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Archive for August 25th, 2008

The Odyssey Summer 2008 – Day 33

Posted by indigodream on 25 August, 2008

Gloucester Docks to Sharpness

Our plans for today were to cruise down the canal to Sharpness and back – hah, I don’t think we’ve made our schedule since we started our odyssey back in June! Never mind…..

Rock on the dock!

Rock on the dock!

I started the day with another long rummage round Castle Meads while Richard went under Llanthony Bridge to fill up with water and do a pump-out. There are good facilities here with visitor moorings at the far end of Llanthony pontoons. I felt a bit guilty getting the bridge lifted just to get to the services, then again to get back to the docks to meet our friends, then again (!) to get back down the canal! Luckily it’s an electrically operated bridge – I think the bridge-keeper might have been less tolerant if he’d had to hand-winch it!

Note: Llanthony pump-out needs a BW card – obtainable from the Gloucester Dock lock-keeper not the Llanthony Bridge Keeper.

The happy crew (dogs asleep inside!)

The happy crew (dogs asleep inside!)

We were joined today by some very old friends who’ve done a lot of cruising with us over the years – Neil, Jenny and daughter Hannah plus two dippy spaniels Max and Hugo! Richard went to meet them in the car park as there is a trick to doggie introductions – if they meet on neutral ground our two are absolutely fine; but if we bring people/dogs onto the boat then there’s a commotion! While all this was going on I got some tips from our narrowboat neighbours and found out that the stage being built on the dockside was for an all-day show “Rock on the Dock” (see photo above). We were gutted – we’ve been stuck in the dock for a fortnight and the minute they laid on some entertainment we moved on!

Crew plus dogs!

Crew plus dogs!

As always, we were late setting out – not normally a problem but there were restrictions on Hempstead Bridge which was only opening once an hour on the hour; we just missed it so that was another delay. The reason for the restriction was boat racing on the other side. Just as well, it was bad enough going through between races – I hate it when the ‘safety’ boats cut over in front of me. I don’t think they realise how invisible they are when they pass right in front of my bow!

We’ve talked to lots of boaters about the Gloucester and Sharpness – everyone told us that it was well worth doing. I was doubtful myself – by the time we’d been through the first god knows how many swing bridges and commented on the breadth and depth of the canal that seemed to be it!

Wide vistas on a broad canal

Wide vistas on a broad canal

But it was better than, say, the Kennet and Avon, the depth meant that we could hack along at 1800 revs and the bridges were all manned! The local boaters were a cheerful lot and the bridgekeepers were very helpful.

The Oliver Cromwell

The Oliver Cromwell

We stopped for lunch at the Pilot Inn – the moorings are just before the bridge. Just after we moored, the bridge was swung for Oliver Cromwell, an ENORMOUS trip boat that regularly plies the canal. We heard the vhf chat that she was on her way. Word on the cut says that your experience with the Oliver Cromwell depends on which skipper is on duty – luckily we were safely moored when she came past! The pub is a pleasant place for a drink, the service was lovely and it was very reasonably priced. But I thought the food let it down – I had a mixed grill which didn’t resemble the description on the menu and seemed to be made up of random ends of meat that they’d found in the fridge. Obviously not a problem – odds and ends of meat are never wasted with our two on board!

As the afternoon wended on, I started catching glimpses of the great Severn valley and the Welsh hills beyond. I did think that this made up for the otherwise dull terrain but there was more to come at the end of the day!

We’d heard that there was a fuel boat plying its trade on the canal and towards the end of the day

A glimpse of Wales

A glimpse of Wales

we finally found Stokie. Their diesel was a very reasonable 79p/litre and they were lovely people. Yet more delay ensued as we chatted about the state of the world and of diesel duty in particular.

By now, I have to admit I was a little fed up with the canal – there had been a relentless wind blowing all day, making the rudder heavy, and there were just too many swing bridges! The fact that we had great company on board made all the difference but I was feeling a bit guilty about bringing them on such a dull trip. Neil is immensely strong and we normally get him on board when we have a murderous number of locks to tackle – he was amazed that there weren’t any! But then we came to the large piers that mark the old railway line and got a glimpse of what must be one of the best views from the water anywhere.

What a view!

What a view!

I can barely describe it, the dramatic stone piers, the deceptively low stone wall by the towpath then the drop down to the magnificent sweep of the river over to the colourful harvest patchwork of the Welsh hills. I was utterly utterly captivated. We turned the boat by the marina entrance (before the high and low bridges) and moored on the towpath just before the railway piers.

Note: Don’t go into the marina unless you have a berth there – there isn’t room to turn at the end and it looks like an awkward reverse.

There were lots of boats here and we felt very secure – there just aren’t any roads around!

This proved to be a bit of a disadvantage when we thought about how to get back to the cars. There are no shops or pubs nearby but who cares, it’s such a wonderful spot to moor! We had an extended wander round the marina – if you’re there the you MUST walk right to the end of the basin. There is a tremendous view down to the two Severn road bridges as well as the grand old lock. Follow the path

The Severn Crossings

The Severn Crossings

round and you’ll eventually get to the Dock Workers Club.This has been highly recommended to us as a place for a drink and a bit of company – sadly closed when we passed by but a watering hole for the future! We sent Richard and Neil back to Gloucester for the cars and we girls sat on the lawn outside the club and caught up on life, the universe and everything!

I must mention that we met narrowboat Debdale on our travels but sadly we didn’t meet Adam http://nbdebdale.blogspot.com/ as we don’t think he has the boat until September. We thought about introducing ourselves as we passed by but Blue and Lou were having a mad greyhound moment on the towpath, chasing each other round and barking wildly. Debdale’s occupants looked so horrified we just walked past quickly!

We said a reluctant goodbye to our guests – all of the dogs have behaved brilliantly today (apart from the end of day mad moment from our two!). Then we had a decision to make – given that our schedule was already in shreds and we had a secure 14-day mooring we decided to leave the boat here and spend bank holiday monday at home. The garden’s reached the stage where a machete just won’t do it and we’ve had to ask the US military for some Agent Orange!

Yet more views!

Yet more views!

It was sunset and the gentle light made a painting of every scene. We spent ages just looking over the estuary – the water and the light were draining away hand in hand, leaving soft yellow sands and the sighs of the sedges. It’s hard to believe that there’s a great river here. The dry channel was inviting – it looked, deceptively, as if you could walk over to Wales without wellies. Across the channel we could see trains passing along the dramatic coastal railway. I don’t have the words – I only hope that the photoblog below says it for me. I believe that this is the most magical place that we have ever moored.

News Flash

As if ‘Rock on the Dock’ wasn’t exciting enough, as our correspondent passed through Gloucester in the evening, a fire had just started at the giant Next warehouse nearby http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/gloucestershire/7581052.stm. There were dramatic scenes of smoke pouring from the roof and the blue flashing lights from the many fire engines made a fine light show to accompany the surrounding commotion.

Photoblog

Simply glorious

Simply glorious

The Old lock

The Old lock

Big rings for BIG boats!

Big rings for BIG boats!

ASBO dogs

Blue and Lou having a mad moment!

Views and views

Views and views!

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The Odyssey Summer 2008 – Day 32

Posted by indigodream on 25 August, 2008

Gloucester Docks

A view of Gloucester Docks

A view of Gloucester Docks

When we left the boat last week we had no domestic battery power and thought that the alternator had gone. We left the boat connected to shore power and then spent the rest of the week exchanging a million texts with the engineer who’d kindly agreed to fix it while we were away.

Oh happy days, when we thought it was the alternator (cheap); after extensive tests we found that there was a dodgy connection easily remedied but the batteries themselves had died (expensive)! Ok, we know that domestic batteries have a limited life but we thought we had another 6 months or so in hand. We explored new battery options – it hardly seemed worth replacing them with the same type (£75 each) but I put the veto on Richard’s suggestion of putting in EIGHT mega-expensive 6v deep cycle batteries (£110 each). In the end we compromised on 12v deep cycle batteries – still £125 a shot but we only need four – they’ll give us a bit more power and they have a 5-year life (in theory).

Another view of the docks

Another view of the docks

It’s been on of those weekends (again)! Blue managed to delay our trip into Saturday – I’ll let him tell his own story (see below). We didn’t get to Gloucester until 2pm! We met up with the engineer and handed over the best part of £700. We felt so weak at the knees after this that we couldn’t face a cruise so we stayed in the docks overnight and said goodbye to our ambitions for getting to Tewkesbury this weekend.

Note: The engineer who did our electrics is Matt 07834 972942 – he is great, a thoroughly pleasant and conscientious young man who worked hard to diagnose the problem and put it right despite having an already busy client list.

The awesome cathedral

The awesome cathedral

I can’t make my mind up about Gloucester. The docks are magnificent. We had a look at the outside of the BW museum – it looked fascinating but we were too late to get inside. The cathedral is awesome, the town centre has TWO costas and a starbucks, and we’ve heard great things about the many and varied museums. But other areas seem a bit down-at-heel and the shops are definitely at the budget end of the market. Now, that wouldn’t matter at all but we were on a mission to get some more pods for the coffee machine. My mistake as I was sure that I’d seen them for sale in supermarkets. We only found out later that they’re mail order only so we rushed back to the boat and put in an order for 100 pods. Our latte’s are now secure…..

After a long wander round the town by ourselves we then had another long wander with the dogs. Castle Meads is really magnificent for dog-walking. In theory both dogs are ‘walking wounded’ but they both managed some impressive high-speed rummaging despite the fact that Blue had to remember to hop on three legs occasionally!

After all this we were knackered and spent a quiet evening on board – the mooring is uncannily quiet and we had a peaceful night.

ps. Sorry for the lack of photos last week – we left the camera on board! We’ve put a couple of our favourites below!

Blue’s Blog

Oops, forgot I've got a bad leg!

Oops, forgot to pretend that my leg hurts!

Now, oi’m Irish and some would say that the irish are a bit t’ick – ha, little do they know. We’re not short o’ cunning that’s fer sure. So let me tell you about my latest scheme to get me own way. On Friday it started looking as if we were off to that boat again. Now, as ye well know, it’s not me favourite place – if god had meant me to go at four miles an hour he’d ‘ave cut me legs off! So I waited ’til they was all packed then I ran straight into the garden wall. Now, take a tip here. Lou, me old partner in crime, overdid it a few months ago and did a big number on her knee. I reckon she was showin’ off, but then again, she is half australian….

Anyway, if you need to bang yer knee then run fast, hit the wall just above the joint, you just want a bit of a cut not a whole broken bone! Don’t forget to howl in pain and hop about on t’ree legs, that’s where me pal Arthur went wrong. It worked a dream, me mam panicked, we stayed at home so I could get better and I got another night in the best bedroom. It’s hard to remember to hop around, ‘specially when there’s a rabbit in the garden, but it’s well worth t’effort. Cos it get’s better me doggie friends, me mam took me to the vet on Saturday, I got a load of fuss, and some antibiotic tablets. Now me life couldn’t be better – oi ‘ad next to no time on the boat, and twice a day me mam wraps my tablets in pate for me. Sometime she uses philly cheese but oi’m not fussy…….

Photoblog

More of the photogenic cathedral

More of the photogenic cathedral

Old and new architecture in Gloucester town centre

Old and new architecture in Gloucester town centre

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