Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Its that time of year again

Well another year has passed since AmyJo was hauled out of the water for blacking, a term used for painting the bottom of the boat.  We have some non boaty readers who probably would not know what this all means so I thought I'd show the process we used at Tattenhall marina where we had AmyJo "Blacked" last week.

Previous years we had used a product called Keel Black.  This is a water based product that has the bitumen held in suspension.  When applied to the hull the water evaporates leving a coating of bitumen on the hull.  Unfortunately this was not very sucessful and when AmyJo was hauled out last year very little was left on the hull.

As a result, at the last haul out, we used a tried and tested product called Intertuf 16.  With this in mind we desided to haul out this year to see how it had faired.  Intertuf is very similar to the liquid tarmac you see being poured on the roads.  Blacking protects the steel shell under water and helps to stop corrosion.

The first task was to lift AmyJo out of the water.  For this the marina has a long trailor with hydraulic rear wheels.  I navigated AmyJo between the wheels slowly and onto the trailer.  When in position hydraulic rams force the wheels down which in turn lifts the trailer up under the boat raising it out of the water.  This is then pulled out by tractor.


Positioning Amyo over the trailer on the slipway

Lowering the wheels to raise the trailor bed under the boat




Once fully out of the water we could see how well the blacking had faired.  With relief we could see it had been more sucessful and was still in reasonable condition, though only after a jet wash could we be sure.


Blacking looks good and the anodes will last another year or two

Another good point was that the anodes were in good condition still and had a little more life in them yet whilst appearing to be doing their job.  Anodes are placed on the hull along the boat below the ater line.  Being made of softer metal the idea is corrosion will occur on the anodes and not the hull.


Tyhe blacking still looked good at the business end

Before being parked up, and whilst still wet, the next job is to jet wash the muck away from the hull.  This is a drty job, not a job I like doing, so pay the marina to do it.  They have very powerful jet washers that remove the muck and any loose blacking really well.  

Once complete we could see the true extent of the blacking that remained and were quite pleased it looked ok.  Some pitting had occured in previous uears but signs are this has not got any worse.  Pitting is where small areas the size of a nail head gets corroded away thinnning the steel.  Lucky for us AmyJo's pitting is light and not too deep.


Starting to jet was the muck off the hull, a messy, wet job.

The end result ready for treatment of new blacking

Pitting from previous years can be seen here as lighter spots, thankfully no worse than last year

Once completely jet washed down AmyJo is then moved to her hard standing birth so work can begin on re-blacking.  She is lowered onto large sleepers and the trailer pull out from under her.


Backing AmyJo into her hard standing birth.

A collegue guids the tractor driver as he reverses AmyJo towards the blocks she will rest on

All settled and now the work can begin

First I had to ensure all loose blacking was definately removed.  to do this I use a large scraper all over the hull.  This too is a messy job and I ended up covered in chips of blacking.  A much needed shower followed.

Any large areas of rust are then treated with Fertan rust convertor and left 24hrs to convert.  Once cured the first coat of blacking is applied.  It takes me about 4 hours to paint the whole boat with one coat.

First covering of blacking completed on the Port (left) side.

Over the next two days it rained solid but on Thursday the sun came out and I managed to get a second coat on.  I had also planned to give the gunwales a fresh coat of paint, thats the dark grey area above my head in the picture below but there was not enough time left nor was the weather favourable to do so.  This will have to wait for another day


Second coat of blacking being rollered on.

I also managed to give the tunnel bands at the stern another coat of paint to freshen them up too. For our non boating readers tunnel bands were used in days before boats had electric head lights and were designed to be seen in the tunnels when lit by a hand lamp so boats could see another ahead of them in the tunnels.  Nowadays they are more for show,  The traditional cream and red is now replaced with any colour the owner likes, or none at all.  AmyJo's are cream and Blue.


A nice new coat of paint on the tunnel bands

Once the blacking has been alowed to dry for 24hrs it was tine to put AmyJo back in the water.  The whole process is the reverse of that when pulling her out.  Finally when AmyJo was afloat I was able to back her away from the trailor and cruised round to the visitor moorings for the night.


Reversing AmyJo down the slipway

Slowly in she goes

backing away from the trailor

Friday, 30 August 2019

Summer Cruise Days 24 and 25 Middlewich to Bates Mill Bridge

We are now on the last two days of our summer cruise. One more leg to complete the Four counties ring to do then its north on the Shroppy for home, so two days in one post today.

The sun was shining when we woke, the relative lack of boats yesterday was certainly made up for it today.  By the time we were ready to get underway at least 10 boats had locked up Wardle lock and were ahead of us.


Our mooring in Middlewich
  As we approached the aqueduct where the breech occured last year we could see a queue at Stanthorne lock, a sign of things to come.  We joined the queue third from the lock and whilst Chris helped at the lock I chatted with the helm of the boat behind.  He was moving the boat to the brokerage at Swanley Marina as the owner had sadly passed away.

A queue had formed at Stanthorne lock

Above the lock we passed these paddlers, we're seeing many more paddlers on the canals these days

These cottages looked great with their hanging baskets.
From Stanthorne lock the branch follows roughly along side the River Weaver down below us in the valley floor,  Glimpses of it could be see as we progressed along the branch.

At Aqueduct marina a familiar boat was holding everyone up whilst it winded.  It was none other than Baked Onboard the Pizza boat.  Paul finally got round and we followed on in the flottila that had now formed behind him.

The Pizza boat winding in the marina entranced
 August is always a busy time for canal boating On the Middlewich branch and this year seems to be busier than ever along the branch.  This section is part of the four counties ring and also the Cheshire ring so is always busy. 

We expected a queue at the next lock, Minshull lock, as is always the case but were taken by surprise at the size of the queue.  We joined it 8 boats behind the first boat and several more joined behind us as we waited. Apparently it was as bad above the lock.

The queue ahead of us.  This was taken 30 minutes into our wait

And the ever growing queue behind us. 
 It took us an hour and a half to reach the head of the queue before we got into the lock.  We don't mind the wait, in fact we quite like it as we get to chat to fellow boaters and swap stories of our journeys.  In fact everyone seemed to enjoy the break and all chatted away whilst lunch and tea/coffee/beer was consumed on many of the waiting boats.


Its then a 20 minute run in an almost straight line to Cholmondeston lock (pronounced Chumsten lock). Surprisingly most of the boats ahead of us had dissapeared, we only passed one, and we found only Paul on the Pizza boat waiting at the lock.  We fully expected another long wait but we were only waiting 20 minutes. 


Cholmondeston Lock is right alongside Venetian marina

Maybe this is why there were no queues, two volockies working the lock.
 At Brabridge Junction we turned left and manage to find the last mooring spot outside the Barbridge Inn.  We like to call in here when we are passing as the food and beer is excellent and good value.  Mooring by the pub means we avoid the Shroppy shelf on the opposite bank.  The concrete shelf is what the concrete walls of the canal sit on and is only 2 feet below the surface, sticking out at least a foot in places.  As a result many boats scrape against this when moored up.  The solution is to float wheelbarrow wheels between the boat and bank to hold the boat away from the shelf.

Our mooring last night
 Today we set off on our final leg of our cruise.  We winded at Hurleston junction a short way on and retraced our steps to Barbridge Junction.  We did not take any photos today as my camera is now playing up.  The shutter is not fully opening as can be seen in the photo of the lockies and has been getting steadily worse.  As we've photographed this section several times and blogged about it we would only be repeating the same thing.

AnyHoo after passing through Bunbury, Tilstone, Beeston Stone Lock , and Beestone Iron lock we arrived at Wharton Lock scene of the recent boat stinking I posted about the other day.  Thankfully this had been recovered yesterday so we could lock down without any problems.  

We arrived back where we started our cruise, The Shady Oak pub at 3pm and moored in our favourite spot on the pub jetty.


Moored at the Shady Oak, almost our second home.
So our summer cruise is over,  we've throughly enjoyed it and hope you have enjoyed following us as well.  Our four counties ring cruise has taken us through Cheshire, Shropshire, West Midlands and Stafordshire.  The Stourbridge section took us through Wolverhampton, Dudley and Strourbridge as new waters for us.

We have cruised 158 miles in 122 hours or 4 weeks, passing through 177 locks.  So please keep coming back from time to time as we still have more mini cruises planned before winter ends the season.



Total distance:17.43 miles Elapsed time:10h1m4s Locks:9 Bridges:48

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Summer Cruise Day 23 Wheelock to Middlewich

We were woken by another early bird passing us at 6am and another at 6:30am. I do wish if people want to travel at silly o'clock they fit decent silencers to their engine, one of them was loud enough to wake the dead. I laid awake in bed until 7:30am then got up.  We were underway by 9am.  A shorter post today I'm afraid as rain put paid to many photos.

Chris wanted to do another wash load so as the water point was close by we stopped to top up and use the washing machine.  There are two water points here, both empty when we pulled up.  A wash load take 30mins so we sat on the water point until the washing had finished and tank full.  I was just getting underway when two boats, one in either direction, arrived wanting water so our timing was perfect.


Water point at Wheelock
The morning felt damp and heavy clouds covered the sky.  It soon started to drizzle and got progressively heavier as the morning went on so the camera was kept in the dry so apologies for the lack of photos.

As we approached the railway bridge we noticed a long freight train and a passenger train both going in the same direction very slowly.  Chris just had time to get this photo before we passed under them.


Two trains on the bridge

By the time we descended the 3 Booth Lane locks the rain was quite heavy and we were soaked through.  The crew of the boat behind did not want to do the locks in the rasin and had stopped.  We, being soaked through, decided to carry on and dry off when we moor in Middlewich. One boat was well ahead of us and they reset the lock as they left for us so it it was ready by the time we got to it.

We find keeping the pram hood up and lowering it for each bridge a pain so now we leave it down and use a golfing umbrella instead.  It doen't keep the back completely dry but it does greatly reduce the wet inside.   

Photo taken sheltering under the umbrella

Even soaked to the Skin Chris can still manage a smile.
Using the golfing umberella works really well and I found I could use it hands free by tucking the handle down the front of my rain coat.  However this backfired when we passed under a very low bridge.  To late to remove the umbrella I had no choice but to crouch right down.  Chris reckons I looked funny and the photo is proof.  We did have a giggle.

Captions on the back of a postcard please

Man that was low!

Rumps lock
 After Rumps lock the rain finally eased off to just a light drizzle.  We descended Kings lock and pulled onto the chandler's wharf for diesel.  It was a bit tight getting in but we got the stern in enough for the hose to reach while the bow rested on the bow of one of their new builds.  They are quite laid back here letting me fill up myself.  They asked how many litres and never checked the pump themselves.

It was gertting busy at the junction so when a boat pulled into Whardle lock I followed and waited in the short pound below.  Once a boat coming down passed AmyJo we locked up and found a mooring between bridges 29 and 30 a short way on from the lock.

We hear so much about how good the Fish & Chips are at Kings Lock chip shop and have been through here several times since we've had Amyo but we have never had the chance to sample the chips here, so tonight its a chippy tea. Can't wait!


Total distance:6.08 miles Elapsed time:5h8m47s Locks:6 Bridges:19 
Average speed:1.18 mph (2.35 lock/mph)

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Summer Cruise Day 22 Rode Heath to Wheelock

I forgot to add yesterday that Chris's camera, that we use for the blog photos, finally gave up the ghost and stopped working.  The zoom lens motor has packed in and now the lens is stuck in the extended, zoomed, position.  We thought something was wrong when some of the photos were coming out blurred over the last few days.  Good job I have a similar camera, though and older version, which we brought out of retirement.


We left at our more usual time of 9;30am continued our descent of heart break hill.  Today would see us descending another 14 locks.  First were the two Thurwood locks, the second of which had one of the pair in our favour.  My apologies for the poor quality of the photos as my camera has lens problems and hence why it was retired.


Approaching Thurlwood top lock
 Already the morning was heating up even though there was a hazy sun.  Today though the heat felt more humid so made progress quite tiring.  We took it steady and made good use of a newly purchased resealable 1 ltr drinks bottle.  Couple of ice cubes in that and we had a ready supply of cool water to hand all morning which was most welcome.

Our new drinks bottle from Aldi

Approching Thurlwood bottom lock
 Last time we passed through here we talked to a gent who had just bought this lock cottage and was going to renovate and extend it.  Now its finished and looks delightful.  Most of the extending is to the rear and side and tastefully done in keeping with the older part of the cottage.  The grounds are now laid out with a large seating area to watch boats pass by.

Tasteful renovtion and seating area in the foreground
After Thurlwood the locks pass out into the countryside as a grouping of 2 sets of locks each with duplicate locks along side.  As I mentioned sadly more and more of the pairs are becoming single locks as the others are not repaired due to lack of funding.  Such a shame as one rarely sees a queue at these locks.  Mind you its gone very quiet again today as we only passed two boats going the other way and we caught up with a single hander ahead of us. I know the holiday is over but there seems to be fewer boats on the move each day.

Looking back from the middle of a pair of locks
 After passing down Peirpoint locks we then descended the next group of six, Wheelock locks.  These pass through remote countryside and nearby village of Malkins Bank.  Between lock 62 and 63 one sees a side bridge that used to be used by the huge Brunner-Monde works but now used by a boat builder.  The works is long gone and new golf course buries what remains below its greens.  New housing here makes the place look nice and lock side houses have nurtured gardens and the occassional owner watching on with a cheery wave and smile.

These locks are about 10feet deep and the walls stained Orange from the iron oxide leaching out of  Harecastle tunnel
Smudge loves working the locks with Chris rather than staying on the boat and now he is older has gotten to know the routine, so much so he can be left off lead when in out in the country and away from roads whilst we work the lock.  He patrols between Chris and the lock side checking we are both OK and rarely wanders far, though has had the occassional stray and has to be called back.  On this occassion Chris worked AmyJo and I the lock.  Chris got this cracking shot of him checking AmyJo is OK.   Apologies for the blotches in the photo, as I said my old camera was retired and for just this reason when Chris got hers.

Smudge supervising the lock work and making sure all is well
 As mentioned some of the locks are in disrepair and it seems the next lock has been so for some time,  Its been out of service so long its now being used as the by wash.


Old lock now being used as a bywash.

These cottages nestle around the lock.  Perhaps once they were boatmens cottages

Great views of the Cheshire countryside from this lock
 Having descended Church locks, Halls lock, and the Lawton locks we arrived at our last lock of the day.  By now the heat and humidity was getting to all three of us, Chris took a breather sitting on the lock beam whilst it filled.  Unusually, once in the lock, Smudge asked to come aboard and when lifted onto the hatch flopped down and slept the rest of the way.  The heat must have got to him too.


Enjoying a welcome break whilst the lock fills

Another lovely lock keepers cottage.

We found a nice spot to moor up just before the village of Wheelock at 1:30pm  and after a refreshing drink the three of us crashed out and slept the afternoon away.  A short sharp shower brought us to our senses about 4pm but that lasted only a few minutes.  While Chris pottered about I then caught up with the blog.    

Tomorrow we'll be back on more familiar turf as we complete heartbreak hill and swing onto the Middlewich branch to complete the four counties ring.


Total distance:3.70 miles Elapsed time:4h28m58s Locks:14 Bridges:17 
Average speed:0.83 mph (3.95 lock/mph)