Sunday 31 March 2019

A Few days in Aston Marina...

Righty ho - we've been offline (as in the cut) for a few days now... comfortably ensconced in Aston Marina (Stone)... it's nice.

Thursday morning, we chugged in about 10 and after a quick pump out and top up with diesel - which btw was very reasonably priced at 73p a litre,  we were allocated a temporary pontoon to moor on for the 3 days we'd agreed on.  It's worked out at 12 quid a day but at least we have a tap and shoreline to the boat.

There's a one way system in the marina and we've been amazed (considering it's still 'off season') how many boats move around in here...  it IS a bit of a wind hole by all accounts, but when we came in it was perfectly still.

We really couldn't have had (good English not) nicer weather to be here... it gave the place a really welcoming feel....AS did Sandra (the new girl) and Nick the manager here... both TRULY the right people for the job.

Whilst here, I've done various maintenance jobs such as finishing off darning the fly nets on the portholes... you remember, the ones I holed with a tree back in Leeds on route to my mum's funeral.  Writing of mum, today is 'Mothering Sunday' and after weeks of being constantly reminded by media, shops and pubs, the world can go back to normal... it's been horrible and I won't lie - today I do feel especially sad about it.  Even my brother who's not very emotional commented it felt odd to him too ... I'm interpreting "odd" meaning that he's sad too. It does feel weird not to have bought a card & flowers and it feels even odder, knowing that I'm not going to phone her today.

Such is life.

So, as I was waffling on about, AFTER I finished darning the nets (not very well but at least they are fly-proof again) I got out the "newly mixed" paint to touch up here and there...  it's not the same colour exactly but it'll do and the bits I've done (the darker grey) DO look better than before at least.

I've also had to "repair" the NEW TV Ariel as it somehow got broken at the bit the "F" connector, connects to - the soldering inside totally snapped off.  I suppose they are not really designed to be taken up and down every day... anyway - having thought logically about it, rather than faffing TRYING to solder the female socket back on, (which would be a right old faff for my fat fingers) I decided to REMOVE the point of weakness altogether - to achieve this I had to flatten the coax cable enough to push it inside the antenna (under the prongs) to get it out the other end - where, I then crimped a couple of connectors onto it and  screwed it to the same place the original bit had been...  Job's a good un and now when I erect/dismantle it when on the move, there is no strain on anything other than the cable. RESULT!

Once that was done, I moved my attention to the Engine bay and decided that although 20 hours early, I'd change both of the diesel filters, the engine and gear box oils and oil filter.    Bit of a school boy error though as I didn't run the engine long enough to warm the oil so "pumping it out" was a slow process...only managing about a table spoon per pump... ergo, 8 litres took a long time to remove - of course, I only discovered it was taking ages when I'd gone PAST the point of being able to run the engine to warm it up a bit more (well without pouring what I'd just pumped out back in again if you follow).  No matter, it got done... AS did the gearbox but BOY oh BOY WHY is the drain plug on the PRM 150 SO blooming hard to reach?... even with my "new big spanner" it's an absolute git to remove/refit as there's no where to stand that doesn't risk breaking something!

Whilst in the engine hole, I checked the belts, and torqued the engine mounts AND filled the stern greaser... I even tightened up the locking nuts by half a turn (having discovered with my micrometer one side had a 1 mm bigger gap than the other)...  Hopefully that'll mean less drips and less wasted grease.

I also had a bit of luck in the Marina office as they had a compatible fuel filter at just over 12 quid... the ones I've been buying (made by Daedong) are now 26 quid each...  it's good to have a couple in stock.  I am down to my last oil filter now though so I'm gonna have to order a few from Calcutt boats... well unless I manage to find some on our travels... compatible ones thus far have been impossible to source.  The Daegong ones are not too dear though at about 9 quid a pop so I can live with using original parts if necessary.

Whilst we've been here, we've reunited with our friends Eddie & Wendy (who over wintered here) and Since Joyce died, I've been very lucky to have Wendy "online" to natter with about stuff ... she's been very kind to me and has taken some of the strain off Andy ... it's not easy for folk living with a partner on an emotional roller coaster... espeically when they've no real understanding of how it feels - with Wendy, (having gone through it) she knows how to respond... well for the most part at any rate.  We went out for a meal with them to a Chinese in Stafford  the other evening- I forget it's name but it was really nice.  I think they are going for lunch there today when their kids come to visit for 'mother's day'...

WE on the other hand are planning on leaving this morning - we've lost that hour in bed but the sun is shining so when the marina office opens at 10, I'll nip in, hand back our fob (to get the tenner refund)  and we'll be off.

We're heading BACK up through Stone and intend on a little jaunt up the Caldon Canal - apparently going up there and the Leek branch qualify for a couple of 'silver plaque' thingys... we don't go in for all that... we just want to take some photos, and colour in the map.  Easily pleased - that's us.

Until Next time...

Thursday 28 March 2019

On to Etruria - well that was the plan anyway...

Rewind a bit...

You'll recall when we arrived at Anderton Boat Lift we couldn't go down until Friday - So, rather than just sit around, we figured we'd carry on with our journey South and "do" Anderton at a later date... we've trips with guests planned for NEXT year anyway so it wasn't too great a disappointment.

Whilst moored above the lift, we did have a couple of bonus experiences though.  The first being bumping into (not literally) a fellow boat forum celebrity on his boat.  He goes by the name of "Mr Stabby" (well at the moment anyway) and on spotting his boat (actually, it was the funky moped that caught my eye) - I called through the open front door "HEY STABBY" - to which the reply "NOW THEN YOU GINGER PUFF" came echoing...  As it was our first meeting in person, we were both on our best behavior and it turns out he's a really interesting and quite 'normal' (despite what his internet persona would have you believe) chap.

He even let me ( or at least didn't object when I did) model the afore-mentioned moped!

Ater a quick walk around Anderton (not the nature reserve as a pub lunch beckoned) we headed back to the boat and began an afternoon of chores.

Everything came off the roof so it could be swept and washed and whilst Andy was doing that, I sawed up some wood I'd fished out of a lock a few days earlier and then began "darning" the fly screen nets over the port holes... you may remember a few months back I got distracted talking to a dog on the towpath (as you do) and got too close to a tree in the process - WHICH put holes through 4 nets on the starboard side...  I tried to replace them but the company that made them has stopped (or is stopping) trading now do to having children!

Whilst I was doing my mending, a boat turned up behind us and suddenly went in to reverse... I have to admit, at first I was thinking "What is this plonker doing" whilst at the same time preparing my "I'm friendly to everyone face"... it turned out a few mins later it was a couple we'd gone down the Rufford branch of the Leeds and Liverpool  with LAST YEAR who'd spotted us and wanted to drop in a bottle of wine as a thank you for our help - it WAS a horrible wet and windy day when we went down with them and also HER (Jayne with a y) first time boating...  given the conditions at the time, it really was a baptism of fire for her.  ANYWAY - it was really lovely of them to stop by and especially so given the gift .

After a brief catch up - during which we forgot our manners and didn't even off THEM a drink, they departed to continue on their trip and we got back to our chores.

I have to admit- my darning isn't exactly invisible (despite what the thread says on the packet) but at least fly's wont get through it!

Next morning, we decided we'd set off ourselves with plan to get to Harecastle Tunnel in time for Wednesday passage - TURNS out we needn't have rushed, 'cause if I'd read it properly, I'd have know the winter time-table was now over!

On departure, we topped up the water tank at Anderton Services and continued our way along the Trent & Mersey canal.  I dont know whether it's always as low, but progress was slow as a result of shallow water... not that we should be rushing along anyways but you know what I mean.  As we approached 'Lion Salt Works' (on tick over of course) a lady stuck her head out of the boat we were passing and shouted that she reads this blog - I appologised of course lol.

There as some lovely canal side properties along this stretch and we dreamed about owning quite a few of them... this was our favourite so far.

We chugged for 11 hours and 45 mins and ended the day at Rode Heath... Towards the end it did get rather cold so we were pleased to get in doors with the fire blazing.

IT turned out, Rode Heath was quite a nice place to stop for the night anyway.... there was a pub canal side, (although we didn't partake on this occasion and we had a lovely and quiet evening's sleep... which came very easily after such a long day.

We got up with the daylight the following morning and chugged on - planning to get to Harecastle Tunnel with an aim of ending our day at Etruria.   The double/paired locks were easy enough - although it was a little frustrating occasionally when I was all lined up to go in one side, only to find the lock was broken and a bit of zig-zagging was required....

The closer we got to the tunnel, the more ginger the water became - I'm thinking about petitioning CRT to arrange ALL canal water to be this lovely colour...

We chugged on - passing the entrance to the Macclesfied Canal (which we'll be heading up next week to collect our guests) made our way to  Harecastle.

 When we arrived at the tunnel, we had to wait about 40 mins for a boat that was coming through from the other direction.  The CRT chap checked our horn, lights and suggested we don our life-jackets.  He really was the right man for the job - really friendly, positive and a thoroughly like able bloke.

We didn't take many photos IN the tunnel... AFTER Standedge, tunnels are very much a  let down

The only difference with this tunnel and some of the others being the doors get closed behind you and the doors at the other end, dont get opened until you are nearly through... you can hear the ventilation fans pushing/pulling air through the tunnel - getting louder as you reach the other end...

We arrived at Etruria about lunchtime and as the sun had come out, once again we changed our plan and carried on chugging... all the way to Stone.  Stone is a lovely place - (I'm skipping past Stoke which apart from the old pottery kilns, isn't really much to write home about...  I'm sure it has it's nice parts, but we had no intention to hang around there so just chugged on through... we'll probably investigate it properly in the future if we have guess who want to visit the Middleport pottery factory.

The canal scenery returned to "pretty" again before too long as we left Stoke - 

WE EVEN overtook a train!!!
As we arrived in Stone, I couldn't help but smile at the naming convention of this hire company...

a very good choice in my opinion!

Our day ended just through Stone bottom lock near the entrance to Aston Marina...  its here we've half a plan to spend our winter months. Tomorrow, we're going to book in for a couple of days (on shoreline with water on tap) and visit our friends Eddie  & Wendy' who've over-wintered here...  

Until next time...

Wednesday 27 March 2019

Anderton to Rode Heath...

FYI this is FAR too FAR for one day ... that one day being yesterday.

I'll update you tomorrow as we're setting off to get to Harecastle Tunnel now.

We're a bit tired today - nuf said.

Monday 25 March 2019

A Segway to Runcorn and wrong numbers...

Yesterday morning, the sun was shining, the sky (mostly) clear and bird song was abundant... SO, rather than explore Lymm (which we've done loads of time on foot anyway) we decided to pull ropes and chug along instead.

The sun-shine was a bit deceiving - BOY it was cold... of course, a certain Ginger idiot the Captain, hadn't dressed accordingly and spent the next few hours with teeth chattering.

As we left Lymm along the canal, we were reminded we were in Cheshire and generally the views from the cut was quite lovely.

Chugging along, we came through Moore and saw the first reasonable gathering of swans for we'd seen for a while - Geese generally being more common since we left Huddersfield.

The wind was picking up a bit now but the sky remained bright so we plodded on and before long we'd arrived at Preston Brook - given we were a day ahead of schedule now, a plan was quickly hatched to divert up the arm to check out Runcorn...

The arm starts off nicely enough with a boat yard and Marina etc.. even some of the housing along side is pleasant but you soon get a feeling things are going to go down hill...

Our idea HAD been to tie up for the day outside the Brindley Theatre as there are both rings AND CCTV cameras there...  however, as we chugged on by, a couple of motor bikes sped past and gave the place a bit of a negative vibe - continuing on to the end of the arm it just didn't feel nice.. razer wire everywhere and moored boats with metal grills on the outside of the windows - WHY folk choose to stay in such places is (as in live in boats that look like a prison) is beyond me.

We turned when the canal ran out - just in front of this old pub... I'll leave YOU to work out how to pronounce it... suffice to say, I don't think it IS a pub any longer  - although I'm happy to be proven wrong.

Retracing out steps chugs, we went back to Preston Brook and turned right to find somewhere nice to moor for the evening- my toes almost ready to drop off.  First we went through Preston Brook Tunnel and for a change for us, timed it just right ... arriving at the portal at dead on half past 4...(half past to twenty to this direction)...   Since Standedge, nothing has even come close at feeling like a tunnel - in fact, I THINK my fear of them is now gone... that's a result...  we chugged on through in no time.

 Andy had been at the tiller and when we emerged, I was amazed we'd not clonked into the side even once ;-)

Our day ended on the Trent & Mersey Canal... another first for 'Ellis' - we were even lucky enough to find some rings to moor on ... the down side being we were in a signal black spot for both the TV and my EE internet connection... ergo, this is coming to you from "Three"...

Until next time...

Saturday 23 March 2019

Manchester to Lymm and friendly locals...

Righty ho - it's now Saturday afternoon and we've just tied up for the day outside the Bridgewater Club in Lymm.

We've spent the last couple of nights moored in Castlefield Basin - apparently ON someone's mooring. Bless, yesterday afternoon, a young woman stopped by with her dog to ask how long we'd  be staying... on HER mooring lol.  There was no obvious sign that it 'belonged' to anyone...a couple of old tyres hanging on ropes I admit but no identifiers...

She was really lovely about it though -saying that she'd just been off to charge her batteries when she came back to see us tied up... so went around the corner to visit her friend... she also said there was no rush to move on.  It transpired during our chat, that HER boat also came from the same place as ours... also as a self fit out .  Ahem, without bragging, ours has been finished for over 18 months... and she's still waiting for a sink!

It was nice chatting though.

LAST night Andy finally broke his "dry January" with half a bottle of wine... he's done so well not drinking and it was nice for us both to be sitting out the back of the boat people watching and sipping a merlot but it was a shame when it began to rain.

We'd imagined a Friday night in Manchester centre would be noisy - turns out it was no worse than the night before ... with the exception of the ruddy geese - heavens they made a lot of noise... at about 3 am, I Was googling "methods to catch and cook Canadian Geese"!

ANYWAY - despite the disturbed night, 7 am I cast off and went to the water point... at least the one that wasn't hidden...  services here are NOT very obvious.  Say what you will about CRT but at LEAST you can generally FIND theirs!

It was quite a fast tap so by 7.30, we were on our way ...

The Bridgewater canal out of Manchester through Salford is... to be kind, a bit grim... to be FRANK, it's bloody awful...  luckily, no locks or swing bridges mean interaction with scrotums is easily avoided...  THAT Said, at half seven in the morning, there aren't many around.

Unfortunately (for me) Andy had been looking on Google Earth again and spotted a shopping park not far from the canal with a 'Home Bargains' - you see, he bought some plastic planters in Huddersfield but didn't buy enough... NOW everywhere we go, we have to go and see if he can get a couple more... AND of course, sods law means, they never have any in stock... true to form, despite having to tie up against a railing, leave the boat in a dodgy area and then walk a bit, we STILL didn't get any.  On the plus side, I did get a nice salad from M & S for lunch.

WE chugged on - passing Manchester United's ground, and on to 'Waters Meeting'

We stopped in at Stretford Marina and topped up with Diesel - we've used 75 litres since Huddersfield...  a fair bit of that will have been on the heating though as we've been a bit lazy with the fire...

 We traveled through Sale (which is nice enough but has WAY too many moored boats to crawl past on tick-over)... we saw the  "ferry" to take cruise club members from one side of the canal to the other in operation...

Altringham was the next stop... IN search of ruddy plant pots again...  once more, tying Ellis up on a railing... but not for too long and there were plenty of "normal" looking folk around at the time.

NO luck again!!!

Still, at least the sun was out which was a good job as it time go down the weed-hatch again... this time, removing some kind of "cord/rope" and more plastic bags...  the tiller was at least MUCH nicer to handle for the remainder of our trip to Lymm.

As we approached the village, we passed by the boat yard we got the boat from - not stopping to say hello because the temperature had dropped a fair bit and we wanted to moor up for the day to get the fire going... 

Here we are, just near the 'Bridgewater Club" and we'll probably move away on Monday morning.  Mindful we need to get to Marple Junction a couple of days before we NEED to if you follow - we really don't want anything to go wrong for what will NOW be the first cruise of our season.

Writing of Cruises, we've had another 3 bookings this last week - 1 of which is another returning guest from last year and we're really pleased about that...

2019 looks like it's going to be a fun-filled cruising season and we're really looking forward to having company with us again.

Until next time...