Loving the locks

Ah to be back in the land of single locks. Having enjoyed the manned electric river locks over the summer, we then had to struggle with the heavy, unbalanced leaky locks at the start of the T&M.  Very few locks defeat me, but Aston lock is notoriously difficult. I’ll happily accept, (and offer) help from passers by or other boaters, but don’t anyone dare tell me I can’t do it because I’m a woman, as one arrogant person did. Of course I graciously stepped back to let them show me how it should be done, and I tried not to smirk when they struggled, and I politely reminded them that I’d said it was a tough one. Eventually we both managed it, but I didn’t hang around to help them get their boat through.  It was bliss to arrive at Dallows lock in Burton and then through one of my favourites, Tattenhill, with it’s own working boat, it’s worthy of a good jigsaw puzzle. And the cottage is a bed and breakfast, if I didn’t live on a boat I’d like to stay there. Wonder if they’ve thought of having a tea room.

We carried on cruising, happily sharing lock duties with other boaters as we made the most of a lovely autumnal day. The river and canal merge for a short distance just before Alrewas. The water becomes crystal clear and you can see the fish swimming, quite a novelty on a canal. We made it to Alrewas just before the heavens opened, but we have to remind ourselves that we need the rain, without it there’s no rainbows.

Shobnall marina

Cruising through Burton usually leaves you feeling mellow, it’s a smelly town, although not entirely unpleasant if you like a good pint. It’s undergone many ups and downs through the centuries but Burton is widely known as the home of British Beer, thanks mainly to the high mineral content of the water enhancing the flavour. Production really boomed in the 18th century when the canals were used to transport both the finished beer and ingredients. Just another reason why we should be grateful for our canal heritage. Brewing still dominates the town as we found when we spent a few days here in Shobnall Marina.overlooked by the chimneys and red brick cottages,and watched the Hobgoblin lorries trundling by morning noon and night. It’s a bit of a tricky entrance, but never the less a great little marina, family run with a well stocked and competively priced chandlrey and cafe. Eric had to be off the boat for a few days and what with the strong winds still wreaking havoc, we wanted that extra peace of mind that the boat and I would be safe.
It’s quite a tight fit to get moored, but never the less once we were settlled I made myself at home and took advantage of the bountiful pear tree making cakes puddings and chutney. Burton town centre is about 20 minutes walk and is not the most appealing places, but it’s got all the essentials, so ok for a few.

You can’t moor there

It’s underneath a cocker tree.However I did pick up a few to help ward off the increasing number of spiders taking up residence on Firecrest. Although I don’t think spiders take any notice of this old wives tale. And Eric knows when to humour me….. But going back to the mooring, having spent 3 months on the river, we were still of the mentality that if you saw a mooring place you took it, because the next available one might not be for several miles. And I know that when Eric says this will do, it will.And it wasn’t a problem.  We did check the forecast for wind speeds, and do our own little risk assessment. The big storm itself, wasn’t due to hit us for another few days and despite it being a bit blustery, we didn’t get too many conkers on the roof overnight. And Shardlow is a very pretty place to moor.Almost as good as a howl of Maltesers.


Revving up the river

About a mile on from Shardlow is our last or should I say the first lock on the Trent and Mersey canal. Derwent Mouth lock. That’s Firecrest and Tenacity hovering eagerly and in the top right that’s a dragon fly hovering possesively. We’d got the anchor out and put our life jackets on not knowing quite what to expect on this adventure. To our left is the mouth of the river Dewent,To our right the Trent continued westwardAnd straight ahead the Trent heads downstream towards Nottingham and beyond. We had moved under the arched pipe bridge and now headed under the M1 motorway.Beyond the M1 lies Sawley and boats are diverted into a canal away from the weir, past the huge Sawley Marina, and into our first river lock of the year.This wasn’t as deep as the ones we’d been through on the Severn and we were able to operate the gates ourselves as the lockies had clocked off for the day. All very civilised-insert BW key and follow the instructions, no sweat, no huffing and puffing and no drama. And the we were off.Onto the river proper, not sure how deep and wide it is, but we were able to get up some proper speed. 6.7mph very comfortably. We’ll do some proper speed trials later. But we certainly created a bow wave and wash to be proud of. Ian led us onto the Erewash canal to moor for the night. And while the boys compared notesJoy and I enjoyed the sunset


I was told to go fast – so I did

Kidderminster Trip Day 3 – a technical perspective

Travelling through the 1.66 mile long Harecastle tunnel was an experience.  We had been warned to go quickly by the attendant, and that most people with new boats go too slowly and end up zigzagging, hitting the walls and scratching their paint.  I took the man seriously and took my first opportunity to see just how much power we have from out electric motor tried to see just how much power our boat has, my first opportunity.

We travelled through the tunnel in exactly 30 minutes at 580RPM, at 147 amps, (7.5kW).  In total we used 73.5AH (3.7kW hrs) traveling through the tunnel at an average speed of 3.3MPH.  That is the equivalent of less than 1.25 litres of diesel or 89p at the price we pay.

I was pleased with this because we were told that the normal time to do the tunnel is 40 minutes and we did it in 30 minutes.  Apparently one boat the day before 1 hour 15 minutes.

We travelled from the tunnel to Stoke at high speed because the canals were wide, deep and with very few boats allowing me to test how well the boat performed in wider canals, at higher speed.  The boat handled well and I had plenty of extra power in reserve.


Distance cruised – 15.3 miles
Locks – 11
Tunnel – 2,675m
Cruising time – 8 Hrs 40 mins
Battery used – 358 Amp Hours (33%)
Power used – 18.6 kW hrs
Average speed – 1.8 MPH

Goodbye Macclesfield Hello Trent and Mersy

Kidderminster trip day 3

So much for me getting an extra long lie in after all those locks on Saturday, Eric was keen to get going in case there was a queue for the tunnel. But it was a lovely day and we were feeling adventurous so I didn’t mind.

Our first encounter was the stop lock at the bottom of the Macc that re-levelled us onto the Trent and Mersy canal. Stop locks were originally built by rival canal companies to stop the loss of water from one canal to the other.

The Harecastle tunnel is only a short distance after the junction and there was only one boat ahead of us, which meant we could go through together. I was very impressed by the ‘system’. There are tunnel keepers at either end and they come to speak to each boat individually to assess our abilities and give advice about safety etc.  If we got into trouble we were to sound our horn every 30 seconds until we heard them respond however our horn isn’t loud enough so we were issued with a portable horn that we had to hand back at the other side. We also decided that this would be an apt occassion to wear our bouancy aids for the first time.

It was cold dark and drippy in the tunnel, it’s 1.6 miles long but following their advise not to go slowly, Eric put Firecrest through her paces and we got through in 30 minutes, not bad for tunnel newbies.

After the tunnel we sauntered through Etruria where there was a festival going on with hundreds of people but of course we handled the locks like old pros.

The urban jungle of Stoke assaulted our senses and we hurried on in search of greener pastures.

We ended the night in Stone sharing our mooring with a family of swans. Mum and Dad were very proud to show off their cygnets and take the porridge oats I threw for them.