Monday, 13 September 2021

Rubbish at keeping up to date

 I know I know I know.

The short version is that when folks are coming and going and I'm organizing trips/trying to work around emergency stoppages, dealing with mechanical problems (both alternators failed just as new guests were arriving) and trying to get 'Ellis' to the right place at the right time - whilst still fitting in with timed lock flights etc., I just really struggle to find a few hours to do updates here.

In fact, right now I don't have time to do one either as  a new guest is arriving this morning and we are having to make a detour from where we intended (which was straight up Foxton Locks) the other way for a few miles for a pumpout - one that had been planned for here but a combination of bad timing for the wharf and a dicky pumpout machine is meaning its not guaranteed

Normally, it would be a oh well, we'll wait until the next boat yard situation - however, because the last week has been spent dealing with no engine powered battery charging (we've had to chug with a genny running at the stern), all my thinking went into arranging a new Aux alternator and sometimes scaling 6 ft fences in order to buy petrol for the aforementioned...

So, here is a photo stream of the last month. showing repairs, general maintenance and some lovely boating views.... at some point I may come back and annotate what's what.

I promise I will make more of an effort to up date this place - I tweet lots but only because I can do that from my phone on the hoof and 'stage' a photo which makes life look relaxing, whilst at the same time I've got a pan of carrots on the go and something in the oven lol.

Until next time...

Sunday, 8 August 2021

New Batteries, R & R, missing adverts and some more down time.

 I gave in.  

Trying to keep the batteries going was wearing me down... way too much battery management going on rather than enjoying boating - add to that guests who want to charge devices over night etc. and it was just getting too much.

SO - I bit the bullet and ordered 4 new ones from Tayna... next day delivery supposedly.  A Saturday order, arriving Tuesday.  In theory that would have been fine as we had a few days between guests so we'd booked in to New Mills Marina (which incidentally is quite nice ... the Lovey Sue and Rufus being very hospitable).    I HAD tried to buy them from the Marina (whenever possible I DO try to give business to boatyards/marinas etc) but the only ones they had were the wrong size/ratings.  I asked before ordering and they were perfectly happy for me to have them delivered there.  All good (or so you'd think)...When they hadn't arrived by Wednesday morning, I began to get a bit miffed - we had guests to collect in Whaley Bridge from the 2.46 train so had to leave around lunchtime... STILL not batteries.  Oh well, assuming they'd come in the afternoon, I arranged to call in the following morning as we chugged by on our travels to Marple.  

You've guessed it though - by noon Thursday when we arrived... the batteries hadn't.  Grrr.  So there was only one thing for it... chug on and get back to our day.

Annoyingly, once we'd got to Marple (and tied up so our guests could have an explore) I got a phone call from the courier firm to say they were at the Marina with my batteries ffs.   There wasn't time for us to turn around, head back to New Millls AND get back on track with out timings to make it to Bosley Locks (within the stupid 8.30 - 1pm restricted opening hours) so I resigned myself to having to wait until the end of this trip and then come back up for them .  However, when an overseas guest then cancelled, it meant we wouldn't have needed to come back up - except for the batteries... ergo, I called a taxi and whilst did have to stomach a 30 quid fair, it did save a weeks chugging.... AND the cab driver helped me carry 2 of them back to the boat from the bridge in Marple.

It'd been quite nice having a few days off between customers - quite good timing too as my old phone (cracked screen) was playing up so it allowed time to get the train to Manchester to go to EE and get a new one - my contract had expired so the outcome of that is that I got a new phone AND saved 30 quid a month.  Result.

Whilst rushing back to catch the train back, we bumped into my ex and his ex (at least I think they are still exe's ... who knows) - luckily there wasn't time to stop and chat and to be honest, it would have been very awkward for both the bosun and whoever the other chap was... we did exchange polite messages later in the day and both agreed, stopping and chatting would have been difficult.  It's strange to find the prospect of talking face to face with someone you shared 14 years of your life with so daunting but there we are - life moves on.

A glass of wine and read in the evening sun later and all was well with the world again.

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

As we worked our way down the Macclesfield canal, rather than (as usual) look for sunny spots to give maximum power to the batteries from the solar panels, SHADE was the order of the day as it was simply too hot for comfort... despite all portholes being open, the inside was like a furnace so we grabbed the last bit of shade (a bit too close to a bridge for comfort tbh) and then settled down for the day.

Still, having new batteries ready to fit, did mean I was able to relax a bit and just let the batteries get used up .  The down side being having to store 4 bloody heavy lumps in the saloon... luckily, they sort of fitted either side of the chairs and didn't cause too much of a nuisance. 

There was no way of fitting them after we stop for the day as the engine compartment is unbearably hot then... and no time to fit them on a morning before we start as due to tunnel and lock flight timings (not to mention the need to run the engine for hotwater first thing)... they'd have to wait until the guests had left.

Speaking (well writing) of guests, we had a nice time with them - a returning couple who whilst on occasions have opposing opinions to myself, were able to rub along nicely with mutual respect preventing major frictions... THEY get the 'live-aboard' experience and both of us enjoyed our time together... they even took us out for dinner on the last night as a thank you... which was much appreciated AND meant I had a meal in reserve for the freezer lol.  

During our travels, we even got lucky (first time ever for 'Ellis') and dropped on to an empty pontoon mooring in Macclesfield town - another chance to put my feet up for half an hour and plod on with an awful book I'm forcing myself to get through... it's rubbish but I've only got about 100 pages to go now so I will finish it.

Once down Bosely, we chugged and spent a night close enough to the tunnel to be able to try for an earlier than booked, passage. This gave me chance to call into the marina and buy some new centre lines (the old ones were frayed where they rub on the fair leads) - NOT a problem on canal if they snap but more  on a river.  They do get a lot of use as cause even when I've got crew, I still pretty much single hand... using the centre line for everything.  The ropes were dear enough but when they wanted a fiver each for splicing an eye on them I decided to have a go myself again... Youtube to the rescue and half an hour later, 10 quid saved. 

Once at Harecastle, we'd just missed the tunnel by 10 mins (sods law) but I did have a very productive conversation with a crt chap - it is possible!  I'd been moaning about the tunnel times making a relaxing cruise difficult... he explained the thinking behind it being that the new manager wanted to make better use of the staff... so rather than have folks sitting around all afternoon at both ends of the tunnel waiting for a boat that may or may not arrive, by booking slots in the afternoon (and suggesting boats come early if they can) it frees up staff to go off elsewhere and do maintenance tasks, such as greasing etc.  I get it... it's not ideal but finally something proactive from someone at CRT.

We were 2nd  in a convoy of 4 boats and did get through about half an hour before our booked slot - that gave us the last mooring at Westport Lake and time for a wander around before tea... and of course a few mins feet up time again.

We spent our last night at Etruria and then got up early to get down Stoke locks (5 before breakfast) to the train station.  We carried on (in thunder and torrential rain) all the way down to Stone - we'd half planned to stop off at Wedgewood but once soaked through figured we may as well just get there.

Luck was on our side again and we found a spot to moor just up from a couple of boaty friends.  Having a couple of days spare, we made the best of things, explored Stone on foot and were lucky enough to be able to meet them in the pub for a lunchtime session.  

It's not often we're able to stop and enjoy 'boat life' fully - but an afternoon in the pub drinking wine, chewing the cudd and generally being silly was wonderful.  It was after 5pm (and probably 5 bottles of wine) by the time we left and made our way back to our respective boats... via Morrisons which on reflection was perhaps NOT the best idea.  To say we bought the wrong stuff is an understatement.  Bed by 7.30 though as we really were trolleyed... all good fun and a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

Next stop was the Marina where we're over wintering (all booked and first 3 months paid for now) and time to change the batteries.   It was the usual kerfuffle and I knew the day after my back/legs/ arms would be killing me... but it's done now.

I HATE doing that job!

Whilst in the engine hole, I spotted a choc block that connects the solar to the solar fuse, had melted a bit ... I must have not had a big enough one for the job so that meant a walk into town to get the biggest one I could find and that was replaced.  The BSS is due in January so better to have spotted that now than then.

On route to town, I spotted a late clutch(if that's the right term) of cygnets - perhaps 'new' parents too...

I hope they get big enough to survive the winter before it arrives.

The down side of having the new batteries (and no car) was that I now needed to get rid of the old a new low , I loaded them onto a borrow cart from the marina (not approved of but I didn't ask) and walked them the half mile to the scrap yard... it nearly killed me in the heat but did raise another 45 quid for the blacking fund.

Due to another overseas cancellation, we now have a few days off again to do chores... plenty of them as always but I think we'll go boating up the Caldon first.

Until next time...

Oh btw - you may have noticed the Adverts have stopped appearing on the page... I know they are a pain but they DID generate a bit of passive income - alas, apparently some of  the blog traffic 'clicks' have been from the same place and they've put me on block for violating their traffic policy... nowt to do with me if folks from the same ip address click on the adverts - however it has meant I'm on the naughty step for a month whilst they consider my appeal.  Hey ho.

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Failing Batteries, a quick catch up and a moan.

 I'll pretend it was only yesterday I was last here!

We escaped the Llangollen but not without injury.  During an emergency "hirer enforced stop" 'Ellis' clonked her prop on something hard under the water and as well as bending a fin more than it was designed to be, it gave the outer edge an additional chamfer (can't spell that word).

This has meant that at certain revs - which is basically the ones you WANT to travel at,  it 'chatters' ... rather annoyingly!  

Trying to go just below or above said speed is a dark art - one which Alan Rickman would probably struggle to achieve too.

I'd resigned myself to having to spend (even more) money I don't have when a friend suggested it would probably be covered on the boats insurance policy - that had never even occured to me.  Upon making a phone call, right enough, GJW said I could arrange it's replacement and they would pick up the bill.  GREAT I thought...   well that was the theory - the reality was that late June/early July is not the easiest of times to get into a dry dock!

I made a few phone calls but the general consensus seemed to be if it was an emergency we could fit you in between blackings.... apparently a bent prop (that makes the shaft spin out of line thus eventually knackering the stern gland) ISN'T an emergency until said gland is knackered!  ffs.  I thought I'd been thrown a lifeline briefly at Nantwich when it was suggested I call in with the boat on Monday morning for someone to look at... only to find a precious 'chief engineer' who (and I quote)  "I'm not putting my hand in the dirty canal to feel it" couldn't give a flying fart was too busy to take a proper a look and diagnosed it by running in gear whilst tied up from the noise.  So - when the expert says it will take a while before any damage is done and that I should just tolerate it, what else is there to do?

Anyway - we've pottered on ... still trying to find the sweet spot that doesn't annoy the hell out of me.  It's not easy.

Our travels have taken us UP and down the Macclesfield a coupe of times - we HAD been heading through Standedge tunnel again but the woman form CRT has been ignoring my emails requesting an update on the passage procedure ... so in despair, we binned our bookings and let some other fool have THEIR boat banged through the tunnel by a dad's army a well meaning volunteer.

Not that the Macclesfield has been much easier - the Bosley Lock flight is under reduced operating hours due to water supply problems - THEM being Todbrook reservoir  still not being repaired... in theory it's ok for the same number of boats that need to go up or down the flight to make the trip - just during a shorter period of time.... I just dont see HOW that helps with saving just makes a it a pain in the arse to get the boat to the top or bottom at the right time or end up in a big queue with no where to moor along with a load of other boats in the same predicament.  Bonkers.

On our most recent desecent - it was absoulytly hammering down and we were about half way down when everyone ground to a halt - a v-lockie came ambling back up the hill to say we should stay put as a paddle had broken and drained the pound above lock 11.  Crt had been called and would be there in about an hour.

An hour is a long time to hang around in a lock flight in the rain but luckily mother nature decided to chuck us a bone and let a little sun out for a while.

To be fair, the Crt worker bees DID arrive at about the time promised... having to walk down the flight to the lock - by then we'd had a good old nosey around and I decided their lump hammer would not be the only tool they were going to need - ergo, I had a wander down to interfere assist ... complete with a crowbar ... which turned out to be JUST the thing they needed!

That wasn't the end of it though as because the flight was due to close entry at 1pm,  when things got moving again (down to one paddle on the offending lock) some hire boats began their ascent of the flight.... ONLY to be turned around by the v-lockie who wanted to lock up the flight as soon as possible and beggar off home.  The logical thing to have done would have been to leave the locks OFF for the night so that the backlog of boats could get through and then start again tomorrow... since when did LOGIC ever come into these things though?

A hire boat in the pound I was in was trying to turn around but I pointed out to him THAT would mean the following morning he'd be the wrong way around to begin the flight again - between us, the bosun and I helped him reverse down the lock he'd just come up and at least then he'd be pointing the right way without having to travel miles to a winding hole in the (now raining again) bad weather.

Our Journey continued without problems - well the usual "closed pub" or "broken swing bridge" but they are pretty much the norm now.  We got down as far as Stone with our guest - a new lady on for 2 weeks...I don't usually take a 2 week booking from someone unless they've been on's TOO long if you don't know (from either side) what you are getting.  It was a gamble that paid off as the lady was lovely. Self aware,  independent and generally happy to be on /off the boat doing her own thing.  

I'd taken the approach THIS year that ANY booking that came in would be accepted... to try and repay some covid borrowings from last year AND make inroads to the divorce loan.  It's fair to say the last couple of years have caused a major fiscal headache for 'Ellis' - this  business was never intended to earn enough to pay enforced borrowings back ... the whole point had simply been to earn enough to live over the winter - perhaps with an out of season holiday somewhere warm now and again- NOT commit to 4 and 10 years for divorce and covid bounce back respectively.

We're still here though and managing to cling to the wreckage but boy we're tired.  Another thing about "this year" was that I put the schedule together PRE-COVID and MID divorce... ergo, I had to have short turn around times to fit more trips in to try and earn the money to make the loan repayments - it was always going to be tight but even "ginger super heros" can get tired.  Especially when you get the occasional guests who HAVENT bought into the 'Live-aboard experience' but just want to save a few hundred quid on a Hotel boat.... I've lost count of the number of times Ive had to say "this is not a Hotel boat - we are a live-aboard-experience"... ie. MAKE yourself a cup of coffee without passively aggressively mentioning to your other half that you've not been offered one yet!   GRrrr.

Still, for the most part I'd not swap this life for my former one - or most other peoples ones I suppose (well maybe the retired couples with a bank balance who have time to explore places/have meals out) lol.  

Writing of meals out - we took our last guest out for tea (so I didn't have to cook) in Stone and although the meal wasn't the best I've had, it was nice - made even more so when she insisted on paying.  I must have been looking tired /grumpy .  

We've also managed a few pub visits just for drinks but have to say that all this table service outside DOES take an age and frankly the sooner I can go to a bar to order the better. 

Whilst down in Stone, we called into the Marina and I paid the deposit for THIS winters mooring...  it was nice to be back and we spent a couple of nights there giving the guest a chance to explore and us time to catch up with chores/laundry etc on the shoreline.

Speaking (well writing) of shoreline, whenever possible at the moment we are popping into marinas for a night to give the batteries a rest - tbh, I was hoping to get this season out of them but they are just about hanging on by the skin of their acidic teeth.   NOT helped by a lot of cloudy days meaning the solar has done bugger all.  The constant battery management and use by the inverter for the new fridge freezer is tipping them (and me) over the edge.

So - I've bitten the bullet.... having tried to buy from the marina (but the ones they had were not the right size), I've got some coming today which I'll have to get fitted pronto - I'm RELLY not looking forward to doing that in a heat wave (it's 20th July today and el-scorchio).  

JUST when you think there is going to be enough in the wallet to cover winter, something on the boat has other ideas... I suppose that's why folks joke about BOAT being an acronym for 'Bring out another thousand'  - You've got to laugh... otherwise you'd cry!

Still, at least (assuming they arrive) from tomorrow I can relax a little and just let the batteries/solar and charger get on with job.   Before then however I probably should defrost the freezer so it's working as efficiently as possible, clean the boat and make room for an Asda delivery booked for lunchtime.

Tomorrow we set off back down the Maccclesfiied on my final "hang over" trip booked and paid last year that covid messed up... TIME to stick a testing swab down my throat and up my nose to reassure the guests all is well.

Until next time...