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Archive for May, 2015

The Odyssey 2015 – Day 3

Posted by indigodream on 31 May, 2015

Oxford Services - whilst Richard and dogs were trying not to get done for indecent exposure in the bushes all these minis appeared in spectacular fashion

Oxford Services – whilst Richard and dogs were trying not to get done for indecent exposure in the bushes all these Minis appeared in spectacular fashion

Saturday 16th May

Anderton to Lymm

Hi, Richard here – I’m not often allowed on the blog or on the helm, but I did both today πŸ™‚

We have given up on trying to get round the M25 on a Friday night – it’s far too congested and we were far too tired after a busy busy week for the 201 mile drive. We elected for another early start on a Saturday with me taking Herbie and Ollie up to the boat in my car. In the meantime, Sue did an East of England tour, dropping off jam and home-baked dog treats for a Greyhoundhomer fundraiser and doing a dog swap – Henry and Archie would stay on, but Ty and Sid (who’s got a very bad back) would go to Suffolk for some TLC. She eventually caught up with the boat late-afternoon.

The boat had been fine at Anderton, and it was good to see that the last few snagging works had been done, plus a neat bit of carpentry to put a shelf back up over our folding table. It has been frustrating to have so many snags, but hey, things can go wrong and we absolutely cannot fault the attitude of the boatyard at putting them right.

We have two outstanding issues, the first is that our Tecma toilet sometimes has water in it when the bowl should be dry, we suspect that the solenoid valve needs some TLC and de-gunking. The second is that the remote control for our Webasto is not working properly, we will troubleshoot this ourselves or find a Webasto expert.

I filled with water first at Anderton – there is good pressure at the water point and the newly re-arranged filler seems to be working well with no leaks. The new water tank gauge is great – it tells you how long you have to go and seems to have been calibrated spot on, or so we hope!

Setting off up the top end of the Trent & Mersey was a pleasure. It has some stunning sights – the canal is very scenic in places and you get great glimpses down to the Weaver e.g. at Acton. Obviously you go past the Anderton lift with its busy busy winding hole. The first tunnel is Barnton, this is the one that you can just see through if you get the angle right – it was a great place to check that all our horns are working – they do – fantastic in a confined space! The rear LED lights are good, they just give you enough light around the deck floor. They’re not as good as our stern light – but only because that stern light is on a magnet so it can be stuck on the inside and lights the tunnel soffit really well.

Saltersford Tunnel is crooked so it’s one-way with a timed entry – northbound you need to enter the tunnel between the hour and twenty past. Phew, I passed the sign at fifteen past the hour, quickly catching up with a boat which may well have gone through on the hour . .Β  hope that they were not too startled by the horns going!


Lovely bit of canal

Dutton stop lock took longer then it should single-handed, mainly because I had positioned myself to go out the gate on the towpath side and then noticed that the bottom gates are asymmetric and the towpath-side gate looks a bit too narrow to get out through a single gate.

Preston Brook tunnel again is a timed tunnel (from the hour to ten past the hour going north), as I got there dead on the hour so just gingerly checked for late-comers, played with the horns again and went through at the usual sedate pace.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable day’s cruising – a perfect antidote to a tough week with the odd puzzle to keep the mind going. The best puzzle was the artwork on the side of nb Bide Your Time, it showed a trussed arch bridge and the name Joe Wright. So which bridge, who was Joe Wright? Photo below, answers on a post card please.


Ah a tunnel

I had a pit stop for the hounds and a quick top-up at Midland Chandlers before going for it again. I still had still miles to go!

The Bridgewater is ok, a bit to straight and wide with not enough locks for me, but it is an efficient way of getting from A to B, especially when you’re single-handed.Β  I met up with Sue at Stockton Heath, just by the London Bridge pub where we stopped last year. We did a quick offload of dogs – the canine boat crew was now up to full strength (Ollie and Herbie were joined by Henry and Archie), well the crew was almost complete, we still had a special guest to come….

Sue then sped off to Tescos whilst I gently and extremely sedately carried on to the Lymm to meet up with old friends Ken and Sue with their rescue dog Poppy. Poppy came cruising with us last year, when she was still a bit nervous about everything. Wow, what a transformation, Ken and Sue have done wonders to build her confidence and she seemed to enjoy her trip much more this year.

Ken and Sue got to Lymm a few minutes before me, so they had scouted out the best parking spot for cars and boats.This made for a smooth mooring and off-loading the cars. However, getting beds prepared for guests and dog walking all took time, so by the time we got to the Golden Fleece pub it was quite late. The pub was very busy but fortunately they were still doing food. We had been told that the pub was dog friendly, but when we got there we found that is wasn’t. This meant we had to sit outside – it was pretty chilly until the table under the heat lamp became available. The beer was good, but the food was just ok – to be honest, by the time we had the kerfuffle with whether dogs were allowed inside or not and having to move table three times, we weren’t impressed.

When we go back, Sue and Ken soon found that the dogs had other ideas about the guest bed being for (human) guests . . . .


One of many tantalising views down to the River Weaver


Ah another tunnel



Clearly a story here. Is that the Silver Jubilee Bridge in Runcorn? If so was Joe Wright involved in the design or construction or maintenance? Or did he live near the bridge ie is the bridge there for a similar reason to us having Nutfield Priory on our art work? The ICE Library is down this evening so can’t look it the original designers, Motts?, arghhh. The boat name was “Bide your time” of Hook Norton.


Oh look, another tunnel!


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The Odyssey 2015: Day 2

Posted by indigodream on 23 May, 2015

Rewind to Monday 4th May

Middlewich to Anderton

Mind your nose Archie - always worth shutting the side hatches when locking down - a lot of locks leak :-)

Mind your nose Archie – always worth shutting the side hatches when locking down – a lot of locks leak πŸ™‚

It was the most perfect day for cruising today – sunny and hot, with a distinct absence of the wind that has enjoyed pushing us around the canal the last few days.

The fine weather incentivised us to get moving, and we shouldn’t have been surprised at the number of boats on the move, though strangely after the busy junction, the Trent and Mersey beyond Big Lock is relatively deserted.

The passing traffic meant that all the locks were set our way – we still had time to buy some cakes from an enterprising family who had set of a lockside cake stall to raise money for charity – yum! πŸ™‚

We had a smooth turn and passage through the Middlewich locks – there is an awkward turn between two of the narrow locks with a dry dock right on the angle. A man from the boatyard was very anxious when he saw Indigo Dream coming out of the lock above – he cautioned me not to touch the stop planks – they’d drained the dock that morning and were afraid that I might dislodge a plank and re-flood it! In all my passages through this section, I’ve never touched the dock, but the boatyard boys watched me avidly (no pressure) until I got past cleanly (to their grudging respect!).

The stunning Trent and Mersey...

The stunning Trent and Mersey…

Once we were past the locks, we stopped off at the rubbish tip on the left hand side. While Richard was ditching our rubbish, I noticed a few boats passing the other way – past a little plastic cruiser moored innocuously (but untidily) on the towpath side. Just after we set off, a boat came round the bend towards us at speed – there was plenty of room for us to pass each otherΒ  alongside the moored boat, but I was surprised that the oncoming boat didn’t slow down at all. He passed at speed and the man in the moored cruiser went ballistic – it’s one thing to shout “slow down” from your side-hatch, it’s quite another to stalk down the towpath issuing death threats to the passing boat; mind you, the speeding boat did nothing for boater relations by saying “can’t hear you” to the man yelling furiously at him. The whole thing was really unpleasant and, in the end, I had to muse on the fundamental truth that two wrongs could never make a right.

The greening...

The greening…

But we soon put it behind us and had a blissfully peaceful cruise along one of my favourite stretches of canal – the Trent and Mersey is stunning, surrounded by lush countryside and teasing us with glimpses of the Weaver Valley below. It’s a canal which lends itself to contemplation – I marvelled, again, at the beauty of the English countryside. In the brief breath between the blowsy gaudiness of the ornamental cherries and the delicate awakening of the apple blosson, there’s time for the greening. There is nothing to compare with the multi-hued extravaganza of the trees as their leaves unfurl in every shade of green.

I’ve always dreamt of mooring at the flashes – they are so scenic, reminiscent of Tixall Wide but not such a mooring hotspot. We’ve never managed to time it right for an overnight stop, but we did moor for lunch in an idyllic spot flanked by a shallow lake on the other side of the towpath. I’d hoped that the hounds would have a cooling dip in the lake, but they decided to have a quick zoom around before going back to the sofa πŸ™‚

The ghosts of last year's reeds linger on but the green shoots are on their way :-)

The ghosts of last year’s reeds linger on but the green shoots are on their way πŸ™‚

I don’t have much more in my notebook – I did note that Oakwood “marina” – currently just a few posts in the water, is advertising “pre-completion discounts”. I had a wry thought that it should really be a pre-commencement discount!

Northwich always feels like Indigo Dream’s spiritual home because this is where her build was finished by the ever-obliging Olympus Narrowboats. So it was that Richard dropped me off on the exact spot where Indigo Dream was moored for several weeks while we chased our original boatbuilder to get her finished. The plan was for me to get a cab back to the car in Nantwich while Richard took the boat up to Anderton to find a 14 day mooring as close to Uplands Marina as possible. That would enable the yard’s boys to finish the snagging list.

The stretch up to the Anderton service block is mainly 48 hour moorings, but Richard found a small section between the 48 hour post and the service mooring where we could leave the boat. I soon caught up with the boat and we soon packed up and headed for home.

It’s a long old drive home and we’re becoming very aware of the distance involved in this year’s odyssey, so it’s likely that we’ll cruise long weekends this year, but less frequently (hope that makes sense).


We've always fancied this intiguing canalside development opportunity in Middlewich...

We’ve always fancied this intriguing canalside development opportunity in Middlewich…

Henry zoomies...

Henry zoomies…

Archie zoomies...

Archie zoomies…

Herbie zoomies - this is news - he usually runs straight back to bed!

Herbie zoomies – this is news – he usually runs straight back to bed!

And there he goes - Hebie leaping for the sofa :-)

And there he goes – Herbie leaping for the sofa πŸ™‚

That's enough of that says Henry....

That’s enough of that says Henry….

And so to bed - zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

And so to bed – zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz





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The Odyssey 2015: Day 1

Posted by indigodream on 22 May, 2015

Rewind to Sunday 3rd May

Nantwich (Canal Centre) to Middlewich

Cruising with hounds - aaah, we're back where we belong :-D

Cruising with hounds – aaah, we’re back where we belong πŸ˜€

It was touch and go whether we’d get away today – we had a nice lie-in after being woken early by the rain drumming the boat roof and deciding that we needed no part of it! I did take the Beanz out for the necessary at 7am – it didn’t take long – the hounds like their comforts as much as I do πŸ™‚

When we eventually emerged, we faffed around unloading the last items from the car and chatting. We chatted to other boaters at the marina and to a very nice family (man and two sons) who were considering a narrowboat. We invited them on board for a tour and had a lovely time talking boats.

Despite the frustrations of Indigo Dream’s eternal remedial works, I do like Nantwich – it has excellent amenities (including a vet hospital!) and it’s a friendly place to stay. Nonetheless, I was desperate to start our odyssey and finally, at around midday, we set off.

It was a fair but blustery day, but I found that I hadn’t forgotten how to steer the boat!

Beautiful views...

Beautiful views…

Despite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing at the junctions (Hurleston and Barbridge), the canal was relatively quiet and it felt so very good to be on the move again. We have a twitter “friend” (I know that’s not the right word but we have too much in common to be “followers”) on nb Ruth – we’ve both been in the Anderton area all winter and we’ve yet to co-ordinate our cruising so that we can meet for a cuppa! This time we passed on the Middlewich Branch – we exchanged greetings in passing – again – one day we will have that tea πŸ™‚

I have hardly any notes from the day – I recall spending most of it on the helm so that Richard could get on with DIY inside, though he obviously emerged for the few locks.

If the sight of the valley below doesn't persuade you to visit the Weaver then nothing will :-)

If the sight of the valley below doesn’t persuade you to visit the Weaver then nothing will πŸ™‚

I do have one sentence in my notebook “why don’t I like the Middlewich branch?” – it’s a mystery because it has great views, especially where it soars above the Weaver Valley. I guess some canals just speak to your soul – it’s subliminal not logical πŸ™‚

We moored up in Middlewich late afternoon, but within minutes we had to move a little way along the canal in order to keep the peace – the hounds spotted a squirrel and a cat in the garden opposite – noise ensued! I hasten to point out that the cat was perfectly safe with goodness know how many feet of canal between us!

Once we’d settled on a mooring spot. we had time to watch the world go by – notably old working boat nb Col, who cruised by with the faded dignity of a duchess forced to shop at Aldi.

We’d been searching online for eateries in Middlewich and headed off in search of a mexican restaurant we’d fancied. Sadly for us, it was closed in a Sunday night, and in an excess of indecision, we plumped for another chinese takeaway (which was good).

Having been away from boating for so long, I found that the fresh air had an even more soporific effect than usual – we were soon in our respective beds (hound and human), with a fine day on the Trent and Mersey to come.


Another new thing - we can finally throw  out the old round of polystyrene that we've been using as a porthole bung for NINE years :-D

Another new thing – we can finally throw out the old round of polystyrene that we’ve been using as a porthole bung for NINE years πŸ˜€

The cowslips are abundant along the canal...

The cowslips are abundant along the canal…

Greyhound! This one was enjoying a trip on a hire boat:-)

Greyhound! This one was enjoying a trip on a hire boat:-)

Dragonfly! Our old share boat looking mighty fine, for all that she must be in her teens now :-)

Dragonfly – this is our old share boat, looking mighty fine, for all that she must be in her teens now πŸ™‚

Rummaging! Hang on, that's only three hounds - where's Herbie?

Rummaging with Richard – hang on, that’s only three hounds – where’s Herbie?

Silly question!

Silly question!

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The Odyssey 2015: Almost…..

Posted by indigodream on 21 May, 2015

Saturday 2nd May

Indigo Dream - down to the bare bones!

Indigo Dream – she’s been down to the bare bones!

The Odyssey – finally! Well, almost..

Indigo Dream is almost cruise-worthy – still an irritating number of snags but not so many that we couldn’t move this weekend – what a relief.

We set off from Surrey early on Saturday with this season’s Indigo Dreamers – Archie Beanz, Henry Beanz and Herbie Beanz with resident old boy Ollie. Ty is exempt from cruising this year – he suffers on board and the Beanz love it, so we’ll probably be swapping dogs all summer! Ollie’s cruising days may also be numbered as he’s getting a bit frail and has a mystery problem with his parathyroid gland (long long story), but for now the best place for him is with us.

We had considered getting away today, but when we got to the boat we found some snags that needed immediate attention, we had a lot of new storage to install and fill, and I needed to get to a supermarket to restock our cupboards, which were completely bare after I condemned everything that had been living in our damp cupboards all winter.

We decided to stay put and start afresh in the morning…

All snug now - we even bought a new sofa (on the internet) but the seat was so hard we had to have an emergency purchase of a topper so that the greyhounds could lie in comfort!

All snug now – we even bought a new sofa (on the internet) but the seat was so hard we had to have an emergency purchase of a topper so that the greyhounds could lie in comfort!

Just as well because we had a few dramas to deal with – all involving Herbie hound!

Firstly, Herbie stole a doughnut off the counter – not a problem except that immediately afterwards he fell into such a deep (and happy!) sleep that I wondered whether he’d fallen into a sugar coma! I needn’t have worried, he woke up in time for a walk with Richard while I got their dinners ready. But when Herbie came in he had a new lump on his cheek, which grew and grew until it was the size of a small walnut! Cue call to the emergency vet – the consensus was that he was reacting badly to a sting and would need observation and an antihistamine. But the antihistamines I had on board were not dog-friendly, so off we went to Sainsbury’s (again) to the very handy late night pharmacy. Of course, by the time we got back, Herbie’s lump had disappeared!!!

After all this, I decided not to cook and we ordered a Chinese – while we were out collecting it, Herbie stole a whole hot chicken off the counter! Chicken wrestling with Herbie is a popular sport in our house, so Richard was able to get most of the mangled remains away from him. A close forensic examination showed that he’d managed to eat the leg bones, including the nasty needle-like pin bones. I though it would be impossible for a hound to look both immensely pleased with himself and slightly dyspeptic but Herbie managed it πŸ™‚ I kept him under close observation in case of acute chickenbone-itis, but he was absolutely fine – crime pays!

My goodness, after all that excitement, I was so glad to get to bed – but not until we’d enjoyed a DVD – “Monuments Men”. We’ll need to replenish our DVD collection following the big sort out πŸ™‚


A lot of the work we’ve had done over the winter was remedial, so the boat doesn’t look vastly different inside, but we have added a few new features…

Our new water gauge -wonderful!

Our new water gauge – wonderful!

New decking - we got to the point over the winter that we'd spent so much on the main infrastucture we may as well spend a bit on the finishing touches too :-)

New decking – we got to the point over the winter that we’d spent so much on the main infrastructure, we may as well spend a bit on the finishing touches too πŸ™‚

Our new decking has a bottom layer of decking tilesfor drainage (but too hard on houndie feet) and a top layer of foam tiles (very nice to stand on). I've no idea ow hard wearing the top layer will be, but the whole combo was pretty cheap (all tiles on special offer).

Our new decking has a bottom layer of decking tiles for drainage (but too hard on houndie feet) and a top layer of foam tiles (very nice to stand on). I’ve no idea how hard wearing the top layer will be, but the whole combo was pretty cheap (all tiles on special offer).

New rails with hooks and baskets from Ikea - so handy :-)

New rails with hooks and baskets from Ikea – so handy πŸ™‚

Extra large horn - bought for us by a yacht sailor who went to a shop more used to selling equipment for alerting ferries to the presence of small boats in the Solent - it is LOUD!

Extra large horn – bought for us by a yacht sailor who went to a shop more used to selling equipment for alerting ferries to the presence of small boats in the Solent – it is LOUD!






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Dog Blog: Indigo Dream at the Rainbow Bridge

Posted by indigodream on 5 May, 2015

Rewind to Monday 6th March

Regular readers, and other dog owners, will be familiar with the concept of the “Rainbow Bridge” (see below) – a nirvana for our much missed pets where they wait in pain-free peace for us to join them and walk over the bridge together.

The queen of Miffbania :-)

The queen of Miffbania πŸ™‚

As we started losing our regular Indigo Dreamers, a kind friend suggested that there would be a spirit Indigo Dream cruising serenely beneath the bridge to await the hounds that have cruised on her.

Since we launched Indigo Dream nine years ago, we’ve been privileged to welcome 57 different dogs on board (40 of whom were greyhounds!).

We recently said goodbye to Miffy – a regular Indigo Dreamer (before she retired from cruising last year). She reached the magnificent age of 14 years and 7 months . I hope she’s found the other Indigo Dreamers, I hope that she’s just ignoring the top girls (Lou and Susie) and is holding court with Princess Poppy πŸ™‚

Miffy was the 17th Indigo DreamerΒ  to go to the bridge – which has led me to think about how big the spirit Indigo Dream will need to be – definitely a widebeam, make that a VERY wide beam! Now I finally understand the importance of the mediaeval debate about “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin”. Do spirit hounds need as big a sofa as they did in life? We won’t know until we join them πŸ™‚

Note about the rainbow bridge:

For those not in the know here’s the β€˜poem’ at the heart of the rainbow bridge – the author is unknown so I hope they won’t mind that I am reproducing it here:

Rainbow Bridge

There is a bridge connecting heaven and earth
It is called Rainbow Bridge because of its many colours

Just this side of the Rainbow Bridge there is a land of meadows,
hills, valleys with lush green grass

When a beloved pet dies, the pet goes to this special place
There is always food and water and warm spring weather

The old and frail are young again
Those who are maimed are made whole again

They play all day with each other
There is only one thing missing

They are not with their special person who loved them on Earth
So each day they run and play until the day comes
when one suddenly stops playing and looks up !

The nose twitches !
The ears are up !
The eyes are staring !
And this one suddenly runs from the group !

You have been seen, and when you and your special friend meet,
you take him or her into your arms and embrace
your face is kissed again and again,
and you look once more into the eyes of your trusting pet

Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together, never again to be separated

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Boat Blog: Maintenance Visit (February 2015)

Posted by indigodream on 1 May, 2015

Saturday 21st February

I did an epic trip to see Indigo Dream today.

Snow - meh!

Snow – meh!

We’d had a phone call from a fellow marina denizen to say that the TV was on standby. Now this was not a problem if Indigo Dream was hooked up to shore power, but a battery killing disaster if she wasn’t. We had rung/emailed the marina owner to ask him to check her for us, but a few non-returned calls later, we just had to look for ourselves.

I was very reluctant to make the trip – I got up early and was bemused by the large shadows falling past the bathroom window – when I’d woken up a bit, I realised that it was snowflakes the size of birds and that the garden was covered in snow. I didn’t fancy the drive at all, but an hour later things had improved and by the time I got to Northwich the weather was fair. Richard stayed at home with the dogs today – it wasn’t really feasible to take them – not least because all of the boat dogs beds are at home!

I had a good drive and got to Indigo Dream by lunchtime. She was hooked up to shore power, though I did connect the isolation transformer while I was there. Sadly, the boatyard had not put in the blowers and dehumidifiers that they’d promised (they’d forgotten!) so the boat was cold and damp. It was a bit dispiriting, especially as the yard had taken off some wall panels to investigate the work that would need to be done and had left them off so that we could do our own inspection. All this meant that she was uninhabitable (I’d expected that) and though I could have stayed in a hotel and done the return journey on Sunday, I decided to head for home (with frequent coffee stops).

I was cross – the return journey (with stops) came to around 10 hours for an hour’s inspection of the boat, all of which could have been avoided if the marina had actually rung us back!

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