Monday, 24 August 2015

What to do on a Rainy Day

What can a fair weather sailor do on a day that is vigorously punctuated by thundery showers?

Well cruising is out for a start so why not, just for a change, do some blogging? Far too few have been written by me up until now in this year of 2015.


Mrs Mallard on a log


The reason of course is that there have been so many things to see this time and places for us to visit and it seems there have been far more of these than in previous years. Naturally this is the reason too for our dawdling progress along the Kennett and Avon Canal. So many boats that left their winter moorings far later than us to make this passage to Bristol and back, have long ago caught us up, overtaken and met us on the way back. To so many boaters getting to and seeing the destination is the most important part of any passage, whereas to Janis and I the getting there is most pleasurable and the time or even the day hardly matters.

So today, complete with umbrella and computer I set off, splashing my way along the towpath to find Devizes public library and their free Wi-Fi. However having sat here at a table for some three hours sending necessary emails and downloading from my camera many days worth of photographs I have only just settled to write my blog.

But I can now safely report that we are definitely on the way home to Warwick. We need to be there by the first of November and I reckon that we might just about make it for that time.



Janis at the bottom of the Caen Hill Flight


On Friday afternoon we puffed our way up the Caen Hill Flight of locks and arrived at Devizes. The day was dull and threatening rain but in fact it managed to hold off until the following afternoon when we were blasted by the thunder and lightning. Delilah-Rose, my granddaughter and her mother Millie together with my son Rupert, Delilah’s dad, had come to visit us overnight on Saturday and the almost continuous rain over the two days that they were here rather curtailed our entertainment. But we did manage to venture ashore on one occasion before they had to leave and we walked along the towpath, jumping or squelching round the many puddles in our way, as far as the top lock of Caen Hill and back. Conveniently when we arrived there, as it began to rain again, we were able to slip into the adjacent café for tea and cakes.


Delilah, Janis and myself at Devizes


They all left yesterday evening so we are quietly on our own again soon to be bound for Hungerford and then Newbury.

Monday, 17 August 2015

On the Way Back

On Thursday evening we arrived in the Floating Harbour at Bristol. Since an extra license is required to enter the port of Bristol, for the purposes of cost saving we had left ‘Futurest’ at the visitor moorings back in Hanham and had brought ‘Roots and Wings’ only on this passage. But before tying up at our moorings we took the boat on a complete tour of the harbour, which included entering the large Cumberland Basin, designed by Isambard Brunel and built by the Great Western Steamship Company to accommodate the vastness of their new passenger ship ‘SS Great Britain’. Of course our little ship was completely dwarfed in the hugeness of the area but it did mean that we were able to navigate with no difficulty, right up to the final lock gate, that led ships onto the tidal River Avon and then turn around with ease before completing our tour. We were able to touch the ancient steel of the gate and finally reach the end of the Kennett and Avon Canal after entering it at Reading more than two months before.


Reflections on a misty evening at Bathampton



…. and on another equally as beautiful sunny evening


‘Futurest’ looking lonely as we left for Bristol


Though there is no handling of cargo any more the area is still very busy with leisure boats, and tourists flock every day into the area in their thousands to visit the old warehouses that have now been changed into pubs. In 1970 the SS Great Britain’ was returned to the Floating Harbour, to the very dry dock in which she was born in 1843 and has over the years since been restored from a rotting hulk into how she must have looked at her birth. This dockyard was busy with tourists inspecting the ship, the shop and of course the café on the day that Janis and I too decided to visit.



Our Skipper in front of the ‘SS Great Britain’



…. and the Cabin Boy


The northern arm to the harbour, where we moored to a pontoon, looking more as if it had been used at one time as a short commercial dock, is apparently all that now remains of the navigable River Frome that for some distance inland was the busiest part of the harbour in Medieval times. At the head of this waterway, today barely one hundred yards from the entrance is an ornamental fountain and a shallow waterfall down some low steps; all that remains of its rich ancient heritage and on either side the warehouses have all been turned into busy thriving pubs and restaurants.

On the Thursday evening we met Rupert my elder son and entertained him and a friend Chris aboard to one of Janis’s sumptuous fish pies. They seemed to enjoy it as much as I did and it was great to see my son again.


DSCN4461  'Roots and Wings' in the lead

Leaving Hanham for Bath


Quiet reflections on the River Avon


And now we are on the way back. We arrived at the river moorings here in Bath close to Sainsbury’s Supermarket yesterday evening and tomorrow we shall continue our journey east up the flight of locks onto the canal again bound for Devizes, Newbury and Reading.



The Circus at Bath

Theoretically anyway, we should take considerably less time on the way back than we did on the way out as we have already seen and experienced all that we have considered necessary.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Bath Time

I am boat sitting again while Janis whiles away her time in the Mediterranean. She left last Wednesday and flew to Majorca to crew on a yacht. The owners, friends of hers, invited her to take the boat across to Sardinia with them and she plans to fly back from there.

I tried Skype-ing Janis this morning but the signal was too weak and we had to resort to a telephone call instead. The yacht has just arrived in Sardinia after quite an exciting  forty seven hour passage I believe, being thrown about in a force 6 breeze with a two metre swell threatening them on the beam. She hasn’t booked her flight home yet but she reckons she’ll arrive on Wednesday.

In the meantime the two little ships and I are quietly moored to the south of Bathampton on the way to the ornate Dundas Aqueduct which throws the canal here over and across the River Avon. At this point the waterway follows the contours and is terraced along both sides of the tree covered valley on its meandering way towards Bradford-on-Avon.


Bath from Alexandra Park to the south


A happy little Chappy


I’ve enjoyed a great time here so close to Bath, the ageless city that I love with its now classical white stone architecture that positively sparkles in the Sun. Also my son Alex works here and lives with his wife Catherine and their three year old daughter Penny up on the hill at Combe Down so I have managed to see quite a bit of them, which is a real bonus. On Tuesday last the three of them came aboard and ‘Futurest’ performed her bit by taking us for a trip to the Dundas Aqueduct and back. It began as a beautiful sunshiny day but after a delightful lunch at the little café at the terminus of the Somersetshire Coal Canal branch and then topping up ‘Futurest’ at the waterpoint, black clouds began to build up and umbrellas were needed to get the ship back to her moorings.


Balloon and Sky


A number of times I have been into Bath to see the sights and for re-victualing purposes at Morrison’s. But having cycled into the city along the busy towpath I’m quite happy actually just to sit on a seat somewhere in the Sun watching the many talented buskers at their work and the thousands of happy tourists that pass by.



Crane at Dundas Wharf


However time is beginning to run out for us as we have to arrive back in Warwick by the end of October. I know it sounds a long way off but the way we are dawdling along at the moment indicates that we shall have a job to make it before the winter starts. We shall be returning the same way so most things that we consider as worth a visit we have sampled on the way out suggesting (….theoretically at least….) that we should be able to shoot straight through.