Thursday 31 May 2018

Travel by Train (s)... call to prayer and a family visit.

On Thursday, I got a call from mother who rather excitedly said "I've someone here to speak with you"... the next voice I heard was my fathers - he'd been allowed home.  It was such a relief to speak to him after all this time...  he's a man of few words anyway but to know he was home - al be it in a much reduced capacity, was such good news.

Having thought about it overnight, we decided NOW would be the time to pay a visit - to be able to do something practical perhaps AND to see for myself how he is.

SO - First thing Friday morning we set off to the station having worked out a route involving 3 trains, a taxi and a drive.  In theory, we'd catch a train from Appley Bridge to Manchester, Manchester to Leeds and then Leeds to Wakefield.... We KNEW it was going to be one of those days when on arrival at the station to pick up the tickets, some men in hi-vis appeared and began dismantling the machine - to replace it with a newer one...  luckily, they allowed us to print ours out first.

RMT had other plans for us though and what with one thing and another (and by that I mean announcements we couldn't hear on the train apologizing for something or other) we missed connections and had a bit of a scramble.  I can only presume drivers weren't in the right place due to the previous days strike.

When we eventually got to Wakefield (to collect my old banger) it turned out we'd arrived at JUST the wrong time to get a taxi - none of the firms could send one to the station and Uber kept going in loops trying to locate one.  

After about 20 mins of trying, we gave up and set off on the 2 mile hike in the rain...  neither of us wearing coats because we're stupid when we'd left, it was a nice sunny day.  On route back to the mooring (where the car was) we walked passed Wakefield's central mosque and then it clicked WHY we couldn't get a taxi - they were all parked in there doing their thing.  *note to self PREBOOK in future*. No matter, half an hour later we had the car started and were setting off on the 75 mile drive.

We'd planned to check into the hotel after visiting parents but as time was getting on, we called in on route to dump our bags.  If you can imagine Faulty towers meets crossroads motel you'd have an idea of how that was - suffice to say, we'll not rush to stay there again.

Anyway, some 7 and half hours after we'd left the boat, we arrived at my folks .  It was a relief to finally see dad  - He's still very poorly and has a long way to go but he's proven he can just about manage personal care - including carrying around an electronic pump, about the size of an AED which is removing (for want of nicer word) "gunge" from the cavity in his stomach - 24/7 and the district nurse is calling daily to change the filter/dressing on an open wound about the size of a grapefruit.

He's made of strong stuff but I could see how exhausted he was.  Still adamant he can manage but whilst on his own he probably can, mother also needs help as I think she's also suffered another mini stroke recently which has worsened her balance problems...  DAD is under strict instructions NOT to even try to help her up if she falls, and instead press the red button to summon assistance. 

We had a bit of a tidy up for them as whilst he'd been away, mum has been on auto-pilot with laundry and clutter building .   After a couple of hours, we departed and promised to return the following morning with some shopping .

Saturday morning we went back and continued with a bit of tidying/decluttering and whilst we were there, a friend of theirs appeared and went in to house-keeping mode too.  After a fish and chip lunch, we left  and began the return leg to the boat.   The plan had been to dump the car back on the mooring and get the train back to the boat...  however, as this day was a "proper" strike day, that journey was going to involve 4 changes of trains.  We abandoned that plan and drove instead but it being bank holiday weekend, even that took over 3 hours.

On arrival, we met Wendy and Eddies daughter, husband and two kids who'd come to stay with them for a couple of days.   An impromptu (well for us) BBQ was organised and we ended the day watching the sun going down, being bitten by midges AND of course playing that ruddy board game again.

Until next time...

Sunday 27 May 2018

An aborted Trip to Aintree, pubs running out of food and we're in Tow-Path Talk!

I admit - that's a poor post title... it'll have to do as my brain is a bit busy at the moment.

OK - it's been 7 days I updated this... a busy week.  We said goodbye to guests ( actually I don't like referring to them as that cause after a day or 2 on board, they become friends I suppose)... hmm - 'will have to give some thought for future referral... 

We'd deviated from the planned cruising schedule and decided to go as far as Aintree then return to 'safer' lands...  unfortunately for us, the black water tank decided to create a problem that necessitated an earlier than planned pump out.  This meant a long days chug to the only place we could empty the tank without going back down the Rufford arm 7 heavy locks) and not much time to do it before the marina closed.

Scarisbrick marina was our only hope and we got there with about 15 mins to spare.   The old bloke who came to do it was a smashing chap... and unlike a lot of marinas, this one has SO much room in to maneuver in - that didn't mean a text book turn btw... in fact, what with the wind AND an large audience enjoying the sunshine, it went totally wrong.  Enough said about that I feel.  NO MATTER, we got pumped and rinsed out AND filled up with water for only £15 - bargain... that's less than the self pump out cards sold by CRT.

If we ever think about going into a marina, this will certainly be on our list.

We'd expected to be able to get back to where we'd been moored so had left the reclining chairs AND a line of washing out...  it dawned on us that was we half intended coming this way the day after, we'd phone Wendy and Eddie and ask them to rescue the chairs and laundry - secretly hoping the latter would come back ironed lol..   They did so and decided to head the same direction.  They arrived where we'd tied up early evening and a mutual decisions was made to go to the Saracens  Head pub, Halsall (about 100 yards away) for tea.... It transpired the'y just about ran out of food (this was 7pm ish) and only serving people already seated.  Fate was obviously on our side when we checked the prices however so we dodged a bullet there and Just Eat to the rescue with a local Indian takeaway delivering to the boat 40 mins later.  

Next morning, bright and early (for Wendy) we set off towards Aintree...  it's actually quite a nice bit of canal - all be it a bit full of reeds in places and we had a lovely chug in the sunshine... 

This bungalow (well it was once) tickled our fancy with the frog band on the roof...  

HOWEVER, a short while late, we came across a hopped floating lose in the centre of the canal - Wendy and Eddie were ahead of us and it didn't move when they went passed... we were not so lucky and it then ended up diagonally across the cut.   We COULD have left it but being idiots community spirited , we felt we needed to secure it...SO - nothing else for it but to back up, climb on board and try to move it...  suffice to say, it was blooming heavy and given the depth of the water, it took some shifting to the side... by which time 3 other boats had turned up behind it to watch
... no pressure then!  Half an hour of hard pushing and pulling later, it was finally tied up safely out of harms way.

We continued on through Lydiate and Magull
and decided to wind just after Melling to save waiting for CRT to unlock bridge 9... this being as close as we've gotten to Liverpool for this trip and therefore Aintree was aborted .

Once tuned, we retraced out steps (chugs) and then up in Lydiate for a few days.  It's actually quite a nice place where most homes have embraced the canal with loevly gardens... which of course we get to have a good nosey in as we chug passed lol.

A quick pint (or 2) in the Running Horses pub later, revealed  knowledge of a classic car meet, taking place at another pub about a miles walk away - which we went along to later on.

Can't for the life of me rememner the pubs name but it had a thatched roof and was I believe the oldest pub in the country... outside toilets and all.

The "cig box" being out of use due to birds nesting in it which I quite approved

We spent a couple of nights here (not the pub) and then set off back - the plan being to get back to Appley Bridge for the bank holiday weekend.  ON route, we broke off for a night near a no longer used swing bridge and not long after we'd tied up, a kid road his bike straight into the canal in front of us - his dad leaping in after him on auto pilot... complete with phone in pocket.  It was quite deep as the kid disappeared with his bike and the poor father had a heck of a job getting the bike back.  I thought poor taste to photo this - instead rushing to their air with towels and a bag of rice for him to try  save his phone with... no idea if it worked but they did appreciate the towels.

Andy got it into his head we should have some more plants on the roof to obscure the captains line of vision even further give the boat some colour .  SO, with that in mind, we got up VERY early and made a 6.5 mile round trip to a Home-Bargains he'd seen on google maps to buy planters, compost and plants...  The walk took us passed this old tin church and through rush hour traffic !

Once back on board, we chugged on to Burscough to fill up with water and supplies before returning to Appley lock where we moored again, the washing came out, planters got done and that bloody Rummikub came out again!

Oh - I nearly forgot... 

We're in June's Towpath talk... I'd forgotten all about the interview I had with a journalist a while back... luckily I'd not said anything TOO stupid.  You can see the article here:

or pick up a copy canalside somewhere..

Until next time...

Wednesday 16 May 2018

Tarleton to Burscough on the Rufford Arm...and 2 extra trips created on the Liverpool Link...

Sorry I've not updated this for a few days - we've been busy saying hello (and goodbye) to Brian and Marilyn who joined us in Tarleton for a 2 night taster... they weren't sure if boating was for them so rather than jump in for a week, asked if we'd let them stay for a couple of nights instead.

It worked out rather well and whilst they were camera shy, they did muck in and treat us (AND the boat) as old friends... just what we were hoping for.

ANYWAY - to update.

After a lovely few days in Tarleton (it really IS a nice town with the best diy store you could ever want) we left on a cold and VERY windy day for our trip back up the Rufford arm .

Wendy and Eddie came with us to share the locks/swing bridges and whilst the wind did it's best to twang both boats into trees at every opportunity, the skippers managed to avoid any major incidents.

Ahem - that's not to say one of us (*whistles innocently*) didn't pull a wide-beams pins out as we went past it in the strong winds...

The lock landings on this stretch are practically non-existent... certainly not much use for narrow-boats.

If you look to the left, there is also what looks like a "squared off" concrete support block that's been built "just under the water's surface" - that you can catch the front of your boat on VERY easily!

As me how we know this!!!

No major harm done.

We tied up just outside Burscough for a few days and utilised the Tesco store (a short walk to the right over the bridge) AND another first for us, was tying along side a fuel boat and filling the tank.

They couldn't have been more helpful and friendly... we even left some leaflets with them as they mentioned they often get enquiries about boat trips etc. so who knows, perhaps we might pick up some guests as a result at some point in the future. 

 It was 80p a litre for domestic and I was amazed JUST how much the webasto had gotten through of late.  

SOME ginger idiot optimistic skipper, decided that it might be an idea to try and turn the boat just under the bridge - RATHER than risk passing through the recently faulty 2 swing bridges to the "proper" winding hole...well it LOOKED wide enough at the start of the manoeuvre... SUFFICE to say, it wasn't and a load of pole-ing followed, along with a few expletives from the crew that I can't even spell!

An hour (and the aforementioned swing bridges) later we were back in the same place pointing the direction of desired travel.  Eddie and Wendy had waited for us to catch up - they'd bought diesel whilst we were filling with water.

We went through Parbold and up Appley NEW lock- before reversing down the cutting to the (now disused) old lock.  A lovely lay-by (for want of a better word) in full sun for the solar panels where 3-4 boats can enjoy a few days away from boats speeding past - like they all seem to do around here...

AS the sun was out, the bbq came out again too.

It's a smashing place to moor up here... sssh... don't tell too many people as we intend to come back again next time we're in the area .

The only "down side" to being here is the phone and internet signal is rubbish NOR is there a TV signal.    Oh well.. you can't have everything.

This morning, we've been through Appley Bridge to the nearest water point to top up the tank - early doors though so as not to lose our space behind the other boats here.  It did mean an interesting turn and few hundred yards reverse around moored boats to get back in but the wind was light so for a change, nothing went wrong - in fact, I even made it look like I've done it before!

We're going to organise another Asda delivery for heavy items... to include a new bbq because the orginal one appears to have been crushed by something anchor related...


Thanks so much for all the well wishes re. my dad.  The many offers of help have been greatly (and humbly) appreciated.

He's still in hospital but he's definitely on the mend (albeit slowly) and once some support/care package can be arranged for them both at home, they will consider releasing him to mothers care.

Luckily, he's got siblings, grandchildren and local nephews/nieces all of whom are rallying round like troupers - even my brother is "doing something" to help out...  and whilst it's felt very frustrating being so far away without transport (other than a 3-4 hour train journey with 3 changes), it's good to know they have support... ALL of which is also greatly appreciated.

Ooo - before I go, as we've not had any bookings for our journey from Wakefield to Manchester (via the Rochdale canal) we've altered things and created 2 extra shorter trips to include the Liverpool Link at the end of July.   10 a and 10b (in and out)

It transpires that 2 other boaters we know from the Thunderboat forum are ALSO going to be in the docks... booked into the next pontoon to us ... SO it looks like a ready made party on arrival.

Until next time...

Sunday 13 May 2018

1265 hour service time & impromptu first BBQ of the season.

Whilst we've been spending  a few days in Tarleton, I noticed the engine hours approaching a 400 hour service flag (its oil,oil filter and gearbox every 200 and every 400 add in a fuel and air filter....)

BEING Mr. Organised, I'd already got everything required in stock somewhere on the boat... it was JUST a case if finding it!

Once I'd used my mind map *read opened every cupboard,drawer* I remembered where I'd put them and set to in the engine bay.

THIS time taking more care and thus NOT knocking over the oil drained from the gearbox.

I'm getting faster at this now and doing the fluids and filters took me less than an hour - AND I remembered to take a sharpie marker pen to the appropriate sized sockets for the gearbox drain and filler plug... to speed it up further next time.

We're TRYING now to utilize the webasto of a morning for hot water and let the solar panels do all the charging when we're not moving - it seems to be working ok... so long as we're moored in the sun.

Since we've been moored near Wendy and Eddie (I always want to call them weddy and endy for some reason) we've enjoyed a few (too many) games of Rummikub and have shared evening meals with them and as the sun was shining, we set to and had our first BBQ of the year.

The wind direction was not very consistent and we ALL ended up suffering mild smoke inhalation as a result.

AS usual  can sometimes happen when I'm hungry, I started cooking a bit too early and nearly put the thing out... resulting in Eddie being instructed  offering to get their gas BBQ out to "finish" off any meat that might kill us...  it ended well with one exception - we'd retired to their boat to play rummikub (YET again) and rather than locking up fully, I'd just put the quick lock on... ONLY to discover my keys were in the ignition and Andy's were in his pocket... INSIDE the boat!!!

There was only one thing for it - I borrowed Eddies "master key" and broke in.

Suffice to say - BETTER security arrangements have been made and I'll update on them in due course.

MEANWHILE - Father continues to improve in hospital and whilst my folks are under no illusion things are going to be easy, mother was certainly up beat and very positive about looking after him when she eventually gets him home.... WITH whatever help they need from external support services they require.

Until next time...

Thursday 10 May 2018

Rufford Arm to Tarleton...

After a long night moored next to the not working swing bridge, hearing it "thump thump" every few mins are cars drover over it, we weren't in the best of spirits...  By 10.30 when there was STILL no sign of any repairs taking place, I got on the phone to CRT.

They (as in the collective) didn't have any information on it other than "a stop notice was issued last night at 8pm"...  WE KNEW THAT!!!    - Anyway, I was transferred to the Wigan office where what has to be the "best person for the job" tried to placate me.  She really was good.  I can be a bit obstinate  passionate about trying to get a problem resolved.  She promised to phone me back as soon as she had any information but all the "system" showed was contractors were due back on site at some point later in the day.

11.45 (anyone would think I'm time obsessed) came and one of the previous night's chaps returned... NOT the rude one .  I went over to offer him a cup of tea and explain we'd only wanted to go through, turn round and then come back as we were trying to get up to Tarleton in time for a mini break we've been requested to do this coming Saturday.  THIS chap explained to me what they'd done and if we gave him 10 mins to get another chap to come along from the next swing bridge - you remember, the one running (or not as the case is) on batteries, he'd operate it manually to let everyone through.

When his colleague (now the grumpy one from last night) arrived, I thiknk he'd either gotten the message OR someone from the office had  had a word with him - he came over to explain what was happening and that we sshould get through.    By about 12,the bridge was open, the back log of boats passed through as us turning a few hundred yards the other side.

We had to stop and operate the now repaired *read  - REBOOTED* bridge, ourselves on return and the chap (still bank side) shouted they'd operate the next bridge (which was still broken) when we arrived....

Did they? - well, if 6 chaps in orange hi vis vests having tea/coffee in their vans counts as operating it then yes...  the reality was another 2 hours sitting there with  5 other boats "waiting"... 

Eventually the bridge began to open and UNLIKE last night when we'd waited for official permission to go through, ALL of us made a dash for it - us leading the way in a "come on chaps, tally ho" kind of way...whatever the etiquette for deciding who goes through first is, I'd decided that as I could untie and leap aboard fastest, we WOULD be through and on our way!

It was a pleasant enough journey back to Burscough where we topped up the water tank again but the rain had set in for the day so when we made the turn on to the Rufford arm (very well done even if I do say so myself) we were soaked to the skin.   On arrival at the lock landing, we had to breast along side another boat who was preparing go down the lock.

IT transpired, his girlfriend was totally new to boating and a little nervous.... as such, he'd originally planned to single hand with assistance if you follow.  Us turning up, had just made his afternoon a lot easier.

We agreed it might be best to tie our boats up and whilst he and Andy worked the locks, I'd bring both boats through.  Having never done it before, I was a little nervous but was MUCH happier than I would have been had HE have been doing the skippering.   It took a little more thought given they were 60' to our 57' but it was easy enough and a side from the noise his engine was making, it worked well...

I'd have reached over and turned it off but I wasn't sure if he was running something like a washer/dryer etc.

We did a few locks like this tied up everything went smoothly - we had to untie when a couple of bottom gates wouldn't fully open and after that we took it in turns to arrive first and set the locks etc.

It's actually quite a nice arm - on a dry day it'd have been even nicer.  Rufford Hall looked quite welcoming too but in the rain, we just carried on by.

On Reaching Tarleton, we spotted our friends on their boat moored and tied up 1 boat behind...  

OF course now the debate about having a pram and cratch cover has been re-opened... hmmf!

Trying to dodge more discussion on the subject, we went to say hello,  then a quick shower and walk up to the village/town for tea in the pub - they stopped serving at 8 so we had to get a wiggle on.  

On return to the boats, Rummikub came out (again)  - (I'm sure Andy's on commission) - (or should be) and AS usual, he massacred us all!

Luckily, we managed to numb the pain with a drink or 8!

In other news, after 8 days in Icu following his op, my dad's now been moved to a private room on a different ward.  That's a good sign and mum is keeping me updated as much as she can remember.  

It's going to be a long and slow recovery but (can't remember if I've said this already) she's arranging for "help" to come in at the house in some form or other.  I'v mooted the idea that if they wanted to, they might sell up, cash in and both go into a wardened scheme like one of their friends has done.  From the sounds of things, she's not ready for that yet so they'll try the "help" thing first.

Meanwhile, we're spending a few more days here in Tarleton whilst we wait for our next guests to join on Saturday  - a 2 night taster for a local couple .

Until next time...

Tuesday 8 May 2018

Appleby Bridge to Parbold and then "STOP"

Sorry for the absence - we've been touching up the boat and I've been spending  a lot of time on the phone  to the hospital and mother.

Father wise, he's still in ICU and has some kind of infection but had another scan last night and the surgeons said they can begin to eat again now and see how things go - it'll have been 8 days since he had any food.  When I speak with the care team each morning, they fill me in on the bits mother forgets... old age isn't kind is it? - STILL, he's in the best place and from what the rest of the family tell me,  is receiving excellent care with each patient in icu having a nurse at their side 24/7.  WHEN he begins to get stubborn, we'll KNOW he's on the mend proper.

So - we left the country mooring and set off towards Appley Bridge where phone signals were better.  On arrival, we tied up a few hundred yards past the pub and turning point.   It's a lovely place.  Busy with dog walkers but unline Wigan, 99.9 % of them actually pick up the poop and bin it - SOME even coming down from the road to the bin to deposit it!

On reaching the lock ahead, we encountered a bit of a traffic jam - the boat at the front being unable to open the top gate - sighting a leaking bottom paddle as the cause.

Andy is good at organising stupid people getting to the bottom of a problem so went on ahead to get things moving again... before long, the bottom paddle was properly closed and the top gate able to open...

When it came to our turn, we paired up with a grp that had pulled in behind us... we needed to stop at the water point at the bottom of the lock anyway so it was lucky that no one else had done so.  NEXT time we're here, we'll pull up along side in the now disused big lock landing and drag a hose over the bridge rather than going down/up the lock to the tap if you follow.

Itls lovely around here - such a contrast from some of the areas we've passed through to get here.

There's even a floating Tea-room.

Once at Appley Bridge, we went looking for a shop for bread.  There are 2 here - Cost Cutter (which REALLY is an oxy moron) and a SPAR... BOTH of them involve a walk up a steep hill  - in our case, in scorching heat. Still, at least returning was easier.

Given we still have a few days before we pick up the next guests (back in Wigan) we've been doing those jobs you put off - such as cleaning out back lockers & repainting the seats above them.  

Having walked up the hill twice, we decided to check out on-line deliveries and whilst here, used the post code of the cottages the other side of the bridge.  A time slot the following afternoon of between 2 and 4pm was perfect.  SO we moved a few hundred yards and about 1pm got a phone call to say he'd arrive about 3pm.  True enough - bang on 3 - he turned up and delivered through the side hatch.  SO much easier than lugging things back to the boat.  

Shortly after we set off towards Parbold where we moored on the visitor moorings for the night - they're only 24 hours but I have a feeling people ignore the sign-age.  Still, no skin off our nose.

The people of Parbold have certainly embraced the canal with lovely gardens and a well used tow-path... also for the most part, clear of doggy do.

On leaving the town, we headed off towards the Rufford Branch (which goes up to the Ribble link) .  
There is much more boating traffic around here than we're used to.  All nice to see even IF most of them are going too fast passed moor boats for our liking - and it's the oldies that are worst!  NOT even hire-boaters either....

We'd planned to get water here but when we arrived at the (well hidden) water point, some fool in a grp had left his boat tied up on the point and gone off for a walk!  - I did grumble a bit but squeezed in between him and another boat and had to dig out the "long hose"...

Once full, we continued on our way to Burscough and deposited rubbish in the (also quite well hidden) refuse point near the Jack and Gin pub.  Nice place with lots of people enjoying the canal and weather.  

Our plan HAD been to chug on, turn and then come back there for the night before exploring the Rufford arm this morning and meeting up with friends in Tarleton at the top.

Hmmf - 1st a swing bridge with flat batteries had us "stop" for 2 and a half hours whilst they trickle charged them ffs... THEN no sooner had we gotten through that one, did the NEXT one break... 4 and half hours later we abandoned the day and are still on the bridge landing with 6 other boats who are ALSO stuck.  CRT on this occasion NOT being very good at communicating - YES they did send a few chaps out ONCE the barriers had come down (thus blocking the road) but even when they managed to get it open (the bridge for boaters that is) RATHER than calling us all through before closing it and then lifting the barriers, they left us all here - packing up and beggaring off home about 8.30 without a word... When I called over to them "is that it?" - I got a very curt reply suggesting people who need to be somewhere, should get a taxi.  ALL we expected was one of them to walk down and explain that  now the road was open, (and  bridge safely locked in position) we'd have to wait until another team could come back tomorrow.  

I'm not usually one to moan about CRT but on this occasion their "customer care" from at least 1 of the men on the ground, really was not up to scratch.  I know he'd probably had HIS bank holiday spoiled by having to attend but at least he'll have been getting paid - the rest of us have lost 7 hours of boating.

Of course, despite the promise to be here at 8am to try and resolve it, here we are at 8.45 and no sign of anyone.  Pants.  Looks like we might have to reverse a mile or so if we are to get to Tarleton today. - Hmmf!

Until next time - NB Ellis... trapped at New Lane swing bridge.