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Monday, 19 August 2019

Calder & Hebble, Rochdale Canal, and the Ashton... sometimes solo.

Now stop your moaning...  it's been a busy (and at times stressful) few weeks. 

YES I know I've been very remiss at blogging... there just hasn't been time (or energy) as I've been doing Dark blue AND light blue jobs.

The quick version is Andy has gone off to spend time with family following the death of both his mothers remaining siblings... 

THAT left me at Stanley Ferry "waiting" for the river to go down and arrival of 2 guests pending...

Only one thing to do - put out a request for help on the boating forums and twitter.   Oddly, it was Twitter to the rescue rather than the boating forums... I suppose because most of the people on the boating forums just get on and deal with single handing on their own anyway!

As it stands, it's not so much single handing that's hard work - but having someone competent to take the helm when you need  a wee on the river or whatever... someone you know can just do it without running aground on a corner or panicking if a boat comes towards you lol.  I remember when WE used to panic when presented with an oncoming boat... THESE days, we see how close we can get to them in sort of 16 ton game of "chicken"...

I'll get back to the update...

The river went down the morning our guests were due to arrive... this meant I could race up it and be in position at the Visitor Moorings as planned where both the guests and guest crew, were due to meet me.  HOW posh were we with our own CRT volunteer lockie coming on board for the first couple of days ?

Once the guests arrived (and I'd done the toilet training, man over board procedure and opened some fizzy stuff) we set off in earnest up the River Calder.

Simon the CRT Lockie, taking charge of "guest training" using "best practice" techniques...

Of course they don't always work when you're faced with a "different lock" so he had to wing it abit... no matter, before long, they got the hang of things and we were making good progress - roping in passers by and other boats whenever the opportunity presented itself lol.

With rain forecast (again) we made a group decision to make a dash for it to get through as much of the river sections as possible - in case we got trapped in by locked flood gates.  Ledgard flood lock was closed but the river was in yellow so we cautiously went through and raced up to South Pennine Boat club where we overnight-ed in relative safety.

Next morning, the sun was out and the river had dropped a little so we plodded on - stopping off for a pint (and lunch on the boat)

 before ending the day at Sowerby Bridge .

Now the river sections were out of the way, we relaxed a bit and after a couple of hours wandering around Hebden Bridge, we continued on as far as Todmorden.  THIS side of the pennines being truly lovely. 

Compared to last year, there was plenty of water but even so, we did go aground occasionally.  NOTHING to do with the guest skipper at the tiller.

On arrival at Todmorden, we sneaked in just outside the pub and (with nowhere to tie up properly) I must confess to applying a "MLAT" approach - looping the front rope around a cast iron bench!  NOT good form but not a lot else to do really.  It'd been a long day and as none of us could be bothered cooking dinner, we went off to the pub  expecting "pub grub"   - it turned out to be Thai which whilst a surprise, was quite good.

Next day with our guest crew having gone home, the "guests" were flying solo now...  They took to it with glee and we made excellent progress through some lovely scenery.

Whilst we stopped for lunch at the summit, I received an email from the couple who were due to join us in Littleborough for the next leg of the journey...  they had some bad news regarding a terminally ill relative and rather than "risk" coming away with us, they'd decided to cancel - they even asked how much extra they'd have to pay for cancelling at such short notice bless them.    The answer was of course nothing and rather than "steal" their (already paid for ) holiday, I suggested they look at next years cruises and pick one they'd like instead... it's only cricket after all and we never did plan to do this to make money... just to finance a fulfilling lifestyle.

With the contents of the email fresh in my mind, I mentioned it to the guests (due to depart at Littleborough on Friday)... AND a plan was hatched that rather than them leave me there, they'd stay on board down to Manchester (they were going to get the train there anyway on Friday) .

This worked out well for all of us - although I did see a Tweet from him that he wasn't sure if it was a boating holiday or an assisted walking holiday (given they walked miles along the Rochdale)...

Ruth even got brave enough to take the tiller...

We stopped a short distance away from where it gets grotty and enjoyed a few hours of sunshine - knowing we'd need an early start the following morning.

The journey through Failsworth and Miles Platting whilst unpleasant was also uneventful... mainly because the rain kept the scrotes indoors much of the time

If you look closely, you can see a submerged motorbike in the water just near Ruth...

I have to say, some of the locks are nigh on impossible to open without lots of brute force AND an improvised "Spanish Windlass"...

Once down in to Manchester, we chucked a left on to the bottom of the Ashton canal and hid away for our first night in Telford Basin..

No rest for the wicked though as the guests asked if I'd mind if their son, daughter in law and baby joined us for dinner...  an improvised curry was cobbled together professionally produced and it was lovely to see them all enjoying an impromptu get together...  after tea, I left them to it and sat outside reading to give them a bit of privacy - well as much privacy as you can get on a boat lol.

The following morning, we began our descent of the imfamous Rochdale 9 down into Castlefield basin...  The Rochdale just kept on giving - THIS time just as we were going into the first lock, a whole sleeping bag around the prop...  grrr

By now, there was so much water coming down the canal from the recent rain, it was time for another Spanish Windlass  which this time also helped 2 boats coming up - that bottom set of gates would never have opened without it.

Once at the bottom, we filled up with water and spent our last night together just opposite where the trip boats moor.


It was here technical difficulty struck... my blooming phone screen died...  and of course when I eventually found an EE shop (the old fashioned way - asking people in the street) a young chap (probably not even with any curly armpit hair) talked me into   assisted me in  choosing a new phone, tablet and mifi point for 9 quid a month LESS than I was already paying... whilst I can't work any of them yet, for once I don't feel ripped off lol.

WHEN I got back to the boat, I decided that as I had a few days to kill, I'd better take up the kitchen floor and refit it... SORRY - I'd forgotten to mention somewhere along the line, we'd had a bit of a flood and resultant "warping"...  I'd heard the cabin bilge alarm going off when the boat rocked side to side (from over filling the water tank again ahem) but it'd been surface water from over zealous washing up /filling the washer with hot water that had caused the oak to expand and pop up.

It wasn't too bad - only 1 piece of wood needed scrapping and I was able to get it all back down and dried out in a few hours.

THIS being one of those jobs that being on the boat alone was actually much easier lol.

Now that I'd done that and began getting to grips with my new phone, I decided to phone Stretford Marina (about an hour away) and see if I could stay with them a few days in order to use shoreline for laundry etc... They made space for me and once I'd filled up with diesel and had a pump out, I settled in to my secure mooring for a few days before heading back up the Rochdale 9 - THIS time alone.

This was the last photo I took before I began...

It went ok actually and I enlisted assistance at various points from both gongoozlers, workmen and even a few Chinese tourists.

Once again I spent the night in Telford basin before setting off up the Ahston the following day...

I had a bit more luck though as a couple of boaty mates (with a bit of free time) had offered to come and help me work up the Ashton and lower HNC to get to where I needed to be for the next guests....  rather than come and go on the train, I suggested they stay as guests - They are Vegan and it was my first introduction to Vegan food ... luckily Frankie sent ahead a shopping list for me and we cobbled together a few meals that weren't too bad -- even if a little unsophisticated! I mean, what CAN you do to make cardboard tasty?😆

The weather was NOT kind to us... soaking us pretty much all the way...  as much as possible I leaped off the boat to leave Greg at the helm and pull my weight lock wise with Frankie...  it was a hard slog and at one point we did get stuck in a shallow pound on an tractor wheel - the only was to get around it was send someone up to run some water down whilst we made a dash at it...  I did get the hump with a CRT chap who "knew it was there" but said they were waiting on a 7 tonne crane to remove it... I explained in glorious technicolor that I'd managed to move it out of the way with a pole so perhaps simply tying a rope on it to keep it to the bank might be better than just ignoring it! grrrrr.

Once up the Ashton, we stopped at Portland Basin and the next morning, began our climb up the lower Huddersfield Narrow...  topping up the water tank, I spotted a couple of amusing signs in the toilet block:

I can't imagine who was responsible for the misdemeanors in the first place as the services are in the middle of nowhere!

So here we are then - at Uppermill a few days early and ready for the next guest to join and go through the tunnel and on to Huddersfield...

Until next time (which will hopefully be sooner than of late)......

Monday, 29 July 2019

Another bereavement ... 2 sets of guests... a catch up and Rochdale canal here we come!

I've had a few emails and messages "complaining" that the blog is long over due an update.

It's not without good reason...  there has been a lot going on this end - I know it's a boating blog but when we're out and about boating with guests on that require more ... lets call it "input" from us than others, time for relaxation  (which really IS what the blog is for ... for me certainly) get's eaten up doing other things and then the next thing I know, it's bed time or time to begin breakfast.

I'm not having a moan here btw... it's just how it is sometimes.

When I wrote the title, I HAD planned to attempt to update our journey from the bottom of Barrowford Locks to  this morning - Lemmonroyd...

Alas, having sat down, checked the forecast (rain etc) and realised we could do with getting the river sections out of the way and back to Wakefield asap, it's not gonna happen now.

There's a lot to update on- the short version being the gluten free veggies were great fun and we had  a blast with them...  then, when they left, Andy's parents joined us (missing his aunts funeral) and whilst they were here, his uncle died - (I'd hoped they'd postpone their trip ... assuming they'd go to the aunts funeral) but they needed a break so came along as planned.  The whole trip was filled with phone calls from the care home the uncle had just gone into and then the sad news came he'd died.

I'll not lie.  NONE of this was good for anyone... and certainly not for me given how fragile and bereft I remain following mum dying.  None of us were in a good place and they have now left to make arrangements etc.

We had a couple of days in Leeds and are now heading back to Wakefield to prepare for our next guests and our trip over the Rochdale which begins on Friday - ASSUMING the rivers don't mess things up.

I'll come back to this and do a proper posting hopefully soon - if not, expect to catch up with our progress as we head over the Pennines once more - hopefully with a bit more water than last years thwarted attempt lol

Unitl next time...

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Hanging around for a while, 2721 hours service, a bereavement and Vegans to the rescue!

Where were we?

Cheery Tree briefly for an over night as our guest departed.  Once she was out of the way safely on her way home, we pulled ropes and headed off towards Riley Green - our plan being to spend a night there, do Laundry and then head on to Johnsons Hillocks (well down them actually and turn) to fill with water and have a pump out.  The original idea had been to head down, kill a couple of days and then head back up - stopping off at Riley for said pumpout... alas it dawned on me we'd be coming back up on a Saturday afternoon and might not be able to get pumped out - ergo, I did a self pump on the way down - the "poo pipe" at Johnson's NOT being long enough to reach the starboard bow when coming back the other way.

Rewind a bit though, and on route to Riley from Cherry  Tree we spotted the first wild Deer we've seen in ages... if you have really good ideas you can see it looking back at me as we chugged (quietly passed it)...

Having arrived at Johnson's Hillocks and began pumping out, I spotted across the way, another boat I know the name of "Bagpuss" - yes - "she's a Bickerstaffe"... good looking boats without a doubt.

The owner (who's name I can't recall for toffee) came over and started chatting - he' reads the rubbish I post on Twitter but hadn't (as yet) taken offence at any of it lol.    IT's had to believe the boat is 5 years old - She's beautiful.

After the natter whilst our "poo pumped out", we began our way down the locks and moored at the bottom for a couple of days - Motorway noise in the distance a side, it's quite pleasant and if you like a walk, it's only 6.5 miles return into Chorley... which it turned out is quite a nice place to wander around.

As the weekend was approaching (think party boat) we headed back up the locks and managed to tie up on the 48 hour mooring just at the top... WHERE I decided was as good a place as any to do the 2721 hour engine service - Both engine & Gearbox oils, Pre & main diesel filters, air filter along with checking tension of belts etc... everything was fine but I still maintain there MUST be a better way of designing the sump bung on the prm gearbox...  it's in SUCH a ruddy difficult place to reach!

AS I was buggering around in the engine hole professionally completing said service, I heard a voice saying hello and looked up to See Ian & Ali - well I know now that's there names... at the time I was thinking "who the blooming hell are these two?" - we'd bumped into them down at Etruria heading up the Caldon a few months ago and have chatted on the boating forum.  After a bit of a natter they invited us to tea (that's dinner/supper if you are not from up north) later on and although we didn't have anything on the to take with us, found a couple of bottles of plonk and accepted the invitation.

They were great hosts and despite us both committing the boating faux-pas of USING their toilet (it was WAY too far to walk back to our boat (they were at the bottom of the locks and us at the top) we had a thoroughly enjoyable (if a little boozy) evening.

Unfortunately, whilst we were there, Andy received a message to say that in addition to his Aunt dying earlier in the week, his Uncle (the one we went to visit after my mum's funeral) had also taken a turn for the worse and was heading into palliative care.

Andy decided to book a train ticket the following morning and head off down to Wolverhampton to support his parents..

That left "Ellis" (and me) with a bit of a problem - the prospect of new guests joining us and having to work up Blackburn locks on my own with them (if that's not a contradiction)...

To contemplate a plan of action, Ian and Ali knocked on and suggested a lunch time pint in the Lock so off I went - ignoring chores lol.    THEY were heading this way and offered to come with me to work the lock and train the passengers... so that was a back up plan.    WHILST we were sitting in the pub beer garden, I spotted a "ginger" I recognised appearing lockside...  it was Frankie off "NB Forever Changes"... with her husband Greg.  It turned out they were also heading to Skipton and offered to come along the following morning to work me through the locks too.     So that was that sorted.

I chugged off at tea time and moored for the night just outside Cherry Tree again  - I needed to stock up on veg etc when Sainsburys opened to it all worked out quite well.  The guests arrived as planned and with Frankie and Greg now moored behind, we set off and began our way up through the locks.  Never let it be said that Vegan's are weird - I mean they ARE in general but those two are great fun so we won't hold it against them!

As it turned out, Andy had gotten on a train back and about half way up appeared canal side and joined in..   We chugged beyond and ended the day on the "nice bit" between Rishton and Church - THAT turned into a bit of a late night sitting under a blanket out the back with them two whilst Andy and I drank too much.  Our guests having gone to bed at a more sensible time!

Next day I even managed to get rid of my waste oil responsibly too...

Now we're heading on to Skipton for the weekend.

Until next time...

Thursday, 11 July 2019

No sign of infection - yet!

YOU'LL be pleased to hear (well read) that so far I've no sign of any infection following on from my aquatic experience... my crocs did need a good wash in dettol as they mud they sank/sunk? into, seemed to have self etching properties!

Our guest departed in Cherry Tree and the boat does seem quiet without her ... she's been great company and really "GOT" into the spirit of our live-aboard-adventure... although I have to say she wasn't 100% committed as the OVEN is still in need of a clean... oh well - maybe NEXT time 😁.

When she went, we pulled pins and departed - our plan being to move to Riley Green for a night as we caught up with laundry and then do a pump out/fill the water tank and head down Johnsons Hillocks for a couple of days.   Despite what the cruise schedule says, the next guests asked if could change a Friday departure to a Sunday one - which has given us a few more days to kill than we'd like but it has meant we've gone down to  Chorley for a wander around.

Whilst at service point at the top of Johnsons though, we DID spot a familiar boat .

You'd never believe it's a 5 year old boat!... but "I suppose she's a Bickerstaff"  so it's to be expected lol

ACTUALLY, the owner came over as he follows me on Twitter and we had a chat.  I'm always worried when someone comes and mentions  that they either read this or Twitter - as you may know, I'm an opinionated git on occasions Sometimes I can be quite direct and people "think" I don't have a filter.... the scary thing is that WHAT I say and write quite often IS filtered!!!!

Anyway - it turned out I haven't offended him and we had a smashing chat.. . over a pump out lol.

We've a couple more days to catch up with chores - I'm going to have a go at making gluten free bread as our next guests are gluten free veggies ...  lots of things with "cardboard" on the menu then lol.

I also need to do another service/engine and gearbox oils etc - I've also got the anti-freeze to change... although I have no idea how to dispose of the old stuff.... perhaps an elsan point? -  I'll hang on to it a while and see what other boaters do I suppose.

Right - time to roll my sleeves up and get stuck in  ... wish me luck!

Until next time....

Sunday, 7 July 2019

A Long overdue catch up & Skipton to Church...

Yes - I know... I'm being a bit slack at keeping the blog updated lately... no REAL excuses other than "boating and being busy"...  I manage the odd (as in occasional - not weird) tweet (actually some of them are weird I suppose lol... but finding time to sit and write properly when we've got guests on is difficult sometimes.

Right then - I'll be as brief as I can.

In the last missive I waffled on about having a holiday in Skipton with some chores included.  That pretty much summed up about a week.  At the end of which, my brother, his girlfriend and kid came to visit.  It was the first time I've met the girlfriend and child (both of which seem perfectly nice and appear to be "comfortable" - ... my brother is smiling again for the first time in years.  I'd not seen him since mum's funeral but we did at least both acknowledge that AND my dad's absence.  He'd been invited to come but candidly explained he couldn't face Skipton... as it was one of  "their" favourite places to spend days out together.... I just hadnn't been thinking when I pushed him...  Anyway.... time will perhaps help with that one. Missing father a side, it was an nice day.  They'd brought a picnic with them and we chugged off to Kildwick and back... The little girl being a natural on the tiller... my brother less so lol.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the day and when they left for home, we moored up back outside Pennine Cruisers - just in time to see Ian (the boss man ) come up in his Launch...  
I've still got a crush on him and might have been a bit too vocal suggesting if the position of "toy boy" or "son in law" was available, I'd like the position lol...  he's obviously used to drunken middle-aged ginger poofs throwing themselves at him and didn't bat an eye lid!

Andy will take a while to let me forget it however... oh well.

Next day (Monday I think) we'd arranged to meet our guest in the Woolly Sheep - where she intended to buy us our supper... (that's tea to us northerners - supper's at bedtime).... having enjoyed said meal (whatever you call it) we retired to the boat and had an early (ish) night in readiness to prep the boat for her planned arrival next day.  

WHEN that came, of course because "kick out" at the hotel was early, she arrived early... .it wasn't a problem, it just meant we were able to set off for Gargrave sooner than planned AND fill the water tank on route.

As (is typically the case) Andy soon had her roped into working the locks!

We spent a quiet night moored in Gargrave, before setting off the next day - bound for the wiggly bit above Bank Newton...

TALK about hot...  we all ended the day a bit pink, but it  was nice to. have a BBQ that Chrissie had demanded politely suggested we have, as the evening cooled a little.

Like the responsible Boaters we are, we used the ash-can (laid down) to stop it burning the grass AND extinguished it when we'd finished... rather than leaving it to blow about in the wind like so many...  

Aren't we good?

NEXT day, it was another bright and sunny start so we headed up stream and met up with another boat to share Greenberfield locks with... AND some hirers coming down.  They got in to a bit of a pickle - getting stuck in the mud having tried to hover (in the wind) ... no harm was done and everyone was friendly.

Once at the top, we filled the water tank again and then ended our day at the Anchor pub at Salterforth... well, a little farther on.  Not long after we'd settled down to play UNO after tea, (and a few libations I admit) a very smart boat went by which I thought I recognised... and then a message came in via Twitter, inviting us to join them in the pub for the quiz at 9.30... 9.30 being after boaty bed time,  our initial thought had been thanks but no thanks... HOWEVER...  we had a change of heaert and thought bugger it- let's go... SO we did.

I'm not bragging here, but we came joint 2nd - IF Ollie (their dog) had let us count his teeth, we'd have won.  Us not being locals, we gave our winnings back for them to put in the tip jar.  IT'd been a fun but very late evening and we staggered back from the pub - expecting there to be a "splash" somewhere along the way... luckily it didn't happen (this time)....  

Of course, now all being "chatty" we had another couple of drinks back on board before bed and it was after 1.30 by the time we'd retired.... suffice to say, breakfast next morning was a somber affair.... luckily, Chrissie had already offered to make some scrambled eggs... a bit loose for my liking but Andy seemed impressed.   

Our run of lovely weather has continued this week... the occasional cloud but no rain during the day - LAST night we even had the services and moorings at Rose Grove ALL to ourselves...  it's the first time we've ever been there without the continuous moorers "taking" up all the space.

The Crt Volunteers  have built some wooden troughs and planted them up with fruit, veg and edible flowers for boaters to help them selves to...  Chrissie once again demanded  suggested I make a rhubarb crumble to go with tea and having picked sufficient stalks, I did as I was told  I was happy to oblige 😀😁.

Today our run of good luck ended... well I say OUR.... ahem... THOSE two weren't the ones having to climb into the water to try and remove a pallet that had somehow become wedged between the rudder and skeg about a mile down the canal...  

Of course by the time I'd gotten stripped down to my pants and crocs, the blooming thing must have been knocked free by something else on the bottom of the canal... ONCE I'd burrowed about in the DEEP mud (to liberate said crocs) everything in the "home-entertainment-centre" had shriveled and died... ergo, a hot shower and liberal application of hibiscrub was required.

I'm sitting here now - CONVINCED I've contracted some horrible bacterial disease so this might be the last time you hear from me...

Well, until next time...