Indigo Dreaming

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Archive for August 17th, 2008

The Odyssey Summer 2008 – Day 30 and 31

Posted by indigodream on 17 August, 2008

Gloucester Docks

We arrived at Gloucester late last night in preparation for a weekend cruise down and up the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal then a run up to Tewkesbury. Alas, we stayed the weekend in the docks and have left the Indigo Dream there for another week (by arrangement with BW).

When we arrived last night we found that we had no power at all. We put it down to us carelessly leaving some appliance or other on. We optimistically turned the engine on and waited, and waited, still no power at all. There was obviously something seriously wrong.

I should get in an apology here – we ran our (silenced) engine from 9.30pm – 10.30pm and the boat next door complained about the noise. We are sorry, really, but we did have a bit of a crisis. We hope you’ll forgive us. The other boats on the pontoon were very supportive. The crew of nb Quidditch, who we met at the Lincomb Lock stoppage, were particularly kind and offered everything from helpful suggestions on good dog-walking through to emotional solace (their alternator had gone a couple of weeks previously). Thanks, boaters, for all your support.

And that’s when we realised, the pontoons were FULL of boats. A chat with one of our less irate neighbours revealed that they’d been stuck there for three days because the Severn was in flood. At this point we ditched our plans for the river trip – there was more rainfall due and we’re not in such a hurry that we have to spend another rotten day on the river.

As we ate a romantic chinese takeaway by torchlight I thought that we’d be fine without power for the night. Then, HORRORS, I remembered that the toilet won’t work without electricity!!! We got on the internet, found a dog-friendly hotel and stayed the night in the Express Holiday Inn (M5, J12). It was great – only £49 a night bed and breakfast, big room (plenty of space for Blue and Lou), comfortable bed and fine cold buffet breakfast. It was consoling after our distressing evening of fretting about our broken power system.

We hope that the hotel doesn’t revoke it’s dog-friendly policy after our visit. Blue heard some perfectly innocent footsteps in the corridor outside our room at 2am. Up went the howl and it’s a toss-up as to who was loudest – Blue barking or us shushing him! Other than that they were very well behaved!

We woke refreshed and ready for the day. Happy birthday Richard!

We started by ringing all of Richard’s family to cancel the cruise. To our surprise, they were all keen to come down anyway – they seemed to want our company rather than our boat – they’re all mad!!! So we planned our day round an on-foot exploration of Gloucester. The next phone call was to River Canal Rescue. They were extremely helpful – although they don’t cover the domestic battery bank they did put us in touch with a local engineer who could come out this morning. We went back to the boat in good spirits.

Our first shock of the day was finding near-deserted mooring pontoons. The river had dropped overnight and the promised rain hadn’t materialised so everyone was off! By noon we were virtually the only boat left in the dock.

Our spirits were further lifted when I actually found the great dog-walking that the caring crew from nb. Quidditch recommended. Walk over Gloucester lock and cross the footbridge over the river. If you turn right you get to some scrubby heathland – don’t let your dogs off the lead – the council will fine you £1000 and the big horned cattle in there might take offence! I hadn’t noticed the cattle until I was virtuously bagging up a double handful of dog poo and I noticed a dinner-plate sized cowpat nearby. It seemed a bit ironic but I carried on bagging anyway! Luckily the cattle themselves were at the far end of the field.

If you turn left at the end of the footbridge and go down some steps (on the left) you’ll find a footpath adjacent to the river. This eventually leads to a nature reserve where dogs can be kept under ‘close control’. This meant that Blue could have an off-lead rummage; Lou’s restricted again because an old knee injury has now flared up – always something with these two! Watch out for the gate near to the wind turbine – it has an open section for bikes to get through which, unfortunately, has a cattle gird underfoot. I stopped Blue just in time – I reckon that cattle grids are greyhound leg-breaking devices! We were out for over an hour and never got to the end of the walk – brilliant.

in the meantime, the engineer had inspected the boat (great fast service). He diagnosed a knackered alternator but as we have two alternators he lent us some jump leads so that we could charge the domestic batteries from the engine battery while we ran the engine. This would preserve the domestic battery bank. Things got even better when we did a recce to the dock wall and found an unoccupied shore power point (there are 4 in total – look for the black boxes on the dockside – your BW key will open them). It had been hidden by two very swanky cruisers but they moved through the lock and we hastily took their place. The wall’s not ideal for unloading the dogs but the shore power is priceless. We found a card that worked, loaded up the credits and were able to leave the boat with happy batteries. Richard is going to give HMI a ring as the alternator is only just out of warranty and it seems wrong that it has failed after only 800 engine hours.

We’d just got all this sorted when the family arrived – Richard’s mum, little sister Danusia with her man, Martin, big sister Alina and her husband Rysiek. He had a fine crop of presents – including a pod system espresso machine for the boat. He made us coffee later – eat your heart out Starbucks! Now we can issue an invitation to Greygal – our boat already has her very favourite thing in the world, GREYHOUNDS, but now we have good coffee as well. Come on over!

We had lunch at ‘Fosters on the Dock’. Considering its great location (we ate in the conservatory overlooking the dock) it has very little atmosphere. HOWEVER the food was great – plentiful and well-cooked. I had the mixed grill which has more than enough meat for me and to make a peace offering for dogs (who had to stay on the boat).

We then had a mooch around Gloucester – what an interesting place. There are so many layers of history here – from the magnificent cathedral through to the comparatively ‘modern’ tudor building to the positively avant garde docks built in the 1820s. Of course, underlying all of this is the old Roman port of Glevum. I had a good wander inside the cathedral (£3 donation – bargain) – it is amazing, not so much beautiful as awesome. I was particularly impressed by their display of modern gargoyles which are being carved to replace the ancient worn ones outside. I also found two ‘side’ chapels which impressed me greatly. The first was right behind the main ‘worship’ area and is a high ceilinged palace of light – it was so uplifting and tranquil (even though I’m not at all religious). The second was a small chapel on the left of the main ‘worship’ area – it has modern stained glass windows in every shade of deep blue – they cast a soft dark light – somewhere for people to go for solace in dark times, when the light chapel would be too unattainable. There was a service going on in the main area and the sound of the organ soothed over all – it really was quite an experience. Unfortunately I missed the cathedral choir but Richard tells me it was unearthy in the echoing vastness.

I was also impressed by the cloisters leading to the grassed courtyard in the centre (and, incidentally, to the loos!).

Richard had scouted around the outside with the dogs and then took us on a guided tour. On the ‘town’ side the cathedral just looks like, well, a free-standing church. On the other side it had sprouted a planner’s nightmare of buildings from all ages. Half-beamed tudor buildings leaned drunkenly against invincible 11th and 12th century stonework. Elegant georgian and edwardian houses stood primly alongside, then a modern pain clinic with faux cloisters made of upright steel girders marked the transition between the tranquillity of the cathedral and the town of today. I have to say that the dogs coped really well with the town again – they’re so good on the lead.

After all the splendour of the cathedral complex, the modern shopping area seemed a bit shabby so we headed back to the magnificent docks and to a slab of birthday cake on the Indigo Dream.

Richard made us all latte’s on his new machine, we devoured a large Thornton’s toffee gateau, sang happy birhtday (in English and Polish) then we all went home happy.

So, a weekend that started in dismay has ended in delight. Richard has really enjoyed his birthday, dogs had a stimulating time and are now fast asleep. We’ve booked the engineer to install a new alternator next week so we should be good to go for next weekend’s cruise. If only we could book a weather engineer to sort us a dry bank holiday…….

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