Junction to Birchills Junction (Walsall)

9. Birchills Junction to Walsall Junction

10. Walsall Town arm and back

11. Walsall Junction to Tame Valley Junction )Ocker Hill)

Sunday:

12. Tame Valley Junction to Pudding Green Junction (via Ryder’s Green flight)

13. Pudding Green Junction to Bronford Junction (Spon Lane)

14. Bromford Junction (Spon Lane) to Spon Lane Junction

15. Spon Lane Junction to Oldbury Junction

16. Oldbury Junction to Titford Pools and back

16. Oldbury Junction to Brades Hall Junction

17. Brades Hall Junction to Albion Junction

18. Albion Junction to Dudley Port Junction

19. Dudley Port Junction to Windmill End (via the Netherton Tunnel)

20. Windmill End to Parkhead Junction

21. Parkhead Junction to Dudley Tunnel Sout Portal and back

22. Parkhead Junction to Windmill End

23. Windmill End to Hawne Basin

 

 

 

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BCN Challenge: the day after

Posted by indigodream on 26 May, 2014

Archie and Henry sunbathing on deck after a triumphant BCN Challenge :-)

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BCN Challemge

Posted by indigodream on 26 May, 2014

Whoever ordered the weather for this year’s Challenge has a sense of humour :-p

We’re basking in sunshine today after 24 hours of the soggiest cruising ever!

Still, it makes drying and cleaning the boat much easier.

We’ve said goodbye to most of our excellent crew but for complicated reasons we still have Archie and Henry hounds. They’re appreciating the sunshine as they need to sunbathe in order to renew their energy after some gruelling marathon snoozing :-)

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BCN Challenge

Posted by indigodream on 25 May, 2014

Goodnight from the Indigo Dreamers :-)

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

BCN Challenge

Posted by indigodream on 25 May, 2014

Of course we made it :-D

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

 
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