Friday 14 May 2021

Fly-boat Ellis again...

 It surely can't be 2 weeks since I last moaned blogged on here?  - Time has flown.

You'll recall we were hanging around in Manchester for a couple days at the end of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal trip - mainly to await the notice from CRT in regards the collapsed culvert 'Emergency repair' on the Llangollen canal... to see IF we would be able to get on to the canal proper, once they'd opened up the single file channel on the Trent and Mersey.

When the good news came that it was open with (and I quote) "a robust temporary repair to enable boats to use the canal for this season" , whilst briefly elate, we did find our selves questioning HOW come such a speedy repair could be done here, whilst the Macclesfield was barely progressing...  the answer of course being the the LLangollen Canal supplied Hurleston reservoir with it's water supply - some 12 milltion gallons each day making it's way down from the river at Horseshoe falls to supply the town of Nantwich (or surrounding areas)... and of course, if that was stopped for long (they' installed pumps to bypass the leak which would be costing a lot to run AND be at risk of failure) the good folks in Cheshire would very soon be down to using standpipes for their water supplies... and that wouldn't do would it?

It's a shame they have proven they CAN make "robust temporary repairs" so quickly cause it then flags up WHY they can't do the same in other less political places.  Hey ho... what do I know.

SO then - we set off from Manchester about 1pm on Saturday... we' have gone sooner but we needed a pump out and top up of diesel... sod's law dictated that every time I tried to move from the pontoon we'd stopped on to the service point, some other boat jumped in before us.  Oh well... 

The forecast for the trip to ahead was NOT looking good - we'd decided to make the trip as quickly as possible so as to get 'Ellis' back to where she was supposed to be in readiness for being able to operate on 17th May.  In theory we could have gone a bit slower but that would have messed up with the bosun's 2nd covid jab so a long schlepp seemed logical.  We hadn't spotted this was taking place on a Bank Holiday weekend - they mean nothing to us these days.

as we left the outskirts of Manchester, we encountered a few kayakers/canoeists which was to become a bit of a theme for the journey - I JOKED on twitter about getting extra points if you sink 2 at once... and then received some offensive DMS ... not even from folks that follow my boating account.  SOME folks need a sense of humor transplant, never mind a covid jab.

It was about about half 7 when we got to Preston Brook tunnel and once again, some kayakers arrived and asked if we'd mind them going ahead of us through the tunnel... I really don't like sharing tunnels with vulnerable boats but they assured me they would zoom off ahead and had good head and rear lights - so that's what they did and to be fair, they'd left the tunnel long before we did

Once through the tunnel (it's amazing how less stressful a tunnel is when you are steering your OWN boat)  - perhaps someone should tell crt that... you know, the 'well being charity', we chugged on for a short while and tied up when we could for the night - it being about 8.30 when we had dinner.

Knowing the weather for the next day was going to be best for a while, I left the bosun in slumber and set off at 6.45 the following morning.   IT was a lovely cold, misty morning so whilst pretty,  That turned out to be a school boy error (not the slumbering bosun but the time)... I'd forgotten how SLOW this section is compared to the deep bridgwater canal -ergo, we arrived at the NEXT tunnel (Saltesford) 2 mins AFTER the end of the timed slot so had to wait until the next - 38 mins later.  OH well, it gave me time to make a bacon buttie.

An uneventful but pleasant enough journey -    we soon arrived at the landslide (that happened in January and had only just been cleared enough for boats to pass) ...  did it REALLY take 3 months to work out how to put some waders on and dig a channel through? - if indeed that's what was required?  apparently so... it sounds like I'm crt bashing but REALLY? - 3 Months???  

Once through this very dangerous bit,before too long (well it was a long time but in the dry it's not a problem) we'd made it to Middlewich and as you'd expect on a bank holiday weekend, crt worker bees had very kindly left a hopper moored on the lock landing at the top of big lock

By the end of that day (Sunday) we  made it through the recently re-opened Middlewhich branch and up Hureston Locks to the bottom of the Llangollen - ending the day in the dark at about 9.30pm, tired and grumpy the last thing I needed was to stand in some dog poo on the towpath as we moored up.  Grr..

Ignoring the unpleasantness that ensued the night before, Monday morning saw a better start to the day weather wise than had been promised... with that in our minds, we set off and went for it.  By the time we'd gotten to the bottom of Grindley Brook Staircase we were soaked to the gusset - to the point that it was actually running down my inside leg and filling my boots... at which point as it wasn't cold (but very windy) we decided we may as well work our way UP to the top (no queues for a change) and then tie up for the day... RIGHT when the wind was at it's peak!  At one point, a fender blew off the roof and began dancing it's way down the canal behind us - having just paid £20 for said thing, I slung into reverse and went after it...  in hindsight this may not have been the cleverest of decisions but I DID retrieve it - much to the amusement of a few boaters twitching curtains, as 'Ellis' went sideways down the cut.

Weather wise - we left the on what had to be THE windiest day on the cut... we crapped our way through rain, hail and thunder storms to Ellesemere and were lucky enough to get tied up right outside Tesco.  I still don't LIKE Tesco on account of their militant behavior during the covid lock downs but needs must and it's very handy being able to wheel a trolley to the boat.

Our next stopping place was The Poachers pub - where we'd booked a table outside... only to arrive and find a notice on the door saying "closed due to bad weather" - "bad weather" we'd chugged 5 hours through to get there lol.

The next part of the journey from there, through Chirk Tunnel, Whitehouse tunnel and across the Ponty was in semi sunshine which made a nice change.  Needing diesel again, once over the aqueduct, we reversed to the diesel point a Anglo Welsh and filled the tank - we'd used 90 litres from Manchester which was more than usual but I suppose due to the wind, we HAD had (good English I know) to use more power than ideal for a lot of the journey.

Ahead of us was the final few hours up to Llangollen Basin - and my favorite bit... I just can't help singing "The hills are alive with the sound of music" as we chug up the narrows... Channeling my best Julie Andrews all the way lol.

The sun remained with us for a few hours more and once tied up in the basin (NOT where I was aiming the boat but the wind had other ideas so I settled for the nearest pontoon at a critical moment) I had a wander down into the town to remind myself how lovely it really is.  It's fair to say, I really do love the place.

Of course, by the time I'd walked back up to the basin (and paid the mooring fee) the wind had dropped and the basin was as calm as a mill pond .  VERY quiet though and on talking with the guy who manages the place, he said it's 50% down on normal still.  Oh well, our gain ... it'll be full soon enough that's for sure - certainly when the next bank holiday hirers when 2 households can be under the same roof. 

I also spotted 'Ellis' was a few hours overdue a service so the next day it was oil change time..  I used the handily provided ppe (from the Standedge tunnel debacle)  - which then led to an assumption by a mooring boater on the next pontoon that I was a boat mechanic and could I help him get his electric working!!! - this whilst I was up to my nipples in  grease in the engine bay.    Ever helpful, once I'd finished my filter changes etc. I poked my head into his electric cupboard for a shufty... after a bit of faffing around (it was a share boat and he wasn't too familiar with how it works), it turned out the switches on the mcbs were back to front... ie. 'OFF was ON'.  Once I' figured that out, shore-power was restored and he was happy.

Writing of Happy, so am I at the moment... we made it back to where the boat is supposed to be and now, once chores and errands have been done, we can welcome guests back onboard an have SOME sort of boating season - we're even doing our twice weekly covid tests!

If the weather holds out, we'll take a run back to Ellesemere and stock up again (not paying Welsh gin prices - £3.20 extra on the price of a bottle of gin so they can stuff it - I'd rather spend it on the diesel to get there on principle).

Until next time...