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Saturday, 12 June 2021

A Busy Month, bit of a cop out, a birthday, too much laundry and very little time!









 Guilty as charged.  Yep - time has been very illusive of late.

Basically, I'd forgotten how much organizing (shopping, cleaning, laundry and boat prep) goes into having folks on board again...  since we've been allowed to operate once more, any "days off" are anything but... WHICH of course means I've just not long enough to sit down and cobble together write a literary masterpiece  of a blog.

SO -  in a bid to bring you up to speed, this is a total cop out post with mainly a photo stream of what's been happening, preceded by a list of statements - that probably won't even tie in with the photos but you can't always take a photo of things happening... especially when they involved death defying leaps onto boats etc.

1)  In Ellesemere during a horrible thunderstorm, the bosun and I had to take charge of a hire boat when the hirers panicked, got wedged on the offside after crashing into everything in site.

2)  We picked up a guest at Chirk, went to Llangollen Basin, back to Chirk, down the Monty (in gale force wind and rain), down to Nantwich - had a meal out, raced back up to Chirk and had a lovely time. (12 days)

3)   Quick turn around in Chirk followed by another couple for 4 days playing around between Llangollen and Frankton Junction - including a meal in Lion Quays (and a nights mooring on the rickety pontoons)

4)   Rescue of another hire boat wedged across the canal with 4 oaps on who really should not have been let out on one... I blame Tim and Pru for giving folks the impression it's a sedate pastime... it may be in places but the Llangollen canal is NOT one of those places!

5)  Quick turn around (1 day) then a returning couple for a 2 night Llangollen to Lion Quays again trip - plenty of drama to do with 70 foot hire boats causing mayhem.

6)   Quick turn around (1day) another returning guest for a repeat of the 2  day aforementioned  trip (well Chirk Station to Llangollen and Lion Quays again) - Hire boat AND private boat chaos... this time the private boat causing problems by stopping every time a boat came towards us (up stream) but with 3 boats following him, it meant the rest of us had no where to go each time he stopped...  it's the closest I've come to wanting to fire a torpedo!  - this went on for 5 hours as we had a table booked for drinks and couldn't just pull over and  let him chug on alone!

7 )  I had a birthday - complete with a beautiful watercolor gift (an early big one) presented by a guest who'd had it commissioned from a photo she'd taken previously...  and I'm only using the term 'guest' out of habit ... she's a friend 1st,  and the customer status is superfluous. 

8)   LOTS of cleaning and Laundry!

9)  Bosun booked me a birthday bath as a surprise.

10)  Did a bit of boat maintenance in the form of touching up paintwork in my waders in Llangollen Basin.

11)  Walked up a bloody big hill to the remains of a castle (stopping half way up for a bottle of fizzy)

12)  Was crashed into several times in one day by red-perils.

13)  Walked back down a bloody big hill from a castle needing a wee.

14)   Told a lock keeper at Grindley brook he really should be managing ALL The locks, not just the stair case

15)   Fell out with another boater due to the afore inferred chaos at Grindley Brook.

16)   Met lots of lovely boaty people... be them hirers, share owners or private owners.  This canal is Alive (but very chaotic) and full of daily adventures.

17)   Got a new gas bottle down in the town and only THEN remembered I'd have to carry it up the ruddy big hill to the boat in the basin.

18)   Had a Chinese take-away

and lots of other things that I've forgotten about.


oh - and I need a haircut too but that will have to wait until Next week when we arrive back in Nantwich after we leave the Llangollen canal for this year.



























until next time ...



Friday, 14 May 2021

Fly-boat Ellis again...

 It surely can't be 2 weeks since I last moaned blogged on here?  - Time has flown.

You'll recall we were hanging around in Manchester for a couple days at the end of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal trip - mainly to await the notice from CRT in regards the collapsed culvert 'Emergency repair' on the Llangollen canal... to see IF we would be able to get on to the canal proper, once they'd opened up the single file channel on the Trent and Mersey.

When the good news came that it was open with (and I quote) "a robust temporary repair to enable boats to use the canal for this season" , whilst briefly elate, we did find our selves questioning HOW come such a speedy repair could be done here, whilst the Macclesfield was barely progressing...  the answer of course being the the LLangollen Canal supplied Hurleston reservoir with it's water supply - some 12 milltion gallons each day making it's way down from the river at Horseshoe falls to supply the town of Nantwich (or surrounding areas)... and of course, if that was stopped for long (they' installed pumps to bypass the leak which would be costing a lot to run AND be at risk of failure) the good folks in Cheshire would very soon be down to using standpipes for their water supplies... and that wouldn't do would it?

It's a shame they have proven they CAN make "robust temporary repairs" so quickly cause it then flags up WHY they can't do the same in other less political places.  Hey ho... what do I know.

SO then - we set off from Manchester about 1pm on Saturday... we' have gone sooner but we needed a pump out and top up of diesel... sod's law dictated that every time I tried to move from the pontoon we'd stopped on to the service point, some other boat jumped in before us.  Oh well... 

The forecast for the trip to ahead was NOT looking good - we'd decided to make the trip as quickly as possible so as to get 'Ellis' back to where she was supposed to be in readiness for being able to operate on 17th May.  In theory we could have gone a bit slower but that would have messed up with the bosun's 2nd covid jab so a long schlepp seemed logical.  We hadn't spotted this was taking place on a Bank Holiday weekend - they mean nothing to us these days.


as we left the outskirts of Manchester, we encountered a few kayakers/canoeists which was to become a bit of a theme for the journey - I JOKED on twitter about getting extra points if you sink 2 at once... and then received some offensive DMS ... not even from folks that follow my boating account.  SOME folks need a sense of humor transplant, never mind a covid jab.

It was about about half 7 when we got to Preston Brook tunnel and once again, some kayakers arrived and asked if we'd mind them going ahead of us through the tunnel... I really don't like sharing tunnels with vulnerable boats but they assured me they would zoom off ahead and had good head and rear lights - so that's what they did and to be fair, they'd left the tunnel long before we did

Once through the tunnel (it's amazing how less stressful a tunnel is when you are steering your OWN boat)  - perhaps someone should tell crt that... you know, the 'well being charity', we chugged on for a short while and tied up when we could for the night - it being about 8.30 when we had dinner.

Knowing the weather for the next day was going to be best for a while, I left the bosun in slumber and set off at 6.45 the following morning.   IT was a lovely cold, misty morning so whilst pretty,  That turned out to be a school boy error (not the slumbering bosun but the time)... I'd forgotten how SLOW this section is compared to the deep bridgwater canal -ergo, we arrived at the NEXT tunnel (Saltesford) 2 mins AFTER the end of the timed slot so had to wait until the next - 38 mins later.  OH well, it gave me time to make a bacon buttie.


An uneventful but pleasant enough journey -    we soon arrived at the landslide (that happened in January and had only just been cleared enough for boats to pass) ...  did it REALLY take 3 months to work out how to put some waders on and dig a channel through? - if indeed that's what was required?  apparently so... it sounds like I'm crt bashing but REALLY? - 3 Months???  



Once through this very dangerous bit,before too long (well it was a long time but in the dry it's not a problem) we'd made it to Middlewich and as you'd expect on a bank holiday weekend, crt worker bees had very kindly left a hopper moored on the lock landing at the top of big lock

By the end of that day (Sunday) we  made it through the recently re-opened Middlewhich branch and up Hureston Locks to the bottom of the Llangollen - ending the day in the dark at about 9.30pm, tired and grumpy the last thing I needed was to stand in some dog poo on the towpath as we moored up.  Grr..

Ignoring the unpleasantness that ensued the night before, Monday morning saw a better start to the day weather wise than had been promised... with that in our minds, we set off and went for it.  By the time we'd gotten to the bottom of Grindley Brook Staircase we were soaked to the gusset - to the point that it was actually running down my inside leg and filling my boots... at which point as it wasn't cold (but very windy) we decided we may as well work our way UP to the top (no queues for a change) and then tie up for the day... RIGHT when the wind was at it's peak!  At one point, a fender blew off the roof and began dancing it's way down the canal behind us - having just paid £20 for said thing, I slung into reverse and went after it...  in hindsight this may not have been the cleverest of decisions but I DID retrieve it - much to the amusement of a few boaters twitching curtains, as 'Ellis' went sideways down the cut.

Weather wise - we left the on what had to be THE windiest day on the cut... we crapped our way through rain, hail and thunder storms to Ellesemere and were lucky enough to get tied up right outside Tesco.  I still don't LIKE Tesco on account of their militant behavior during the covid lock downs but needs must and it's very handy being able to wheel a trolley to the boat.


Our next stopping place was The Poachers pub - where we'd booked a table outside... only to arrive and find a notice on the door saying "closed due to bad weather" - "bad weather" we'd chugged 5 hours through to get there lol.

The next part of the journey from there, through Chirk Tunnel, Whitehouse tunnel and across the Ponty was in semi sunshine which made a nice change.  Needing diesel again, once over the aqueduct, we reversed to the diesel point a Anglo Welsh and filled the tank - we'd used 90 litres from Manchester which was more than usual but I suppose due to the wind, we HAD had (good English I know) to use more power than ideal for a lot of the journey.

Ahead of us was the final few hours up to Llangollen Basin - and my favorite bit... I just can't help singing "The hills are alive with the sound of music" as we chug up the narrows... Channeling my best Julie Andrews all the way lol.




The sun remained with us for a few hours more and once tied up in the basin (NOT where I was aiming the boat but the wind had other ideas so I settled for the nearest pontoon at a critical moment) I had a wander down into the town to remind myself how lovely it really is.  It's fair to say, I really do love the place.





Of course, by the time I'd walked back up to the basin (and paid the mooring fee) the wind had dropped and the basin was as calm as a mill pond .  VERY quiet though and on talking with the guy who manages the place, he said it's 50% down on normal still.  Oh well, our gain ... it'll be full soon enough that's for sure - certainly when the next bank holiday hirers when 2 households can be under the same roof. 

I also spotted 'Ellis' was a few hours overdue a service so the next day it was oil change time..  I used the handily provided ppe (from the Standedge tunnel debacle)  - which then led to an assumption by a mooring boater on the next pontoon that I was a boat mechanic and could I help him get his electric working!!! - this whilst I was up to my nipples in  grease in the engine bay.    Ever helpful, once I'd finished my filter changes etc. I poked my head into his electric cupboard for a shufty... after a bit of faffing around (it was a share boat and he wasn't too familiar with how it works), it turned out the switches on the mcbs were back to front... ie. 'OFF was ON'.  Once I' figured that out, shore-power was restored and he was happy.

Writing of Happy, so am I at the moment... we made it back to where the boat is supposed to be and now, once chores and errands have been done, we can welcome guests back onboard an have SOME sort of boating season - we're even doing our twice weekly covid tests!

If the weather holds out, we'll take a run back to Ellesemere and stock up again (not paying Welsh gin prices - £3.20 extra on the price of a bottle of gin so they can stuff it - I'd rather spend it on the diesel to get there on principle).

Until next time...











Friday, 30 April 2021

Plan a,b,c,d f and h - a lot of ranting and nice photos on the Huddersfield Narrow/shallow Canal

 Now don't berate me.  Things have been very busy and frustrating in the last few weeks.  I'd be having a proper old rant right now, were it not for the despicable murder of a member or crt staff down south this week.   Instead, I'm feeling more forgiving of them - certainly the chaps /chapesses on the ground at the moment AND even in praise of the statement issued by the boss man - which for a change was actually very well written and sincere!

SO then.  I left you halfway between Marple and Bugsworth (Buxsworth) basin - BOTH spellings appear to be correct depending on which book/map you read!   The Peak Forest canal is lovely but VERY shallow (practically impossible to get along side most of the time) and even in April with a reasonable amount of water in it, we struggle to get through a couple of shallow bits.  Still, we made it to the basin (after a segway up the Whayley Bridge arm to check with water supply being pumped up from the river Goyt) - I'm not wishing to be alarmist here, but as the reservoir that feeds it is STILL empty and under repair, THIS appears to be all that is filling the peak forest and Macclesfield canals... it's no wonder they are both shallow and timings on lock flights are being introduced (again) 




Here I am moaning about water levels when once again, there are far bigger problems... take the lovely boat behind Ellis in the last photo.  On stepping out and about to cast off after our overnight there, I met the owner of it.  A disheveled looking chap whom I HAD been  cross with for running his engine late the night before.  On chatting, it transpired his poor wife (in her 50's) had just died the night before!!!

Tragic.  I won't go into details but suffice to say, we had to stay and talk a while. Poor, Poor fella.  Every sentence pulling at my heart strings and catapulting me back to the early days with dad when mum died.

At an appropriate time, we made our excuses, explained we'd be back in a few days and offered help/support where we can.  We chugged out of the basin in a rather solemn mood but thanking our lucky stars that "our" problems were so insignificant. 

. . . . . . . . . .

Now those of you paying attention (I know it's hard when waffle on) MIGHT remember, the reason why we came up here was to begin our revised route to the Llangollen (caused by that landslide on the T & M that happened 21st Jan but which CRT had done nothing about yet)...  Well, during our journey, it became apparent CRT had ALSO closed the Macclesfield canal due to a collapsed culvert in Macclesfield...  Curious as to   HOW the works were progressing, we decided to chug as close to the stoppage as possible and take a look for ourselves.



The short answer is that bugger all apart from blocking it off (including the towpath so that will be a priority to get cyclist's going again) was being done...  Talking with the security chap on site (complete with nice dogs) he said from experience WHEN this type of job starts, it tends to take a bout a month... ie. we would NOT be going down the Macclesfield to get to Llangollen (the LONG way).

SO - we hatched another plan... a segway over the Huddersfield Narrow (and shallow) Canal... THIS being the only one that appeared to be fully open!

School boy error there too however as it transpired that a leak in the pound between locks 1 and 2 that was listed LAST JULY - had still not been investigated so the only way to get to Hudderfield , involved pre-booking a passage and hope a crt person would turn up to run water down to the make the entrance to lock 1 possible.  MORE to follow about that later.

Weather wise, we'd been very lucky with bright sunny days but cold nights - I think it got down to minus 4 whilst in Bugsworth - in fact, on the return journey the day before we went back down the Marple flight, we got snow!





Whilst in Marple, I called into a Chemists and picked up a few Covid testing kits for when we start taking guests onboard.  They'll have had their 2nd jabs by then and we've both had our first so it's a belt and braces approach I know... but still, it does offer THEM extra peace of mind.
The sooner we can all stop wearing these silly muzzles the better as far as I'm concerned.

Once down Marpe locks, we spotted some friends moored up on their new Bickerstaff - shouting through the hatch, it transpired one of them had shingles so we chugged on and spent a night moored in Ashton -under-lyne (near the Portland Basin Museum) - 


Yes, I KNOW we are pointing the wrong way for the HNC but we'd decided it would be easier to take a detour to Droylesden to fill up with water, rather than faff about own the basin arm (and reverse back up).

The weather was still kind to us and we were soon back on route and began our ascent of the HNC.










True to form, no sooner than we'd come up lock 1 and the bosun buggered off to set number 2, did I get "stuck" on the bottom... the only way to get going again was to leave the boat in forward gear and leap off with the centre line to pull it along ...  once through the shallows, we made our way up to Staleybridge and moored for a night outside Tesco.  This has to be  on a par with the one in Ellesmere for 'boater convenience' - shame it's a Tesco *other militant grocery outlets are available but still handy none-the-less.

As we made our way upstream, we came to our first PROPER hurdle... just before lock 9w there is a sandbank of "washings in" from the hillside...  this had been here (but not as bad) in 2019 when we last came up)...  NOW it's a proper problem (well for us) and we ended up beached betwix the bank (more than half way across the centre channel) and the shallows on the offside.  

It took several reverses and "runs" at it to eventually get past, only to then discover the lock landing ahead wasn't usable enough to get the bosun off! - That resulted in  a bit of a 'Costa Concordia' list of 45 degrees for WAY longer than felt comfortable before yet more reversing , rocking the boat and brute engine force got us off and afloat again.

Still, it added a bit of excitement to us and entertainment for some walkers who'd gather to shout useless suggestions  show their support!

We broke the journey up and moored for a night in Uppermill - this time ON the old trip boat moorings (having been told it's gone for good it seemed fair enough)...

Next morning, up to Diggle  - through some of the toughest locks on the system that took both of us with a windlass each on either side of the paddle gear to get moving on  one occasion . We also got stuck again for longer this time just after the service block - same place as in 2019 and from memory, where Robbie Cummings did too when he filmed HIS trip over it the other year... WHY they can't just dredge it a bit more is beyond me.  ANYWAY - once at the top, it was time to chill in the sun and await the next days tunnel passage.

I'm going to "gloss over a bit here" - mainly because it is all very negative and frankly I want to ENJOY this life.  Suffice to say,  CRT are still enforcing a policy no longer required and using Covid as excuse to do so - namely, insisting on a volunteer piloting your boat through the tunnel and if you don't agree to them being at the helm, bashing their way from side to side, you are not allowed through...  Keeping it short, I expressed my concern and the stupidity of this policy - especially on  semi trad where both skipper and chaperone could be 2 m apart but the pilot would not budge and shortly before 10pm I got an email from crt to put me on the naughty step until Monday when they would make contact to discuss my future (return) bookings before they would ALLOW another passage.

I waited until "office" hours to respond and sent a very fair summarization of how I'm thinking of their performance and offering suggestions to think about in regards flexible policies.  I HAD considered sending this photo showing that 2.2m could be attained between skipper and chaperone but hoped when we "talked", this would not be necessary.



me in full ppe was a bloody waste of money too...  hey ho.



So, knowing we couldn't' get all the way to Huddersfield without having to book (and trust someone would turn up) we decided to end the trip at Slaithwaite and spend a few days there before the return tunnel passage ... that was, if we were allowed through at all.







WE even managed to get a haircut done at the 'Waterside' barbers by an ex-boater (Australian chap and very friendly),  followed by a bottle of wine on a balcony overlooking the river .


Whilst in Slaithwaite, we bumped into our boaty friend Fiona (she and her husband Chris live in the town) and they arranged to pop by for a socially distanced drink later that night.  It was quite handy being moored near a bench and when they turned up (we'd forgotten they were coming and had just gotten out of the shower) we put a few layers on and sat outside on the towpath as the bats started to fly and drank the wine they'd brought with them (for which thank you btw - much appreciated).  WHEN it got so cold we were all shaking, we said our goodbyes and next day we began our chugs once more.

The trip back up from Slaithwaite to Marsden has 2 (now leaky which used to be ok) pounds that require water running down to get through and a lock that also is very difficult to get in. MUCH engine power required and it was done. 

ANYWAY - having been told I was on the naughty step  all weekend and issued with a vieled threat, I awaited the phone call eagerly.  NONE came until Thursday... and then only after I'd tried to call the sender of said email.... and by then we were mid way up to Marsden.

Keeping it short again, we were friendly but they just kept quoting  the policy (unjust as it is) and that if I didn't like or agree with it, I was perfectly at liberty not to take the tunnel passage and wait until the government relaxes the  rules (hopefully) on 21st June!  - Meanwhile I suppose I could book a hair appointment and sit with highlights being done by someone in a mask lest than 1metre away from me for 2 hours but it would still be TOO dangerous for me to drive my own boat through a tunnel with someone 2 metres away from me in full ppe.  DURING our conversation, I was also told that crt obviously monitor social media postings and that any negative postings or barrage would be frowned upon by them...  effectively attempting to impose a media blackout!

Unlike many, whilst I do make the occasional snide remark using sarcasm and irony in regards crt, I generally don't post things that are overly negative.  

Moving on - they had me  by the short and curlies in regards the return passage and they knew it...ergo, I had to capitulate and let it happen.  On chatting with a few of the volunteers around the tunnel entrance, it transpired the crt person who'd taken offence with me, was not renowned for being either flexible or responsive so I'd be flogging a dead horse if I made a formal complaint.

Once through the tunnel, I gave the matter some serious thought and whilst I felt I ought to do SOMETHING to bring their action to task - there are bigger things to worry about going on in the world right now (see aforementioned murdered crt employee at the start)  - SO, whilst it sticks in my throat not to stand up to a bully, for me, life is too short and I want to continue to enjoy boating - they will be the ones whom bearing grudges will eat them up... not I.









Our journey back down the canal encountered the same problem at lock 9W - this time however, I applied more power on approach and did it in 2 attempts... after which, the rest of the canal was plain sailing so to speak.

Once down , we went on to Droylesden spend the night before tackling the Ashton 18 - most of which were ok with only the occasional bored kid to entertain as we went down.  Stopping off again in Telford Basin, we took a rest for the night before heading down the Rochdale 9 - few tough bits on there too ... including us trying to remove a barrel that had been chucked in at some point... FULL of (presumably water but might have been Rum!!!) we had to abandon it as too heavy and continue our way down to The Bridgewater ... having booked our 7 day passage online (for whatever reason they've decided to introduce that additional level of bureaucracy) and here we are - ready to set off tomorrow to Llangollen  once the Middlewich branch re-opens (noon today apparently) - assuming we can get past the single file channel that has FINALLY been opened up on the T & M near the landside that happened back in January....



Until next time...