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Victory Arrives! (July 2010)

A day boat called Victory has joined our fleet following a considerable number of phone enquiries we receive for one in Birmingham.

Within days of it arriving enquiries were flowing in from people just seeing it. While we were hastily preparing the rear panel for temporary graphics bookings were being taken before a leaflet or web site could have any effect. It is planned to paint Victory into our colours after Christmas in the meantime look out for our little boat in grey and have a go on it before our chef steals it. He has moved to Armitage with a mooring at the bottom of his garden and keeps saying “Lickle boat would love it there, can I take it home please!”

Victory moored in Gas Street being checked out by one of our residential neighbours.

Friends and staff who are out of uniform returning from “sea trials” and photo shoot for the web site. Hannah, our new assistant engineer is steering to check out the performance, so Victory was in safe hands.

Hustle On The Canals (July 2010)

A man walked onto our temporary moorings at Gas Street Basin last Friday and said “I’m looking for a barge, for filming”.

We have been involved with Alan Heard on Discovery Shed in Narrow boat and Chris Tarrant which was part of A History of the World looking at the role the lock played on the development of the canals. What next were our first thoughts? The man introduced himself as Paul from Kudos a film and television company and explained that is a scene being filmed on the following Monday by the canal café and a barge was required to pass while the actors were feeding the ducks, sort of thing. The highlight was it involved a scene for Hustle with the lovely Kelly Adams who plays Emma Kennedy as “The Lure” in Michael "Mickey Bricks" Stones team played by Adrian Lester.

The Hotelboat was chosen as the best boat to depict a private leisure boat as the name would out of shot at the rear. A few back and forth phone calls with Paul and Garry, the location manager led to a location call at 1000 on the Monday after the weekend. Gill and Cliff arrived to find that the filming was going to take the form of a moored boat with a small boy with his dad helping to clean some life rings and water the plant boxes which were fetched off the roof. Dad would be called to sit with Emma at the canalside café while the cleaning continued.

It was a long hot day but very enjoyable working with faces you see on the TV screen and an exceptional 5 year old boy called Oliver who played Ben.

Filming with Chris Tarrant (May 2010)

Suddenly last week as they say in the Movies we received a phone call that said “You know that filming we did with Chris Tarrant with your restaurant boat... well we didn’t actually film Chris in a lock. Can we do it this week please?”

Ok so this is a lock now what? Chris pleeeeese take the windlass off the rachet!!!!

Uhm what do I do when I’m out of the lock? Where’re the brakes?

I don’t know why you were all worried .... it was easy!

Caldon Canal Cruise (30 April 2010)

The cruise set off from Black Prince Marina in Stoke on Trent who had responded to our needs and provided Away4awhile with the facilities we needed.

Our two guests were regulars every season and had already struck up various subjects in common as we turned off the Trent & Mersey Canal at Etruria Junction onto the Caldon Canal. New developments have enhanced the parkland and the first three locks which include a 2 lock staircase. Leaving the old and new industry by the time Milton was reached the countryside began improve to reflect the Little Switzerland nickname it had been dubbed.

Twists and turns provided a glimpse of a ghost railway that ran very close to the canal. Curiosity got the better of one of our guests whose career included Assistant Traffic Superintendant of the Southern Region (BR) and he jumped off to investigate, followed by the other guest and the skipper after bringing Katie to a shuddering halt under the bridge. An overgrown mothballed goods line was uncovered behind extensive foliage that followed the canal for some time until near Hazelhurst Junction. This line was left dormant in case the Caldon Low Quarry owned by Lefarge required a rail connection once more.

The remainder of the day was very rewarding with enlightening views through travelling further up the Caldon Canal and finally turning onto the Leek Canal. A stoppage due to a breach was going to curtail the cruise but later developments were indicating that the stoppage had been moved further down the canal. A notice advised to turn at the winding hole just before Bridge 6.

So we started to back up the canal to get a good spot for the night. One and half miles of reversing later, we encountered a warning notice.

And the ultimate finality.

Our goal was not reached the Leek Pool a place of sheer tranquillity and views to match.

Leek Tunnel (North Portal) revealed the dam to protect the breach.

And so back to Hazelhurst Junction and a 180 deg turn to head for Froghall. The views were breathtaking negotiating a canal that was truly a very narrow backwater.

Yet another view across the roof of Katie, waiting for the Lock to fill with a guest and Gill looking on.

Arriving at Consall where the Churnett Valley Railway provides a superb backdrop to our cruise. The classic photo was not available to us as a boat was moored in front of the railway bridge but.... our intrepid guests were suddenly mesmerised by a shrill whistle and the bark of steam exhaust as a train pulled out of the station and passed so close.

Around the corner and under the railway Consall Station appeared across the roof of course. Note the platform on a shelf over the canal!

Disaster struck later that day. The last Lock before Froghall has a warning DO NOT PASS 65 foot TURNING ONLY AT FROGHALL and you have guessed it Katie is 70 foot. A bystander at the lock said you’ll get round, they’ve dug out the V. So on we went and despite lifting the fenders we needed just six inches to get round and NO it wouldn’t go. Lucky for us two boating clubs were meeting on the canal just before Froghall and assured us that someone would be down in the morning to tow us in reverse back to the locks.

Sure enough a boat appeared in the morning and towed us in shame back to Consall with Gill keeping the bow out into the centre of the canal.

Two bottles of wine and our heart felt thanks to Phil and his wife we regained our composure and winded ourselves back around to face the direction of Stoke on Trent. This was after a slight delay of pulling a boat off the mud who had decided to put their stern into the winding hole.

One last look at the steam train before heading back to Hazelhurst for the night.

Our guests insisted on a overnight mooring to die for so fresh from reversing up the Leek Branch we did it again from the junction but only a couple of hundred metres up the Leek Branch ....WOW.

The next morning we gently cruised back to Stoke on Trent learning from the locals that the Mineral Railway had been purchased by a consortium. The intention within 4 years is to open it up as a freight line again incorporating the Churnett Valley preserved line to Cauldon Low Quarry and ultimately to Alton Towers and Leek.

What a target to look forward to ....watch this space.

Gas Street Basin (April 2010)

We are still based in Gas Street Basin awaiting the completion of the construction work at The Mailbox basin.

The departures for our restaurant boat continue to be from The Handmade Burger Co opposite the International Conference Centre.

Summer Operation is Here!

Summer operation is now here which offers public dinner cruises Wednesday to Saturday evenings and Sunday roast increasing to two sittings at 12 noon and 5pm. New menus will on the web site soon offering dishes that account for the warmer weather when it finally gets here!

The telephone rings all the time when the sun is out but quietens down when the wind and rain return. Please do not forget we have full central heating and flood lights for our evening operation.

Moira Rose went to Alvechurch at the end of February, taking her butty (Castle) with her which is the staff quarters and preparation kitchen. The trip was for blacking the hulls and reprofileing the propeller on Moira Rose. On the way there a deviation at Selly Oak caused some concern to our crew.

See www.waterwayroutes.co.uk/galleries/months/10/1003/100306_1550_selly_oak.htm

Worcester & Birmingham Canal between Edgbaston Bridge 82 and Selly Oak Bridge 81, WANDB 27+453 100306 1550.
Looking south, where the line of the canal is temporarily diverted to the right to facilitate construction of a new aqueduct over a new road on the original alignment. The canal will be returned to the original alignment, over the new aqueduct on completion of the works.

This was the scene that greeted our crew with Moira Rose towing Castle on cross straps which is the nearest you would get to a 50mm ball hitch towing a caravan – oooh whoops. The first stage of the turn to the right and then into the boarded passage was ok, but at the other end it was a different story. The boats had to be separated and manoeuvred individually. Never mind its all good fun as the return journey a few days later was done in one.

See the new aqueduct www.birmingham.gov.uk/Transportation-Projects-and-Developments

The following image shows the rail and canal bridge construction as part of Selly Oak Phase 2 works.

Selly Oak New Road - Artist Impression. Aerial view of New Road, canal and rail bridges.

UK boat hire (Alvechurch Marina) did a great job as usual and with the help of Gill our director taking Moira Roses propeller to specialists in Manchester for the day this is the result.

The bottles and glasses do not rattle anymore because our propeller had taken numerous knocks since 2004 and was not helping matters for our customers to dine in tranquility. The reprofiled propeller makes the world of difference.

Winter Maintenance now over we are set for the season and with little help and encouragement from the sun.

A Busy Winter

A busy winter with Bed & Breakfast came to an abrupt end when the first cruise of the season came upon us. A brief interlude was enjoying dinner at Wolverhampton with Martin Reed a good friend who runs Reed Boats while he was positioning his Hotelboats to Nantwich. We exchanged canal successes and frustrations and went our separate ways wishing each other a successful season.

Katie set off from Birmingham for Warwick to be ready for the Warwick to Banbury cruise steered by Paul, one of our skippers who was pleased to take his wife with him for a little break as part of their holiday. Crew were to be despatched for assistance at Lapworth and Hatton flights, but a crisis loomed and Terry who was being interviewed found himself in a car being ferried out to Lapworth. The next day he asked when he got off the boat “Have I got the Job?”

The first cruise is always a shake down one and as usual a few problems manifested themselves which were fixed by the time Katie returned back home. Our guest from Belgium who allowed us to call her Mari was delighted with the journey and made a few interesting observations about the appeal of English canals. A few days back at base gave sufficient time to finish that inevitable lick of paint before Whaley Bridge and the Caldon Canal looms.

By the time you all read this the long awaited schedule/brochure will be either emailed or posted to you. It has been a heart rending decision to cease producing these colourful documents in such large quantities but cost savings must be made. In future those who access to the internet will receive an announcement to prompt a visit to our web site where the latest news and information will be available. Those who do not have the new fangled technology will still have the same through the post if they have sent back the tear off slip telling us to keep going with a postal version. It just means we can produce the small quantity ourselves without spending large sums on printing and postage.

Trip Boat has a Photocall

Our new trip boat has ventured down to operating mooring and did a trial over the route.

Completetion is projected for this weekend 7 August 2010 as the generator is proving a bit noisy and requires sound proofing. A plastics specialist managed to scratch the windows when carrying out some trimming work which are being replaced and then it’s a go situation.

Look out for pictures of the first trip soon.

Handburger Bar departure point facing the NIA.

Turned around as if coming back from cruise to drop off passengers.

Departure mooring facing correct way for cruise out into the country.

Departure mooring facing correct way for cruise out into the country. Side view.

Departure mooring facing correct way for cruise out into the country. Back view.

Out into the country in the city.

In the country starting to turn to come back to the city.

A Sleepy Winter

Emerging from a sleepy winter with many stories to tell about the big freeze our service boat has taken up its position at The Sea Life Centre. Operating 7 days a week between 0930 and 1700 the boat offers fuel, pump out, gas, coal and limited chandlery. Stop by and see us, if you have a problem we can probably help.

Sandy left us quite suddenly at Christmas with thoughts of retiring and selling his house in South Africa. Andy has joined us and will offer the same cheery smile when you approach “Marston” must probably flagging you down with a copy of Towpath Telegraph to offer.

Winter sales of fuel and coal exceeded all expectations with customers seeking us out at Gas Street with all sorts of improvised transportation to fetch fuel in Gerry cans and bags of coal to keep them warm.

Quayside Tower, 252-260 Broad Street, Birmingham, B1 2HF  Telephone: 0845 644 5144 Fax: 0845 644 5246 Email enquiries@theawaygroup.co.uk