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...

Monday 8 June 2020

From the heart....

Perhaps I should not be writing this -I've had the best part of two bottles of wine AND a few gins for good/ excessive measure
Hey ho.

'thing is, it's been a stressful day. My dad has been to visit – which is wonderful.... an extremely difficult thing for him to do … especially as “Skipton” was a place he and mum would escape to … to spend time together. I'm SO annoyed at myself for not being able to articulate/vocalize the empathy I feel today … it must have been HELL for him.... to come 'alone' after 50+ years together... the best I COULD do, was chug for an hour or so and introduce him to the new bosun.

A little unfair on David I admit but he (from a background in mental health) was quite able to adapt to the 'awkward' situation presented to him... ME, less so... and dad? - well I have NO idea.

WHY is life SO complicated?

My dad has been through hell - before and after mum died. 

 Thing is, he's coped (at least on the surface) admirably... FAR better than I've been able to (on the surface too if that matters).... and I can't begin to express my admiration for him.... he remains the kindest, most humble and generous soul ANYONE will ever meet. 

He needs a haircut I admit but otherwise, to “the world” he appears intact and quite capable. I SO HOPE HE IS.

Empathy is NOT my favorite trait (I can't even spell it)

It's toxic... to me at least... I lay here – trying to sleep but replaying in my brain, every “bumbling” thing I may (or not) have said today... that SHOULD (or should not) have come out of my mouth,

I love my dad...

I KNOW he loves (and forgives) me for whatever failings I've accrued over the years...

It doesn't detract from the fact, I'm still missing my mum … 48 years old and still missing 'Joyce'. … I know dad is too... but we're at that awkward point when we both know we HAVE to stop bringing her into conversations... for each to others sake. To accept what has happened and move forward.

Apparently that is the “acceptance” stage of grief. SO much for those '5 stages of grief' by kubler resin - …. we keep switching between them when I'd hoped for a more definitive approach by now.

BEING self aware, really does suck sometimes.

ALSO – being aware of the complex relationship between my brother and my father DOES add to the burden – when I say BURDEN, I don't mean it in THAT sense... more of a “worry” - … my brother (whilst also a jolly good, hard working and kind hearted bloke), doesn't have the communicative skills “mum” had... he and dad both struggle in that department and whilst dad DOES appear to be trying very hard to progress, I fear my brother is stuck in his own purgatory.. thankfully now, away form a toxic marriage which had long since died.... he TOO has moved on to share his life with someone kind and special.... they just need to be able to talk to each other in some neutral form... and it plagues me I can't work out how to make that easier for them... there HASN'T been any kind of fall out or argument, they just need to be closer - but then again, that's MY perception... I may be totally off.... and I HOPE I am.  I ALSO hope, by now, my brother has read the letter mum left for him (like she did for us all) 'from the grave'... I read mine, time and time again and it makes me cry but also reassure me, my "life" has value.... as I'm sure it would him too... it may well already have happened but ONCE again, it's a sort of a taboo subject.

Why does it all have to be so complicated?

THAT was rhetorical btw – it's just that whilst in the middle of this whole apocalyptic scenario of “covid 19”, I STILL find myself worrying about all the OTHER perhaps more important/complex crap going on in the world... - I've aunts and uncles 'hiding away' trying to outlive it it, whilst others take the fatalistic approach of “this could be my last few months anyway so I'm NOT going to hide away and die quietly” approach...

NEITHER is right or wrong – only “THEIR” judgement.... and that's ALL we have... our own judgement.

The next person however that says to me “keep safe” is gonna get a kiss on the lips!


… sorry- I mean, 'until next time' ,,,,

Saturday 6 June 2020

Down the rabbit hole...

I logged in this morning with every intention of writing  a witty update - it IS my intention to get back to doing more blogs...certainly when we get moving again - it's even been commented on that of late my 'writing style' has returned to it's former (vaguely) humorous view on life and that perhaps I'm feeling more chipper following on from losing mum last year and getting divorced... a fair assessment I suppose - I've turned grief into acceptance (well mostly) and anger in to forgiveness (see previous parenthesis) .

TROUBLE was this morning, I was having a read of one of the blogs I follow (most are not listed on here) and this lead me to click on to some of the blogs THEY follow ...  and lower down the list, (well actually NOT that much lower tbh) I realized how may of my original bloggers have died.  Mostly due to Cancers.

Since then, I've been ' down that rabbit hole' reminiscing reading their postings and gradual demises  - it's not been a particularly sad thing but it did stop me in my tracks and be grateful for having seized the day so to speak.

Anyway - the "window" is open next weekend - it's gonna be a mammoth task to try and get from where I am to where I need to be ... I am badgering crt to be more flexible in regards lock flight opening hours and my only gain so far has been a 2 hour early opening on one flight - will it be enough?

I'll feed back in due course.

Until next time...

Tuesday 2 June 2020

Solar panel anti-clanking supports, hydraulic bridge woes and a slammed window... perhaps.

I'll settle you in gently today with positive news before I go off on a rant...

WAY back in the early days of the blog,  you may recall I bought some smashing stainless steel VERY heavy solar panel mounts that enable a decent tilt.

In practice, because they are difficult to tighten/slacken without taking the skin of my kunckles, they only ever get tilted as much as the curvature of the roof will allow in their "flat" position.   The reality of having 3 'house' panels of the roof is that they are quite heavy and when the wind blows, they bang around... right above the main bed - the result a very bad nights sleep.

SO - in the middle of the night whilst in Granary Wharf (Centre of Leeds near the station) about 3 am, saw me pottering about outside in gale force winds in my underpants (the winds being out side of my underpants), cutting chunks of kindling to wedge the panels fully one way in the direction the wind was blowing to stabilize them.  This works quite well but the occasional "freak gust" can take the tension off, just enough for them to fall down ... and then of course, clonking resumes.

I even painted them grey to match the boat and whilst a bit naff looking, for the last few months they have proven their worth.

Having spent a little while thinking about a more professional method, I decided to buy some strong magnets and cobble together  engineer an alternative.

A little crude I'll grant you, but it was a prototype - which appeared to be pretty close..  I then managed to find longer metal strips on my mecano set and tweaked it.

I'm quite pleased with it.    I've drilled holes and fastened a bolts through the other side of the panels too so they can be tilted/restrained either side of the boat.

IT works in 2 ways - the bar is under tension to keep the other side of the panel pressed against the roof AND also exerts a pulling force (using the magnet) to provide restraint from winds going under the panel and attempting to use leverage to rip the brackets off the roof.  Fingers crossed the magnets will be strong enough. I'm confident. My dear old Physics teacher would be able to explain it using the correct terminology - I just know it 'works'. 

Having spent a day buggering around with the above (it's only an hour or so's job but as law of sod dictates, you need to go to a hardware shop 2-3 times for such things, factor in buying "extras" as you drop things in the canal and then get distracted with "other 5 min jobs" that themselves turn into 2 hour affairs - one such thing being putting a bit of tubing over the new centre lines (to stop the fair leads chaffing them to the point of snapping like one did last week)... which in turn became a ball ache cause doing that I spotted 2 of the 3 screws holding the fair-lead on were snapped - THE result of this being the 3rd one wouldn't' budge so I ended up crow-baring it off, re-drilling the old ones out, only for the drill to snap off in the hole  - basically, a bugger of a time, drilling out drill bits etc.    Once I'd put my angle grinder away, painted the handrails and refitted the fair leads, I could THEN put the tube over the rope that I set out to...I am sure this is familiar to every boat's engineering departments... Dark Blue jobs!
 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

The weather has been so lovely, (well last weekends 2 days of gale-force winds a side), so we've been chugging down the canal as far as Kildwick one way and Gargrave bottom lock the other way - NOT wanting to get stuck (again) the wrong side of the various hydraulic bridges which are FOREVER breaking - they really are crappy.  No word of a lie/exasperation, every other time we get to one of the big "powered" bridges they break.... often taking many hours for a man in a van to come out and most of the time NO feed back from CRT other than "it might be tomorrow and we'll let you know" - WHICH of course they don't!  They really are a pain.

MADE worse on Sunday by the fact that the men 'working' (I write that loosely) on the towpath had tied up all their hoppers on the swing bridge landing at Bradley and then closed off the access to the towpath which meant for a VERY unhelpful landing stage... not TOO bad for me but any old bird without built in stabilizers, would struggle.

My point about it being "every other time" behind upheld when we'd chug on to the winding hole at Farnhill turned and tried going back through - ... computer said no and crt said "oh yes we know about this and will get back to you"...  but  didn't.  4 Hours after the 1st bloke had reported it (a chap was already stuck when we got back) an off duty Crt chappy turned up as he'd noticed we were stuck and manually got us through.

It's only the good men on the ground and volunteers  that keep crt going - the back office is letting them down constantly and don't even MENTION the oxi moron that is "The Water Management Team"....

oh no - here I go...

You see, AS you're aware, despite the wettest end of winter months you could imagine (remember storms Denis, Ciara, Maureen and the like), that had water flooding through towns , over reservoirs etc? - well, following on from them, we now have the driest spring - which fair play, it has been quite dry... There would have been plenty of water had they NOT been letting it out of the reservoirs when they stopped boats moving back at the beginning of lock down - instead, they kept it flowing and then slapped 24 hours notice on us this canal would be closing...  (yeah I know, I'm repeating myself here)

FAST forward to "boats can now move from the 1st of June as normal" - but NOT you chaps on the L & L or Peak Forrest - you can wait another month and then we'll give you restricted hours .  

They (last Friday) sent out an email intimating there would be a 2-3 day emergency window to allow boats to escape.   getting from Skipton to the bottom of Wigan in 3 days will NOT be fun.. or particularly  safe and I'm afraid it doesn't leave any time for "tick over past moored boats" either - in short, it's irresponsible and incompetent of crt.... and the biggest worry of all being that they will lock up Blackburn "out of hours" as usual, or not let us in at the top of Wigan at whatever time we get there... thus marooning us in a place we'd not want to BE marooned...From what I read on facebook groups and boating forums, there are a lot of people stuck in the wrong places and have been for a long time - ergo, WHEN they let us move, it'll be chaos.  

WHAT'S worse is that on talking to a crt chappy (well some bloke in one of their t-shirts) the other day, HE seems to think the "window" may be abandoned all together now they've finally realised how many boats are going to have to try and squeeze through it at the same time - ergo, they'll  make us all wait until 1st July and then let us have a free for all.

WHY exactly do they charge me double for a business licence? I don't get any additional help or support - just the same party line of "we will post an update on line - NEXT Week"? - I'm getting quite cross about it - almost militant.

It looks like hire boats will be allowed to operate from July - and I'm going to try and work out a "social distancing plan" for 'Ellis' ... It's vaguely possible so long as we don't eat at the same time in the boat - and guests sit at the front rather than the back when under way - it IS possible for one guest to be at the back at a time "diagonally from the counter to the seat" 2 metres apart but it's a farcical - we're more at risk going through the checkout in Morrisons.

HOPEFULLY  Boris will  adopt WHO guidelines of 1 metre and more businesses can stand a chance.

Hmmm... we'll see - It sucks.

Until next time...when I may or may not have raced over the Pennines in record time!