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Travels of Joanie M. Life as a Continuous Cruiser @ Stratford

My last post had us stuck at Bidford on Avon waiting for the river level to subside. It peaked on the Thursday night but remained at that level for most of the Friday. The owners of the hire boat moored in front arrived to take it back to Evesham, which must have been an interesting, and fast, journey but we were surprised at the arrival of two boats up from Evesham. One was a Valley Cruisers hire boat who had instructed it to be left at the boatyard opposite and the other was a private boat, this being as far as they were going, not wanting to pass through the bridge until the level dropped. They brought news of a Viking Afloat boat that had gone onto the weir at Harvington Lock, one of the many weirs on the Avon being unprotected.

The river dropped some 12 inches overnight and the gauge showed about 2 inches of Amber so we left for Stratford. Hard going in places, especially through the bridges and narrower sections but we arrived at Stratford with no problems. The last lock is called Trinity after the nearby church from which the bells were pealing to welcome us – not really, it was the Coronation Peal! The river above the lock was a mass of swans, geese, rowing boats, canoes, motor cruisers with trip boats trying to thread their way through. The normal rules of keeping to the right don’t seem to apply here. We moored on the river opposite the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, paying £5 a night for the privilege.

I had booked tickets online for ‘As You Like It’ at the theatre so I walked over to the box office to collect them. On getting back to the boat I then found I had messed up and they were for Monday week so another trip to the box office to get the date changed.

The bandstand was only a few yards away and on the Sunday we were treated to the Stratford Concert Band. Not, unfortunately a brass band, but still a great day, sitting on the grass, eating ice cream and listening to music.

Monday was spent rubbing down some rust patches on the roof. Most of them emanate from the screw holes of the Houdini hatches. I will have to remove the hatches at some time. Not a job I relish. We removed one a couple of years ago. Several of the brass screws broke and I had to drill them out and re-tap them. I replaced them with stainless steel screws to prevent them snapping again. If we could be guaranteed about 10 days of no rain then I’ll get down to it.

‘As You Like It’ was great. Although in modern(ish) dress and stageing, the words were Shakespeares. The theatre was rebuilt a couple of years ago making an ugly building even uglier! The effect inside however is like the Globe in London with the stage surrounded by the audience so you really feel part of the play. We have been to more live theatre in the 6 years we have been cruising than in our previous 40 years of married life!

Tuesday was another hot day and after the usual trip to Sainsburys, M & S, etc. Jeannette decided to have her haircut. A few minutes late I saw her walking back across the park accompanied by Tom & Christine who we last saw in Limehouse in 2009, sharing the locks up the River Lee. We first met them on the Great Ouse in 2008 and have stayed in touch ever since. One of the great things about CCing is that you meet new friends every year and when you next meet up, maybe one or two years later, you have much to talk about. We knew they were nearby from our email exchanges. They had moored at Wilmcote and taken the sight-seeing bus to Stratford. When it stopped by the theatre they spotted ‘Joanie M’ and jumped off to surprise us. We sat on the grass over a cup of tea and spent the afternoon chatting.

We moved off the river into the basin on Wednesday and moored on an empty pontoon, next to the scruffiest boat with a licence dated 12/12 and a Patrol Notice stuck to the front. He left his engine running for about an hour whilst he left the boat before he returned and left only to moor around the corner. Our prescriptions had arrived at the Post Office so tomorrow we shall leave and moor near Tom & Christine.

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Trained as Engineer with Ford Motor Company. Ran Vehicle Electrics Business in Southampton until 2004. Share in 'Sundowner' from 1999 to 2007. Sold house in 2007 after having 'Joanie M' built to our spec - not that we haven't changed a number of things. Been cruising ever since.

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