Saturday 22 August 2020

Northwich to Manchester to Tarleton to Liverpool - at last!.. PHOTO HEAVY

It's been quite a busy time sine I was last here...  I'll explain.  Whilst down 'playing' on the Weaver, I had a call from a chap wanting to know if we could fit him in before our next planned trip.

Being skint thanks to covid and lack of support from Boris EVER amenable, we quickly worked out a plan to offer a 3 night trip on the river AND incorporate the return journey up the Anderton Boat lift at the same time.

This meant initially that we might have to abandon the planned trip the other way (down to Runcorn) on the river given the restricted locking operational days.

Tying up in Northwich the night before the chap was due to arrive, it  had all gotten a bit congested and when we went to fill the water tank, we "lost" our space.  Looking across to the Marina (with apparent spaces) it seemed logical to give them a call and see if we could tie up for the night - plugged in to shoreline.

The lovey Heather was most helpful and we were able spend the night on a floating pontoon - plugged in to the national grid.

Having developed a bit of a rapport with the chap arriving, I'd explained he'd need to sign our covid disclaimer and agree to having his temperature taken twice daily - (infrared rather than rectally)😉  and David even made a valiant effort at a "duck" towel for him...

If you are coming along at some point, don't expect this every time... we had time on our hands lol.

Once our guest was on board (and covid proofed), we discussed options... he was game to head down stream and try to get to the end of the river and back in the time... in the end, we had MORE than enough and ended up almost wasting  time.  At least heading down stream meant we wouldnt get stuck if the lockie was forced to work to rule - the locks holding up to 24 boats at a time!

We spent our first night together moored just after the last lock - the plan being to chug down to the "end" the following day before overnighting at Devil's Garden (referred to as enchanting in the guide) in readiness for our return up stream the next day...

It was a nice enough evening, but the next morning the wind had gotten up and rain was intermittent.

The run down to Runcorn was uninspiring and the squalls coming and going made for some miserable cruising - still, we made the best of it and stopped off to take a look over at the ship canal.

ON our return, the rain was awful and on tying up at Devil's Garden, we STILL decided to go for an exploratory walk... in the mud!

Still, AFTER our walk, the sun DID return and the evening ended nicely.

Next day we returned to Northwich for our final night with our guest and then went up the boat lift as planned.  Saying goodbye to him, we winded and then began our journey to pick up the next guest.  Alas, he emailed to cancel as due to the quarantine restrictions imposed (he was coming from overseas) he'd be unable to join us in Runcorn on Sunday as planned.    

Rather then detour to Runcorn, we hatched a revised plan to head straight to Manchester and have a couple of nights in the Marina again - where I planned to paint the roof, fit some fairleads and give the boat a good clean.  Once again, PLANNING to do jobs meant something would break... THIS time it was my drill - it finally burned out drilling the holes for the fairleads and that necessitated a walk to screwfix to buy a replacement (I'd only drilled 1 of the 4 holes when it melted)...

The walk from the marina to the shop wasn't too far (circa 1.5 miles each way) but in the  heat by the time we'd got there (and put on the required mask to enter the store) I could understand perhaps why so many folks get agitated wearing them... I have to admit it should be ALL folks in the shops not just the customers... no point in moaning about that however.  The walk back, did introduce me to a sad sign of the times... masks now beginning to litter the streets!

Once back in the marina, I finished fitting the fairleads, washed down the roof of the boat and then applied a coat of paint.  To be honest, it was WAY too hot to be painting but I added a bit of white-spirit to the paint and made as good a job as I could ...  it's ok and has at least sealed in the non-slip granules properly now.

IT really did get hot though - being in the marina (in full sun all day) the boat was like a sauna...

Although for some reason, "Vinny" the marina managers dog, didn't seem to want to sit in the shade of the parasol -opting for full sun!

When our time was up, we left and headed off towards Appley Bridge where our next guest was due to join us.  The weather still kind to us, we enjoyed the trip along the Bridgwater to the Leigh Branch of the Leeds & Liverpool

We spent a night at Pennington flash where I witnessed my first "live" mirmiration (sorry no photos - I did take a video but can't find it now)and then went on through Wigan in the sun (for a change) before tying up in the old lock arm after Appley Bridge - a leak recently occurring there has meant crt have filled the hole, cut down some trees and taken the edge off the mooring... THAT said, I did at least see many kingfishers whilst there so it's not all bad.  I've got some photos somewhere that David took and once I work out how to get them out of Whats app into my normal gallery, I'll upload them!

Once our guest arrived, we chugged off towards our ultimate destination of Liverpool.  Having looked at the map, we decided there'd be time for a quick diversion down the Rufford branch to Tarleton (Ribble link) so that was a nice detour.

Although a lot longer than I remembered it from 2018

Once back on the mainline, we chugged on to Maghull and through to Melling where we planned to stop the night before the run into the docks - reputation of the rough areas ahead being our primary motivation.  The canal beyond Maghull was quite weedy and after way too many trips down the weedhatch, once tied up for the night, we decided to head out to the Bootle Arms for tea (taking advantage of Boris's "eat out to help out" discount.  

It was nice enough  - if a bit chaotic.

The journey next morning towards Litherland left a lot to be desired...  the canal being full of junk and general yuk.  

Once at Litherland services, we stopped to get rid of rubbish and top up the water tank .  As the wind began to get up again that proved to have been a good idea... 

It rained solidly from Litherland through Bootle to Eldonian village and by the time we arrived at the locks, I was soaked to the skin.  Jules (the lockie) was there and helped work us down through the flight - providing information and advice at each lock.  

Not many boats in ... and even less as I type this (Saturday morning) as 2 left yesterday before the link was closed due to high-winds....

More are due to arrive today (them being held at Eldonian village over night) so hopefully we'll have a few neighbors before the day is out.

We got  until Wednesday now to explore and experience Liverpool - it's good to FINALLY have made it here on the boat after a couple of thwarted previous attempts.

Until next time...

Wednesday 12 August 2020

Back to the Weaver, External Wifi Antenna and a bit of a moan.

Since our guest left, we developed another "gap" in the schedule due to another overseas booking not being able to come - the whole year so far being a total right off.   TRYING not to be too down about it, we took the opportunity again to head BACK down on to the weaver ... this time for a full week (which you don't really need normally but given the restricted lock operational hours AND lift operating times, you couldn't really go down for less and be able to sail it's full length.

Heading back to Anderton, the weather was glorious and before long we were sitting in the caissons of the lift waiting to go down.  Ahem, "Ellis's" curse struck once more and the lift decided to play up - ergo, we spent a while waiting until the computer would let it work.  Thinking back to the old days, traffic was circa 70 boats a day with 1 bloke operating it in the hut at the top ... progress however requires a team of 4, an engineer on call AND a computer to manage about 18 boats a day!

Make of that what you will. 

No matter, we were sharing the lift with a lovely old couple who'd been up and down it more times than I've had hot dinners (and from my currently "fat" status, that's a fair old number) which distracted us all... along with their tales of how many HOURS they'd spent over the years "stuck" in it lol.

This was the Friday - the locks down on the river not opening until the "short windows" on Saturday morning... during which we got ourselves in position to head up stream to Winsford through Hunts and Vale locks.

As was to be expected, we were not the first boats in the queue for Hunts lock - there were 3 ahead of us so we had to wait until the 2nd locking ... no big deal as the lockie on duty promised to get us all up - being acutely aware of how frustrated boaters are at the current set up... THIS being cause by CRT not bringing back all the seasonal s and using covid as an excuse to do so ... to the detriment of boaters wishing to use the navigation.   

When our turn arrived, we shared the lock with 2 other boats and once ascended, the lockie (who was now running late for his next 'locking' (up at Vale locks) suggested if we could manage full speed to the next locks that would help him out - so we did.  I have to admit, it did take the edge of the experience as racing to the next lock (with the exception of that manic dash from Skipton to Wigan in June) is a bit alien to me.

On arrival at Vale locks, we'd beaten the lockie so tied up best we could to fit the other boats in - eventually pulling right in behind the gates so the other 2 could at least breast up and have a bollard.

Once through the lock, we were able to meander our way up stream - there now being no rush.

The other boats raced off ahead (literally) - something which sadly we became too familiar with on the Weaver on this occasion... folks perhaps knowing mooring spaces were limited and wanting to be "first place"... hey ho.  The weather was beginning to deteriorate a bit so by the time we got to the Red Lion Pub at lunch time, we tied up on their (badly designed and boat scratching/window poking) pontoon and went in for COKE and LEMONADE! - yes you read that right...  we have been trying alternate drinking days again... I'm NOT keen but it DOES save a few calories and might help with the belly.

Once the weather had cleared a little, we chugged on to the mooring at the end of the navigation - well, technically BEYOND the end of the navigation at the approaches to Winsford Flash.

It's actually (from a boating perspective) a really pretty end (or beginning I suppose) to the navigable Weaver - the flash ahead of you looking SO temping but ALSO being SOOOO shallow... not worth the risk of doing donuts despite the temptation.

It's really quite nice in the basin - but BOY it's shallow... a fair few places we couldn't get in but thankfully, a boat shuffled along and made some space... despite the chap in front of him (moored on the water point which actually IS a mooring unfortunately) stating he couldn't move back as it was too shallow.  

On this trip we did seem to encounter a few (repeat offenders) of the "entitled boater variety"...  Something that really irked on Sunday morning when I cast off and headed back towards Vale locks in readiness for he first locking of the day - the locks didn't open until after 10 and I slipped quietly away about 8 am ... a lovely gentle chug down stream.. the early morning sunshine making for a glorious steady journey.

about an hour into it, along comes Mr "I'm going to over take you whilst we pass under a shallow bridge then slow right down in front of you to ensure I get the only mooring on the lock landing"...

That's not cricket - given his aging years, perhaps he felt it was his right to have first dibs.  Now frankly that got up my nose cause when faced with a decrepit boater, I am always first to offer help.  I was brought up to put myself out for the benefit of others... it really put me in a sad mood if I'm honest - and when  pulled alongside thinking "oh well I'll breast up" the child in me kicked in and I decided rather than put myself close enough to tell the chap how rude I thought he'd been, I wedged 'Ellis' in the lock mouth instead. It's just not worth picking an argument about trivial things.  

When the lockie arrived, we all went in and went down  the lock - me alongside the old git I'd taken against my new best friend... lol.

Heading back down stream - this time at a more relaxed pace, I was able to have a proper look around...  there are some really interesting boats along  there.

Alas, by the time we'd made it to Hunts lock, we were no longer the only boats going down - in fact there soon became a queue of 8 of us - trying to fit in to space for 3.  

A few breasted up along side the folks FIRST in the queue which then meant a bit of a shuffle for them to come out and into the lock when the time came...

A breezy day din't bode well for the remaining 5 of us all trying to hold water and hover in the stream...  all very friendly with one another but frustrated at crt for the locking restrictions.

We were on the 2nd locking down and the lock keeper was clearly frazzled - him NOT being supposed to lock us down but make us wait 2 and a half hours until the next locking window - to allow him time to go back up stream to the former locks and operate them.  Poor chap - he used his common sense and was VERY considerate to boaters... unlike the management team!  He saw us all through and we were very grateful - the others zooming off down stream towards Saltesford locks whilst we decided to call it a day and tie up.  There is no fun in zooming about fighting for space despite what them in charge seem to think is a good idea!

A perfect opportunity for me to fit the external wifi antenna I'd ordered on ebay.

I've been using a little Huwaiewa (spelling?) mifi point my friend gave me years ago for wifi on board but in weaker signal areas, it often struggled to get a signal - what with the boat acting like a Faraday cage... the solution often as simple as dangling it from a porthole - not ideal but effective.  

Anyway - this little external Ariel came from China (not sure how I feel about that at the moment but I'll let it slide) ... it works really well but was a bit of a bugger to fit.  In the end, I decided to utilise an existing hole through the roof for the tv ariel coax and fit it in the main cabin - that entailed wiring in a new usb socket to power it (inside the crew long term storage wardrobe) but it's all done now and working well...  the proof of the pudding will be the Llangollen canal I suppose but so far, we've had green lights in more places than amber or red.

Until next time...