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Tuesday 31 January 2017

Fuel Costs 2016

Last year our total fuel costs were £721-92
2015 £824094 and 2014 £1146-66.

This year we had the following;
2 x 13.5 kg gas bottles total £54-40
We bought no coal and
Electricity costs for winter mooring to Christmas and those not included in stops at marinas

Obviously the main fuel costs are diesel and this year we used 738.19 ltrs. The Hurricane heating system ran for only 44 hours and at 0.84 lt/hr it would have used 38.28 ltrs. Therefore that is just 699.9 ltrs used by the engine. Engine hours were 517.6 so that is an average of 1.35 litres per hour which I think is pretty good myself. (2014 it was 1.38 and 2015 1.58 ltr/hour. The least we paid was 54/litre and the most 79/litre.

As can be seen our fuel costs were reduced. This is partly due to the lower number of hours run, 517.6 this year, 560.5 and 1062.6 hours, 2015 and 2014 respectively. The price increased some what from 2015 but still not as high as 2014. I think the costs were lower also as we started cruising a little later in April and finished a month earlier this year so we used less coal and gas too, and the Hurricane was only needed for half the time of last year. We did use a little coal but we had some left from last year and we also salvaged some from my mother's house after she passed away. (I still have a bag of it).

After leaving the River Avon and Tewkesbury we headed north on the River Severn. Not far below Upton upon Severn we saw all the working boats (other than trip boats etc) on the Severn in one place. One was just arriving from a few miles down river with a load of sand and another just let go to go for another, along with the other two standing by.

We stopped for the night at Upton pontoon and had a great walk about, along with a pint or two. Next day was another lovely one and as soon as the trip boat 'Conway Castle' had cleared the bridge and passed our moorings we set off up river. We met her again on her south bound trip at  Cliffey Wood near Rhydd. It is funny how small it looks in the photo, where as on the river it seems to take up much more of the river!

We had been warned by a Gloucester bound boat that there was a broken down narrow boat looking for a tow on the moorings just by the Worcester southern by-pass road bridge. We soon had them hipped up alongside and set off through Diglis River Lock and here we were on the pontoon outside Diglis Basin Lock. We decided to take them up into the basin and spend the night here too. It was good to help out, and we still swap texts etc to see  how they are doing.

Next day we penned out on to the river again and headed to the Droitwich Barge Canal. Once there we were behind a hire boat. The two girls aboard were very wary of the wide locks and of us offering help it has to be said. We soon persuaded them to let us join them and we were going quite quickly up the locks then. The barge canal is a wide canal, and I think they reeds have been cut back from our last visit, but I wouldn't like to have two wide beams meet anywhere on the cut to be honest. The reeds are for nature conservation I understand.

We had a quiz night out with our lock buddies and then we were off once again. Here is where the new cut from the town of Droitwich that has been using the Body Brook rejoins the canal. We then had to duck under the motorway through a culvert that doesn't give much headroom and would have to be careful with when high water levels.

We had a nice day for our trip up the 35 Tardebigge locks on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal

. It didn't start out too well as at the first lock the engine stopped as we had found another log that had got stuck on a propeller blade and jammed under the hull. I soon had it clear though and we set off up hill. We didn't meet too many boats, but would say half the locks were with us. We stopped before the top lock and saved that one for the next day. Here we are seven or eight locks from our berth, passing Tardebigge Reservoir.

We were soon passed Tardebigge Tunnel and still with the sun shining. It didn't take us long to get past Alvechurch and to the Waste Hill Tunnel which was opened in 1796 and is the 6th longest canal tunnel in use today at 2493 metres. I can't remember if that is the light at the end of the tunnel or a boat coming the other way. As it is two way working it didn't hold us up, which ever it was.

We stopped before King's Norton Junction before heading once more down the Stratford on Avon Canal. I like thattoll board gives the mileage to working wharves, rather than just places. This adds more understanding to the use of the canals in the 'old' days. The tariff also reveals the type of cargoes that were carried.

We arrived at Kingswood Junction once again and this time took the canal to the left under the black and white foot bridge and up on to the Grand Union. The weather had turned somewhat and in fact the next day we had a day off as it was wet and drizzly and cold. That was the end of May and we were almost back were we started at the start of the month.

Wednesday 18 January 2017

Our mooring fees for 2016.

I was quite surprised when I totted up our mooring fees for last year as I had expected them to be higher than last year.

The break down is as follows;

Over winter at Kings Orchard marina   844-79
A week mooring at
Sovereign Wharf, Banbury                     74-29
1 night at Henley on Thames                  10-00
1 night at Windsor                                    8-00
4 night Pryford Marina                           77-40
17 nights at St. Pancras                         170-00
8 nights at Barby Moorings                    84-00
TOTAL                                              1268-48

I was expecting to pay for more nights moorings whilst on the Thames. I think that Pryford Marina on the Wey must be the most expensive marina that we are ever likely to stop in. I hope so anyway. We were lucky on the Thames as we seemed to obtain the last free berth, or on a couple of occasions, leave before they came round collecting the fee.

2015 costs were £1524-55 and 2014's costs were £1298-48. It seems that mooring costs are fairly static. I suppose with the number of marinas that seem to be under construction, and depending where you are on the system, competition should keep a check on any increase in fees.

The Anthony Gormley 'Nobbly Man' at Lowsonford Lock was checking us out as we passed. I think he has since then be moved to another location.

We got to the bottom of the Stratford upon Avon canal and found a good berth in  Bancroft Basin. It is a very busy place with tourists, but is a very nice town to have a walk about, and plenty to see even if you don't go in anything but the pubs!

We left Stratford and headed down the Avon, our first trip on this river. The first lock is the Stratford Trinity, or Colin P. Witter Lock. We had a bit of a fight to get in as just above the lock is where all the large trip boats swing round to head back to the town. Still we made it and through out first Avon Lock, not counting the lock from the basin or the lock from the Severn up to the Avon at Tewkesbury.

Our first restricted bridge, Binton Bridges. I can imagine it being a little worrying approaching with a great current pushing you from astern but our trip was very benigh.

The river passes through so very pastoral countryside between Bidford and Evesham with civilisation hardly encroaching on the peace of the river.

There was plenty of room to moor at Evesham, and there was plenty to see ashore too. Also a good spot to fill up on the groceries etc

The Cropthorne Mill next to Fladbury Lock. I can't remember if we were on the river at the weekend but we never saw any lock keepers, maybe they are only on at the height of the season, and as this was May we missed them. But this would be a great place to spend a day as a look keeper.

after Pershore, another place where there was plenty of good moorings, and plenty of good pubs too, we continued and passed through Tiddesley Woods with distant views of  Bredon Hill.

At Nafford Lock there was evidence of the strength of a river in flood and the need for great care. It is never wise to underestimate the power of water.

This picture shows the Swans Neck bight in the river. It is not taken with a panoramic lens, it really is 360 degree turn in that space. And of course we did meet the boat of the day at the turn. Mind you we were okay, out lock buddy can be seen just coming into shot on the left. They would have more trouble that us.

We stopped on the Avon Trust moorings at the Fleet Inn Twyning Green. It was a lovely light in the late evening on Bredon Hill.

We got a good mooring above the lock at Tewkesbury. We like Tewkesbury a lot, and the Abbey must be one of our favourite churches, it is just so beautiful.

Our opinion of the River Avon is that it is very beautiful. we spoke to a gut who spent months here in the summer, but with the lack of mooring points I expect that, like most rivers, in the height of the season it must be dog eat dog to get a berth. I would come again, but at a similar time of the year as we had no problems. And in the towns, and countryside there is plenty to do and see. A week was a good taster for us at least.

Sunday 8 January 2017

Fixed Costs for 2016

Our fixed costs for 2014/15/16 were as follows;

                                                  2016                                                    2015            2014
CRT Licence                          870-42                                                   856-70         833-38
Insurance                                212-91                                                   232-64        198-19
RCR Bronze                           126-00                                                   126-00        126-00
BSS                                        165-00    Insurance for Severn Estuary   30-00
Avon Licence                           50-00    Severn Pilotage                      190-00
Thames 2 wk licence             122-00    Bristol Licence                         29-75
Wey-Basingstoke transit            7-00    Thames transit Licence            39-00  
Basingstoke licence                 40-00
Basingstoke-Wey Transit           7-00
Wey licence 1 week                 58-00
Thames transit                          10-00                                                                                   
TOTAL                                1668-33    TOTAL                                1504-09       1157-57

I think the first thing that I notice from the above figures is that we seem to be getting a little more adventurous as the extra fees for pilots and licences has grown each year. This year we have had the cost of the BSS Certificate otherwise it would have been a cheaper year. The best value seems to be the RCR who haven't put their price up over the years and I think it is pegged for this year too. That is despite them having their offices burned down. We have only used their services once and that is when we were in Birmingham in May. The engine wouldn't start as there was no power to the starter etc, despite everything seeming to be okay. They came very quickly and after a very through look over things and trying the obvious first, and whittling them down, it was traced to the battery isolation switch. It had been 'chattering' and the copper contact had burned lower and so, despite being in the closed position was not making contact. He soon sorted it all and having tided up bits of electrical wiring etc  he left with my grateful thanks ringing in his ears.

It was the weekend that daughter Amy and Joe had come for the weekend. They were all dispatched to the shops and by the time they were back we were ready for cruising.
We made our way to the Black Country Museum via the Old Main Line level and saw the new Dudley Tunnel visitor centre. We did have a look round and it all looks very nice indeed. The Tunnel trust seems to have big plans  to develop the system further and make it more spectacular. I would love to be able to take 'Holderness' through, but I think we will be way to big, and I expect I am getting a bit old for all that legging as no diesel craft are allowed through.

I love being able to pop in at the close of the day and get some pictures whilst there is nobody there. It makes them look like they are 'real' places and not in a museum.

There is a great big stack of these cast iron chimney pots in the museum. It makes you wonder how cheap they must have been to be able to compete with clay. Maybe Kim and Tracey on the Little Chimney Co. boat could replicate them? 

We returned to Birmingham via the new Main Line and said goodbye to No.1 daughter but soon had more visitors who we took on a jaunt round the Icknield Port Loop. As there is no tow path round the canal and that although the factories etc have been demolished no work has been done to transform the area into a new village within a city. The trees and shrubs have grown up and it looks like you could be on a river like the Avon.

Now housing Sherborne Wharf's offices and facilities, among numerous other enterprises the old round house is looking very well. The alcoves were for storing coal and minerals that had been transported by narrow boat for onward transport around the city. The pub next door has some good live music on, for all tastes so is good to check out when you re in Birmingham.

From Birmingham we headed down the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, through the Worcester Bar in Gas Street Basin. I bet the old boaters used to curse having to unload their cargoes just to transport it over the bar just because of the canal companies not being able to reach agreement over water etc. We stopped at Bournville and walked in to the Cadbury village. We resisted going to the shop and had a lovely walk around. The above is Selly Manor that was moved to this site if I remember correctly. It seems like a film set for the Borrowers or English Hobbits or something.

When we reached King's Norton Junction we turned left on to the Stratford upon Avon Canal and passed through the famous old guillotine stop lock. We passed on down in cuttings with the odd road passing but it would be hard to tell from the canal that you were really travelling through the suburbs. This fox taking the sun by the tow path reinforces the feeling.

We stopped for a day after doing just four of the Lapworth Locks and went to have a day out at Packwood House which was a short walk away. It was beautiful and the grounds were good too. The yew trees are one of it's features and I'm glad I don't have to clip them every year.

Thursday 5 January 2017

Cruising Costs 2016

I'm sure that you have all been waiting to see this years breakdown of costs for our cruising, but first here are a few photos of April last year.

We started the year off with a new flag, out with the old and in with the new! The old one had faded badly, and with the run up to Hull as City of Culture we wanted to look our best. The flag is that of the East Riding of Yorkshire.

We set off from Kings Orchard marina and headed towards Birmingham. On the way we stopped for a walk to Middleton Hall not far from Drayton Basset on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal.

There is plenty of graffiti on the Saltley Cut on the way to Bordesley Junction but some can be quite engaging.

Old school Birmingham, still looks 'different' and modern.

From Birmingham we set off to Dudley, mainly to try a couple of pubs I fancied testing. I wasn't disappointed. We had a blizzard on the way back from one of them but here at Windmill End it was a lovely day for a walk in the early spring sunshine.

These used to be seen in every town and then disappeared but for a few examples. It now seems they are reinventing wheel and placing pissoirs around city centre to prevent anti social behaviour when the pubs and clubs chuck out.

We called in but they had no free samples. They did say they were hoping to set up a franchise in Tesco shops!

Our expenditure is set out in the table below, and I will expand on it over the next few weeks.

                               2014            2015            2016
Fixed Costs           1157-57      1504-09       1668-33
Mooring fees        1298-48      1524-55       1268-48
Fuel                      1156-66        824-94         721-92
Repairs                   790-84        321-63       1441-62
Equipment              678-22       164-22          556-75
Consumables          257-22       454-58          342-24
Total                    5338-99      4794-01        5999-34

That makes an average for running costs over the three years I have been keeping records of     £5377-45. Not too bad for about six months holiday a year, for two, to be honest.

Monday 2 January 2017

Happy New Year.

Well Hull's City of Culture year 2017 kicked off with a very loud bang yesterday. The fireworks were perhaps not as massive as those in London, but they were certainly very numerous and beautiful, going on for about 15 mins. However combined with the big screen and music sound track they were fantastic. There was a poem read out with a film to accompany it and during the explosions was a film and music all by musicians connected with Hull. It was great.

The photographs in the press are stunning, but I thought I would give you ours! They were set off from two barges moored off the marina.

Before the fireworks we had mustered at Queen Victoria Square for the start of the Made in Hull  installation. They have projected the story of the last seventy years oh Hull's History on the three iconic buildings round the square, Ferens Art Gallery, The Maritime Museum and the City Hall. It was very well done and highly emotional too and called 'We are Hull'.

Doesn't look too much this close but the lights and sound were fantastic. See press and Youtube for better pictures.

There are severa other installations around the town too. One in Zebedee's Yard was just the sound of a football crowd at KCOM Stadium lit by floodlights called Invisible Flock. As it is enclosed on all sides the sounds reverberated just as at a match and at a peak of well over 100db it was quite awesome. There was another about the working man and employment called '(In)Dignity of Labour' near Scale Lane Bridge and another in an underpass called Embers about the the club scene and self expression and The Deep submarium was lit with a one called Arrivals and Departures about all those who have arrived in the city from all over the world. All in all a great experience, and a great way to see the town. We are going a couple of times more in the week it is on between 1600 and 2100 until 7th January. We then went for an Indian meal by the marina before stepping out to watch the fireworks.

I have also being looking at our 2016 cruising statistics and costs. After careful consultation with publications, log books, and most detailed of all, Helen, I see that we completed 776 miles and 558 locks. That is in seven or eight weeks less cruising than 2015 when we completed 752 miles and 524 locks!

Year          Miles          Locks
2014         1027            764
2015           752            524
2016           776            558
TOTAL    2555           1848

Navigations visited are:-
Coventry Canal
Birmingham and Fazeley Canal
Grand Union
Digbeth Branch
Worcester and Birmingham Canal
Birmingham Main Line, New  
Netherton Tunnel Branch
 Dudley No.2 Canal
Dudley No.1 Canal
Birmingham Main Line, Old.
Stratford upon Avon Canal
River Avon
River Severn
Droitwich Barge Canal
Droitwich Canal, narrow.
Oxford Canal North
Oxford Canal South
River Thames
River Wey
Wey and Godalming Canal
Basingstoke Canal
Grand Union Slough Arm
Grand Union, Paddington Arm
Regents Canal
Grand Union, Northampton Branch.
Thats 24 navigations if you count the Oxford Canal as North and South (which I know they are not).
In 2014 we touched on 38 and 2015, 37. We must be slowing up in our old age. 

I doubt we will approach anywhere near these figures for this year, 2017, as we will be spending plenty of time in Hull Volunteering for our Year of Culture.