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Thursday, 9 July 2020

Fly-Boat Ellis... Dentist looming.

Okey dokie - having had the news that the dentist could have a go at sorting out my collapsed teeth properly, we'd made the decision to have a quick nip up the Llangollen Canal whilst it was still quiet.

Quiet was an understatement - certainly compared to the usual Chaos up there with hire boaters and every other man and his dog...  SOME people like empty and quiet... ME less so.  I miss the peril of hire boats hurtling around corners/bridge-holes and the panic expression on their/my face when everyone tries an emergency stop of with 16 tonnes of momentum to try and reverse lol.

As we headed out of Nantwich, I spotted Robbie Cummings's "naughty Lass" near the services...  his recent series on the BBC being very successful - so much so, that they've offered him another one... Good stuff.

Alas, he wasn't about to shout a hello to.
oh well - maybe next time.

Just as Ellis sailed under the bridge, we spotted Jane heading back from the Laundry and shouted quick goodbyes (having already done the same to Roger when we past him a while further back).

It felt odd do be leaving Nantwich as even though we'd only spent a few days there, once again I'd been beguiled by it's charms...  the fact it was slowly opening back up again being very welcome.

Once at Hurleston Locks, I took a quick walk up to check there was enough water in the pounds and then we began our ascent - through the bottom lock (which had been rebuilt over the winter due to it trapping boats for years... alas, there appears to be a leak in the NEW chamber.. I hope crt kept their receipt!

I'd forgotten how much you notice the flow of the water on the Llangollen.... some 12 million gallons each day make their way down from the river Dee to Hurelston Reservoir..  We had planned to stop at Wrenbury for our first night but once pulled along side, discovered neither tv, phone, radio or internet signals... ergo, we chugged on a while - eyes glued to the wifi point and as soon as we got a green light, dropped anchor - THIS being the mooring for the night.

Even though it was a hot summer evening (remember those? - it's been tipping down for the last few days), I decided to experiment with a flaky pastry roulade type thing..  (an idea from Tiktok)...

I have to say, it worked out rather well for something so simple... the veggie option since tried with goats cheese, leak and spring onions...  in fact, the veggie version is probably nicer.

Very nice...  

Next morning, our first obstacle being Grindley Brook - deserted also, with no sign of a lock keeper... which suited us anyway.

No boats at the top either so a quick top up with water ad then on to Whitchurch.  

Technically, it's NOT a left turn you want to make but with only the odd boat around, I decided we'd have a go, chug down to the bottom of the arm and then walk in to town.

I must admit, it WAS too tight to make without David holding the centre line... I'd NOT try it again... certainly not with the likelihood of boats moving around lol.

Having walked into the town on what must have been the hottest day of the year so far, it was most annoying none of the lovely pubs were open  to partake of refreshment and shade...    I have to say, I know councils have to be seen to be trying to  protect their residents but imho, spending what must be 1000's of pounds on signs like these, really IS a waste of all our money.

Next morning another early start to beat some of the heat...rather than go up the Ellesmere arm, as we didn't need anything (grocery wise) we continued on and  eventually had a long day in the sun...a slight disagreement with a bridge and the parasol left it a bit bent but no serious harm done.  

Before we knew it, we'd crossed over the Welsh border and were going through Chirk tunnel - it never every occurred to us that Wales was under different jurisdiction to England.. my own fault really cause I sort of drift away from the news when that Scottish awful  power crazy freak Sturgeon woman comes on dictating how the Scots will do  as SHE says... this is inevitably followed by the Welsh  equivalent I presume - ergo, I don't hang around enough to listen to the spouting...

OH well, we'd done it by then and decided to press on - making a mental note not to leave the "isolation of the boat" ... ie, not being a risk to anyone thus doing no harm.

IT was after tea time by now but rather than stop, we pressed on over the Ponty and the journey up to Llangollen itself.

The flow of the canal by now is quite strong so the journey from the aqueduct to the basin took 2 hours - with not a single boat encountered along the way.  Once in the basin, we came across 6 other boats in there - all spaced out nicely.  We spent a night there before retracing our steps and heading back to Ellesmere to stock up again..

Until next time...

Thursday, 2 July 2020

An impromptu Gin night in Nantwich then segway on to the Llangollen.

It's fair to say that when I'm back out boating, the blog does take a back seat... certainly after all that time 'locked down', if the sun (or rain) is out, chances are I'll want to be chugging along at less than 3 miles an hour - eyes all over the place like a 'swivel head'  ... Swivel head btw, being the term we country folks used to use to describe the tourists  who came to visit our little hamlet.

Right then...  AFTER our journey along the Middlewich branch the other week, we did of course turn left .  NOT before however, filling up with diesel and browsing in Auntie Wainwrights place - SORRY , I mean Venetian Marina...

That place sells everything!

Scratch that - they din't have the inflatable fenders in the size I wanted but can be forgiven for that.

Nantwich was quite busy - and apparently the 48 hour mooring signs don't apply to everyone...  it does bug me when folks are selective about which rules they think don't apply to them!

No matter, having moved along from Mr. "frame generator" for a bit of quiet, we settled just before the aqueduct and wandered into town for supplies.

On our return - weighed down with bottles of coke (having forgotten HOW far the walk is)we bumped into friends Rog and Jane who'd moored up a  boat behind out of the blue.  Well I say out of the blue, I knew they were somewhere in the area but it was a pleasant surprise none the less.  Their flowers have put 'Ellis' to shame... the ones I'd had on being recently chucked in a hedge as they were well past their best... I hope it's not too late to get some summer bedding in now - what with all the covid kerfuffle.

Upon their return and post our already prepared teas, we joined them for a surprise "Gin" sampling outside their boat - socially distanced of course with only the occasional foray into friendly territory to top up glasses lol.  Jane has a better gin selection available than us and it would have been rude not to help her work through it.

There WAS a time when I'd have been unable to accept their kind hospitality unless I could match it - but, having bugger all on the boat at the moment and even less money in the bank, I'm learning to accept folks generosity and make a mental note to balance out the karma when I'm able to do so.  THEY of course not giving it a second thought... the very reason I suppose, WHY boaty folks are generally good people.  We spent several hours making it awkward for folks to use the pavement - at one point, I felt I understood what it's like to be a fisherman lol.

In no time, it was pitch black and upon checking, nearly midnight so time to retire to our respective boats... prior to covid we'd no doubt have gone inside and drank more!

ON reflection the following morning, the social distancing had done us a favour as boy we were rough.

Whilst nursing my hangover, I got a call from my dentist to say they were now able to do more permanent repairs and could I attend in early July... ergo, our gentle jaunt up the Llangollen would have to be more of a race OR put on ice.  We chose the former and pulled ropes setting off before lunch.

Ellis is now practically back on route and where it should be for guests to join us.  NOW that Boris has relaxed the social distance to 1 metre +, we CAN operate again without breaking any rules.  THAT said, unfortunately, as many visitors are overseas (or trapped in Wales)  and subject to confusing quarantine rules, no one will be aboard until early August.

Obviously,  we have hand sanitizer, soap, water, masks and oodles of common sense on board and by it's very nature, boating IS socially distant so pose little risk to our guests or others... That said, we have the 'clobber' ready and if required, can ppe up.

In every day life, it's all a bit daft but if it's the only way Boris can get away with opening things up again (and by god things need to be) then so be it...  every day we are hearing more and more news of of job losses and company's failing.  Thank goodness I don't have kids to worry about. I've said all along, if I fail, then no one really gives a damn- or more importantly, families don't go hungry...   IT does look like I'm going to have to either do some Winter trips or find some form of paid employment during the darker months...  I'm hoping once the winter stoppages are finalized, I can cobble together a few winter trips - probably aimed at wanna be live-aboarders so they can get a REAL feel of what 'winter boat life' is like.

Until then, we've still got 3 months of the season left (to begin) and I can't wait to have company again..

Until next time...

Friday, 26 June 2020

A Drained Canal, Lots of Rain & to Anderton and beyond!

Sorry - I've been a quiet again... would you believe, it's cause we've actually been boating!...

HARD to believe eh? - I mean, a boat on a  canal and actually going somewhere...  CRT must be slipping!😉

I left you with us in the centre of Manchester - it was an end of the dav diversion with every intention of going up (and down) the infamous 'Rochdale 9' again... just for the fun of it.

LAST time I did them, I Was on my own and began badly when my centre line hadn't been tied up well enough at the bottom so by the time I'd emptied the first lock, 'Ellis' had floated away into the middle of the basin... what ensued was me in my underpants wading in the water to climb aboard, only for a boat (which could have rescued it) to chug around the corner.

ANYWAY - the bottom gates were padlocked shut (something we are now VERY familiar with).
ON having a walk up , the flight we found out why:

Apparently something was blocking a tale gate at the bottom of canal street so they drained a few pounds to clear it...  I presume it's done now but the rain was coming (Again) and we didn't hang around to watch.

It was interesting HOW quiet Manchester was compared to Skipton -  I suppose "city fear" is amplified compared to the good folks of Yorkshire...

The main purpose of our walk was for David to buy a kayak - apparently, we can lark around in it and have fun.   Hmm, Neither of us has very good balance so it's going to an interesting time ahead lol.

We DID have a bit of a play in Castlefield Basin but it began to thunder quite heavily so after taking shelter under the railway bridge for about 30 mins, we abandoned it for another day.

Staying in the basin for just the one night, we plodded on the next morning to Stretford Marina - the plan HAD been to spend a couple of nights there plugged into the luxury of shoreline... alas, that was not to be as broken down boat was STILL being repaired (3 days since I first called) so there wasn't space for 'Ellis' - hey ho.  We filled up with diesel, had a pump out (a bit early) and then chugged off as the rain threatened.  Lymm was our next stopping point... it's a lovely place and we arrived just as the storm clouds gathered... mooring as close to Sooty's house (it's up for sale btw) as you would like.

Having a wander around the village, I spotted a new fish and chip shop - I still get the urge to have fish and chips in 'Joyce's' honor...  so it was "Rene's Plaice' for tea...quite nice but not up to the standard of Skipton's 'New Market Street Fisheries' we'd become used to lol.

NEXT morning was really wet and miserable... however that didn't stop the urge to boat so we chugged along with Anderton in mind for our nights mooring...  I have to admit, by the time we'd got to the tunnels, I was a bit fed up with it - especially as having pulled in to Midland Chandlers at Preston brook in the rain, I found it closed... fenders would have to wait - well in fact, they've been ordered from ebay on a click and collect in Nantwich.

I'd hoped to have a quick nip down (and up) the lift at Anderton but it transpired not to re-opening until 6th July...  hmmf.  Oh well, after a night there (no wifi OR tv signal) we continued and before long were stopped in our tracks by free-floating crt work boat.

Having tied that up as best we could with the available (knackered) lines, we pressed on, through Middlewich and turned right to the Middlewich branch of the Shroppie.  The plan had been to go on to Church Minsull but we decided to moor a Little before and play with the kayak again... Much to amusement of a cow who had wandered on to the towpath... where she stayed all night "mooing" through the portholes at us!

In the end we did chug along to Church Minsull and had a wander through the woods to the village - such a shame the pub couldn't be open... 

A nice '#LegsEllis' end to the day.

Until next time...

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Epic Journey - Tick!

WHAT a weekend that was...

Everyone we talked to said "it's impossible - you'll never make it - you're mad"... you get the gist.

You really think folk would have learned by now not to say that to a 'ginger super hero' wouldn't you?

Now OK - even I thought we wouldn't make it but that wasn't going to stop us trying...  BEFORE we began, I'd already primed my brain to expect AND accept defeat and talk itself into thinking it'd be nice to spend 3 weeks trapped in the long pound between Wigan top and the bottom of Johnson's hillocks.... which isn't actually a bad place to be.

Crt had (via badgering of the business manager bloke) agreed to open the bottom lock at Gargrave at 8am Friday instead of 10am, in a bid to give us a chance of getting into Barrowford locks before they close entry at 3pm.

Working on the principle we might get delayed by other boats, (and with a birthday cheque from dad to finance it) I asked for help off a couple of chaps...  THATS something I'm learning as I go through life ... to ask for help when you can't do things on your own.  NOT an easy thing for me but as time trundles on, something I can accept.   I suppose in business terms, it's just a matter of knowing how to respond to situations you can't control yourself and know WHEN to ask for backup.

I'd asked a day boat skipper if he'd fancy a days boating (socially distanced of course) and if he had a mate that might come along and crew too - turned out, his mate was also a friend who I'd not thought to ask, as he had further to travel and BOTH of them are far better skippers than 'Capt. Ellis' lol.

In TRUE boating form, Friday morning arrived Wet and VERY windy...  so, after a night of NO sleep through a combination of fretting like a fool pitching and rolling, at 7.30 the first Adam arrived ... a few minutes later the CRT chaps turned up (earlier than expected) and before 8, the lock was emptying and we were on our way.

The wind and rain made for a very unpleasant start...HOWEVER, as well as the recruits, the CRT chaps also worked in relay with our team going ahead and having the Gargrave AND Bank Newton locks set ready - especially useful in the wind.    I didn't take my first photo until half way up Bank Newton

We made it up to the top of there in record time (10.30) which meant nearly an hour ahead of my planned schedule)... an hour we WERE to need however as by Greenberfield locks (the summit) we came across a boat coming down - followed by 2 others also doing the same - BOTH Of which effectively Stole the locks! NOT cricket with water being so scarce...  THAT Said, you can see why given how much pisses leaks through the bottom gate of this lock...  perhaps THAT could have been patched up during the last 12 weeks of no boat movements eh?

ANYWAY - stolen  locks a side, we were up and into the bends in still 20 mins ahead of where we'd planned...  

The next bit was a slower than hoped due to the depth - I left Adam 2 (both helpers were called Adam) in charge whilst I went below to make bacon butties... it was funny hearing him try and sneak a bit more speed out of 'Ellis' and then accepting more power would slow us down due to a combination of shallow water and deeper draft... he seemed to really be enjoying himself and made the journey far more sociable than it might otherwise have been.  

We hit the tunnel Just  before the  light was changing to red and knew we'd need to get a move on (20 mins available from red one end, to green at the other) - usually you can get through in about 16 and I've done so MANY times... SOD's law this time dictated  a prop foul not far from the exit and just as we came out, another boat was coming in - a bit shirty to be honest accusing us of going in on  red...  I cheerily warned them to take it steady and be ready to hit reverse if they encountered whatever it was that hampered our progress.

We got to the top of Barrowford around 2.30pm 

as we descended, I couldn't resist a quick selfie

The rain and wind had eased a bit now and the sun kept sneaking out too!

Once down Barrowford, we stopped to say our goodbyes to Adam 2 and he seemed disappointed not to be coming along...  WE still had a long way to go before bed ... about 3.30 we then chugged onward whilst the weather was still ok.  

We did have a few prop fouls - the worse being a scarf and a fishing net... the rubbish in the canal through Burnley being as bad as ever... such a shame.

Stopping off at Rose Grove Services to fill the water tank, we had to clamber over a boat "conveniently" marooned there due to a combination of Lock down and then illness... there WAS space further back for it to be tied up but in true selfish form, they were ON the water point to save buying a longer hose ... they'd only been there for 12 weeks! - no hope of using a click and collect or post restante service to get a bigger hose??? hmmf.... ANYWAY - after I'd made my point with noisy clambering, the tank was full and we chugged off.

We finally made it through to a nice bit just between Church and Rishton. by about 9pm.

When I picked up my laptop to update the 'Thunderboaters' on our days progress, I notced I'd received a message from a chap I'd exchanged a few pleasantries in 2018... HE lives in the area and offered to meet us at Blackburn in the morning to speed us down the flight and ALSO Johnson's Hillocks...

On chuggin off (5.30 am) I was NOT as enthusiastic as the former selfie. I figured as there were no swing bridges ahead, I'd leave David asleep whilst I get ahead of the weather...  apparently I am NOT very quiet when pulling ropes through chains and taking fenders off lol.

We got to Blackburn WAY too early as it happened...(7.40) but I sent the ops manager a text message on the off chance asking if he might be able to get them opened before 10...  AS it happened, the crt chap arrived just before 9 and kindly opened up - and by this point Pete the helpful "wrong side of the border" bloke turned up too  and we were one our way in no time.

With Blackburn behind us,  once again Pete came to our aid at the top of Johnsons Hillocks.  The top lock proving a popular place to drink in the sun even though it's closed... with folk turning up with cans to watch the boats moving.

Once down the locks we carried on with the final leg of the journey to Wigan top...  the sun was out, day boats too and "canal life" felt normal again...

On arrival at Wigan, there was a space available right by the lock just after the water point, and we tied up there circa 5.30pm...  

We'd arranged to pair up with Ted and Judith on Goldilocks- a couple I'd met last year and done a pub quiz in the Anchor...  THEY had arranged for a group of helpers to come along the following morning to help work them down the locks.  ALSO at the top, was Pete the chap who had been do helpful to us earlier in the day.

We took our chairs over and sampled a few gins a mate of his makes... all I supplied was the tonic - it did feel a bit cheeky but the wine stocks were gone and a side from a couple of cans of beer, we had nothing on board to share.  RAIN came and we retired around 9pm.

Pete was first in the queue to work a pair down and because we had such a big crew, David kept going ahead to set locks and help him to ... a bit of karma re-balancing...

Ted and I (for the most part) exited and entered locks in parallel like pros... a couple of the by washes messing things up but we actually looked like we knew what were doing at times!

AT the bottom, the helpful crt bloke came and unlocked early for us and we had an impromptu picnic lunch along with the other boats in the flight... 

I've missed out a couple of negative comments in regards some older boaters that were NOT being very helpful to a boat that kept breaking down during it's descent of the flight - a little un kind in my opinion... this boat had been bought by a lovely woman and she was travelling home with her son - their first lock ever , being the top of Wigan!!! ... the 'older boaters' refusing to tow them on the basis that their engine wasn't brilliant... (or rather didn't want to put it under any strain).

Long story short, I sent word back up the flight for them NOT to worry as 'Ellis' would tow them out of the area and to somewhere nicer...

THEY went on ahead at tickover (they can manage about half an hour on tickover before it overheats) and we came across them around Scotsmans flash -the 'oldies' having over taken them and carried on their way.

We stopped along side, breasted up and towed them for a couple of hours until we got to Pennington Flash where we'd planned on stopping for the night.

This gave the young bloke chance to tinker...

As we tied up for the night, they 'tickovered' off.

A couple of hours later, Goldilock arrived and we shared their supper with them (socially distanced of course) a keg of beer and some of my birthday cake - photos WERE taken but for some reason, my phone has changed from jpegs to .heic and I've yet to work out how to convert them!  I can only get this one to work...

Rain came again so we retired to our respective boats for a well earned rest.

Yesterday morning was glorious and having just spent 12 weeks under house arrest, I decided it would be nice to chug on a bit further...  as it happens, I got a message from the lady on the broken down boat to say they had a mechanic looking at their engine now but if we come there way, might we act as 'back up'.

That was the decider so after a late breakfast, off we chugged - stopping to get essentials in Aldi Leigh and then water at a hidden tap.

The weather didn't hold... by Worsley it was thundering quite badly so we tied up and sheltered for an hour...  and just when we set off, we came across them overheating again... We lashed together again and off we chugged for a few more hours.  Once at 'waters meeting' we untied them, they went right and we made a detour into Manchester centre for an impromptu attempt at the Rochdale 9 - just for fun.

CRT had other ideas however, as they were chained shut - when I then checked on line, a stoppage was in place from 15.59 due to an obstruction that would be moved today... oh well... a night in Castlefield Basin it was then... which is where we start today!

I've exchanged numbers with the breaking down boat - they are a lovely family and hope this first experience of canal life doesn't put them off too much... although to be honest, they've both got such a big grin on their faces, I doubt it will - we'll provide back up again in a couple of days when I suspect we'll catch up with them around Lymm.

Until Next time...