Thursday, 19 July 2018

Onto the Llangollen but only just.

On Sunday Chris and I went to partake of my birthday present from her.  Chris had bought me an hour on a flight simulator used by commercial pilots.  I was to fly a Boeing 737-NG from Manchester to Gatwick in the simulation.  I used to have the Microsoft flight simulator on my PC for many years and so could not resist the chance to see what the real thing was like.

My co-Pilot is actually a commercial pilot instructor and he helped me to get to grips with the aircraft.  I managed a perfect take off and we followed the flight plan to Gatwick without too much ado.  My landing was a little bumpy, well quite bumpy, but at least I did not crash!  Have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Relief after landing without crashing.

I had been asked to tow a boat from Tattenhall to Nantwich marina and I had agreed, so on wednesday we roped up nb Jenny via short crossover straps and set off.  Jenny's engine had been flooded in a lock accident and water got into it totally destroying it.  I enlisted our friend Graham to help out and he really enjoyed the experience.

It was a long day and we had a few exciting moments along the way.  The first at Iron lock.  This lock can only take one boat at a time so we locked AmyJo through without problem but when we returned to Jenny she had drifted onto the bank and was hard aground.  It took nearly an hour to free her and then we bow hauled her through the lock.  Good job there were no boats waiting!

Graham following behind in Jenny

The next problem was just before Tilstone lock.  As we had gone through Beeston Stone Lock we decided to leave the boats breasted up, however, rounding a bend we were confronted by a dense bush blocking half the canal.  We quickly untied Jenny and let her though under her own momentum but when I followed with AmyJo she ran aground.  It took two or three attempts to get past the bush.  After that and with Bunbury Locks ahead we put Jenny back on the cross straps astern.

Last locks of the day, Bunbury, from here it is plain sailing to Nantwich.
With the help of the volunteer locky we got through Bunbury without a hitch much to the enjoyment of American gongoozlers who watched on with interest, cameras clicking way.

This morning, having delivered Jenny we watered and dieseled up then got ready to leave.  It was a bit tight winding at the end of the arm and a family, just getting ready to leave on the day boat, were treated to a very close up view of AmyJo's Bow fender much to the children's delight yelling "Prepare to repel boarders" and scuttling about their boat like mad pirates  (wish I'd been flying the Jolly Roger).  Fortunately there was just enough room to get AmyJo round without too much problem and we left with the young pirates celebrating their victory.

nb Jenny safely delivered

It was a short run to Hurlston Junction.  As we approached a gent mooring up asked if we intended to go up the locks and we indicated we did indeed intended to.  He informed us his boat had got stuck halfway in the bottom lock and at 6' 10" wide he informed us he was surprised.  The locky had refused to let him continue as a result.  He was most upset about this as he had travelled the entire system and the Llangollen canal was the last one he had to do.

We know AmyJo is 6'10" wide so with trepidation I krept her into the open lock ever so gently.  Thankfully she went all the way in though it looked extremely tight.  I reckon the gents boat was wider than he thought.

Entering Hurlston bottom lock with great caution
The problem with the bottom lock is the wall is bowing in and C&RT have plans to repair it in the winter, however, for now they are digging sumps to try to drain off water trapped behind the wall to ease the pressure on it.

Before raising the lock level I got chris to check with the locky if it was OK to ascend.  His answer was if your in the lock fully you should be fine.  We still took it gently only half opening one paddle.  We both kept a good watch on the gunnels but to our relief AmyJo rose without getting stuck.

You can see just how tight it is in the lock from this angle.

 The good news was AmyJo now sat free in a full lock, but, the bad news was a tupperware cruiser was jammed solid in the lock above.  Apparently its irate owner was being rather nasty to the lock keeper and insisted he could get up the locks.  He'd already got jammed in the bottom lock, had been asked not to proceed, ignored the locky, and now was jammed tight in the next.  

The errant cruiser holding everyone up.
 We waited patiently in the bottom lock until 30 minutes later they eventually got free by losing a wooden rubbing strake and plenty of fibreglass.

The rest of the climb went uneventfully.  We then had a pleasant cruise through Burland and are now moored in the middle of nowhere on a delightful stretch in the sun. 

This chap passed us with a pair of dog ends (not book ends sic) on the back of his boat

Finally an update on Smudge and his broken leg.  He has now had his stitches out and the wound has healed nicely.  Only problem we have now is he has returned to his usual exuberant self.  Trying to keep him from running and jumping on and off the furniture is nigh on impossible.  He has even resorted to sneaking out through the cratch cover if he thinks we're not watching.

The little scamp trying to escape but got caught out by mum.
Total distance:15 miles Elapsed time:13 hours Locks:12 Bridges:40 
Average speed:1.27 mph (1.94 lock/mph) 

Friday, 6 July 2018

Enjoyed Chester but then a bad end to the week

Last week we attended a charity boxing match at the Roodee racecourse in Chester which raised £4000.  One of Amy's regulars at the pub was taking part and we all went to support him.  Its the first time we've been to a live boxing match and with 20 bouts on the program it was a full evening.  This also included a meal and a bottle of vino calapso all for £20 a head

One of the the bouts was the only not blurred picture I took.

Sadly Koowee (nickname for Cooper) lost his bout but he got all the support from his mates in loud calls of Koowee Koowee Koowee while he boxed.  This helped him on but to no avail.  Still he was in good spirits and is looking forward to next year's event.  We on the other hand had a great time and with great company with wine and beer flowing freely.

Koowee in the middle after his bout with is son on the right (straight out of Peaky Blinders I reckon) :-)

We then moved up into Chester after stopping for a shop in the new Aldi super store.  There are some convenient moorings outside the Bridge Inn to lay up so while the other halves go shopping the lads can have an ale or three.  A great concept there I think.

The moorings at the Bridge Inn.  Aldi is of to the left on the other side of the cut.

As we moved on the Sunday it was a rare opportunity for Chris to be with Smudge and I whilst we cruise.  She love this part of Chester so relished the trip in the warm weather.  I was grateful not having to single hand the locks of course but it is nice cruising together.

Approaching Chemistry lock

Once through the locks we reached Cow Lane bridge moorings in Chester.  We had intended to moor there but all the moorings were taken so we carried on to the basin.  Chris had to stay aboard as we found, once again, the towpath closed after the bridge and King Charles tower.  This is due to loose rocks in the walls that tower above the cut along there.

The closed section of towpath and section of dangerous wall on the left of frame.

Next was the bridge of sighs.  I've mentioned this before but I always feel there is an air about the place as you pass under it.  Still I do like this stretch as its moody and atmospheric.

The bridge of sighs.
 Finally we got to the Northgate staircase.  With no volunteer locky working them and the locks set against us it took a while to descend.  We found the basin with only a few boats moored there

In the middle chamber.
 We got our favourite mooring in the basin opposite the dry dock and stayed the week.  Whilst there we found this brightly coloured rock.  Seems a new craze is sweeping the nation.  Paint a rock and leave it for someone to find and re hide or keep.  The kids and adults alike love it and they are being found everywhere.

Brightly coloured rock we found and re-hid.

The weather has been so hot and our place in the basin made it just perfect
 It was that hot one afternoon so we tried to get Smudge to go for a swim but he was having none of it.  I think having fallen in off AmyJo when he was a pup has unfortunately given him a complex about swimming.

Trying to coax Smudge into the water but he would not go out of his depth

On Monday I moved the boat up to Cow Lane bridge and we had a couple of uneventful days there.  On Wednesday we moved back to Waverton.  There is a fete there this Saturday and we are ringing handbells in the afternoon so it will be quite convenient as the hall is yards away from our mooring.

All was well with our world until Thursday.  I had walked Smudge in the evening when it cooled down and was playing fetch with his ball on the green next to the boat.  I threw the ball for the sixth time and Smudge tore off after it as normal.  On reaching it he spun round and let out an almighty yelp and kept yelping, curling up into a ball.  It was an awful sound, everyone stopped and looked. When I got to him it was clear something was really wrong with his back leg. I yelled at Chris to lock up the boat and get to the car whilst I carried Smudge back.

After a visit to the emergency vet and X-rays next day it appears he has fractured his femur in his right hind leg, how we are unable to work out.  I think he tripped over the ball landing on it with his leg on top the ball and all of his body weight coming down onto it.  Yesterday we had to take him to a veterinary hospital where he was operated on to fit plates either side of the bone to hold it together.

We got him home this afternoon and the poor chap is not in a good place but coping well enough and not complaining as he is pumped full of pain killers, this helps as it makes him drowsy.

Here you can see the extent of the operation
For now we're keeping him dosed up on Tramadol and Pardale (paracetamol) for animals.  He is to have complete rest, only 5 minutes of exercise to go do his business outside.  No stairs or jumping on and off furniture for 6 weeks, then another round of X-Rays to check all is well.  For those of you that know Smudge this is going to be difficult at best.

This incident has really shaken me and I did not realise just how close the pair of us had become.  We both missed each other terribly and I was close to tears all night with worry.  His eyes lit up  when he saw me today will be one I'll never forget.  He has laid beside me ever since we got home.  Its good so to have him back.

As a result if this our latest cruise plans will now have to be curtailed as well.  We're not destined to have our usual summer cruise this year but if it means Smudge gets back to normal I'd gladly go without it.  Not sure what we'll do for a cruise but as soon as smudge is able to get about and his stitches are out we might plan a couple of weeks down the Shroppie and back, we'll have to see.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Oops done it again!

Hi reader,
    Wow where have the weeks gone!  I did not realise it was sooooo long since our last post so once again, groveling on bended knee, I do apologise.  It was a friend at Chris's school that reminded me it had been a while and that she missed reading our blog. I realised how long it has been so here we go with a brief potted history of the last couple of months .

So where to begin?  Was it really February that I last posted, OMG?  

In March we had our 14 night cruise to Norway on the P&O ship Oriana To celebrate our 60th birth days and 40 years of marriage all this year.  Its a holiday that I will never forget as we enjoyed it immensely and Norway is such a beautiful country with out of this world scenery.  Being waited on hand on foot in 5 star opulence can grow on one quickly and we were sad to leave Oriana.

The trip took us from Southampton to Andalsnes then Tromso and into the arctic circle to Alta and back via Stravanger.   Just our luck the temperatures had warmed to -10c at night and on one day in Andalsnes it was 11C, 6C warmer than the UK!  Added to this we only briefly saw the Northern lights which was a shame but we did not mind, there was plenty of other things to do and see and some great memories made.

At -5C and up a mountain one had to wrap up warm, under this lot I wore Thermals, trousers, t shirt, 2 jumpers and a fleece, thermal socks, gloves and snow boots and it was dam cold in the wind.

We woke up to this view one morning as we cruise into a fjord.The photo simply does not do it justice
Stunning where ever one looked.

The good Ship Oriana at her mooring in Andalsnes

Bitter cold and snowing whilst at sea but someone had tried to use the swimming pool that was freezing over 
Just look at the hand rail on the right of the pool!

Walking the promenade deck was more physical exercise against cold and wind in the F7 seas.
This was us just before they closed the outside decks off as the weather got up to f9 and Oraina was bouncing around nicely.

Chris getting ready to go out on our snow mobile experience in Alta.  It was great fun riding on a frozen lake in untouched
snow.  Stopping for a while to take in the views.

Ice Cathedral in Tromso was so beautiful inside

The dog sledding in Alta was a fab experience and after we were allowed to go to the dogs and fuss them which
they like immensely.

Other sledges race home after us and a well earned feed for the dogs.  They loved every minute pulling us
at great speed with much gusto and clearly relished to run.

The old wooden houses of Stavanger.  These are rare in Norway as when the Nazis retreated
they burned everything in sight so most buildings in Norway are post war.  Few, like these, survived
Back in the UK we got AmyJo ready for summer cruising.  Later in Maywe enjoyed a day at the Crick boat show.  It was a hot day and great to catch up with the Fernwood crew and some of the owners too.

We finally left the marina in Mid April but only managed to travel a few miles back and forth between marina, Waverton and Cheshire Cat. Each time returning to the marina to leave AmyJo whilst we attended visits South to see the parents and other commitments.

Meanwhile the engine was due its service which we booked with Chris Jones.  Whilst we had a few days to spare and with the baseplate and engine room paint beginning to rust, I stripped out the covers and steps and set too cleaning, rust curing and painting the steel.  I got most done but after painting with the bilge paint and having to keep the doors closed due to rain the boat stank of paint so bad I had to stop and will wait for warmer weather to continue, but, as you know now its far too hot to do anything :-) 

all clean and primed

The end result but the other side of the engine still needs to be donw

Can't recall where May went but much of it was spent trying to repaint AmyJo's fore deck as wear from foot traffic when mooring up and rust spots were beginning to make her look untidy.  I've got the primer and undercoats on but now its far to hot to do the finish coats, oh well not to worry :-)

We did manage a short cruise to Nantwich over the May bank holiday and met up with Eric and Paul on their boats there.  They also moor at the marina with us.  A jolly couple of day was had then we said our goodbyes and headed of back to Chester.

With the announcement of the rebrand the new C&RT signs started appearing in Nantwich and they do stand out more than the old ones I must say.

New blue signs do stand out compared to the old ones

Despite the condemning by many of the new logo C&RT are now pressing hard to try attract newcomers to the waterside.  Quite how this will increase their income I fail to see.  How will numerous walkers, cyclists and runners bring the kind cash sums needed into the C&RT coffers when access is free I don't know?  It the boaters licenses that bring in the money and for my two penneth I feel C&RT seem to be turning it's back on those,  my views only by the way, and not intended to start another of the numerous arguments that have ensued since the announcement of the rebrand.  Only time will tell if it turns out to be a rebrand fail, hey ho.

On our return, passage was brought to an abrupt stop as the cut grapevine warned us we should stop and moor by Chas Harden's boatyard as a tree had fallen blocking the cut.  Being a warm day we decided not to rush when the tree was clear but stayed over night.  I took the opportunity to give Smudge a good run and armed with my camera set of to see what was what.  Sure enough a good size tree was clean across the canal so that not even a duck could get by.

The fallen tree blocking passage just before Beeston Stone lock

Luckily historic narrowboats Saturn and her tow Buckden were stopped close by on their way to Ellesmere port.  When the contractors turned up they announced they could do nothing as they would need a boat.  Gentle pleading with Saturn's crew on my part lead them to offer Saturn's fordeck as a platform to work from for which the contractors were extremely grateful.  Baring in mind the age and historic value of Saturn this was by no means an easy decision on the part of her crew considering the risk of damage that could be caused to her fore deck.  We are really grateful to the crew for agreeing to my request and glad to say Saturn was kept damage free..

Less than three hours later the blockage was cleared much to the delight of now growing number of boats and their crews that had been arriving in the meantime.

Saturn's crew maneuver her into position for the contractors to clear the tree.

Into June and on the 3rd we celebrated our 40th Wedding anniversary in glorious sunshine.  We were treated to afternoon tea in the Abode in Chester courtesy of our two lovely daughters Amy an Joanne. 

Wedding anniversary selfie

The three most important girls in my life, Amy (Left) Chris and Joanne

By now the weather was really hotting up to the current temperatures we are having now and poor Smudge with his thick winter coat was beginning to struggle with the heat.  He just laid around the boat panting all day and even refused his walks, unheard of for him.  We decided to get him clipped as soon as we could and it made such a difference both to his looks and his comfort in the heat.   He looks quite smart now and is constantly being praised as a handsome chap by passers by.  Of course he laps up all the attention.

Much cooler, slimmer looking Smudge.  Quite like him with short hair now, 
but he  was not impressed at first as the look on his face shows.

Finally we have had to call off our trip to Liverpool and have made other plans.  First the Middlewich breach meant a trip via the Manchester Shipping canal to Marsh Farm lock onto the river Weaver and then the Anderton lift.  Then we got news of  Marsh Farm lock being taken out of service due to severe damage to one of the gates so would need to go further to Paloma lock at much more expense.  The final straw was news on Facebook of another breach near Melling on the leeds Liverpool canal which now made passage to Liverpool out of the question.

After a few drinks and chatting in the marina bar a group of us have decided to give the Stourport ring a try.  We, Chris and I that is, want to get to Sharpness and on the return visit Stratford-upon-Avon and then up through Birmingham via gas street basin to return on the Shroppie and explore that in a more leisurely manner than we have in the past. 

For now though we are enjoying the hot weather, basking in the delightfull Chester Basin watching the world melt in the searing heat and having a few drinks. Until next time Cheers!

Enjoying a balmy evening with a whiskey and lemonade in Chester Basin

New Student accommodation block reflections in the calm waters of the basin

Friday, 16 February 2018

Hello We're Back Online Again

We've been having a break from the blog for a few months as we are now back in the marina for the winter.  My apologies for that but nothing too interesting happens so filling regular posts is not easy.  Sadly this will be the norm each winter until Chris retires and by the sound of things this will not be any time soon.  She loves her job too much at the moment.

We had AmyJo out for her annual blacking when we got back to the marina mainly to check how the Keelblack blacking was fairing.  Unfortunately it did not fair at all well with none left at all on the water line.  To be honest it does seem to be no better than bitumen but I decided to give it one more try so we'll see how it lasted next time we're out.

In the New Year we, like most of the country, had a period of really cold weather and snowfall.  This was something new for Smudge and he loved to prance around in the snow, chasing after snowballs and wondering where they went when they landed.  He'd spent ages looking for them.  When back on board he found a good way to warm his paws and hogged the fire most of the time..

Warming up by the fire

Following the snowfall we had a couple of sunny, windless days so I took the opportunity to fly the drone and got these photos which I have to say I'm really pleased with.  The marina froze over for a few days and so a real winter wonderland scene surrounded us.

AmyJo frozen in on her mooring  She's there to the left of the jetty 

Over the ensuing weeks we hunkered down as one windy weather system after another blew across the country.  Life routine was just walk Smudge and stay in the warmth of AmyJo's cabin, only venturing out for supplies.  The little hobbit fire has done stirling service this winter!  I've had enough of winter now so bring on summer please!

A few weeks ago I was asked if I would help the boat sales broker on site move some boats, so between weather systems I single handed two boats, one at a time, from Orchard Marina on the Trent and Mersey back to the marina over a two week period.  It was bitter cold but I still enjoyed the break and being out on the cut again, and, as a bonus I got paid for doing what I love too!

One of two boats I transferred  Poor quality photo taken on my phone.
Now with spring on its way we're looking forward to getting out and about again so we'll have something interesting to blog about.  we have another Liverpool trip planned and hope to "Do" the Weaver again.  Before that though we have a much bigger ship to catch as Chris and I celebrate 40 years of marriage this year so have booked our first ever cruise to see the Northern lights in Norway in March.  I hope to post some updates when we get back.

So for now we hope your are staying warm and safe and hope see you othe cut sometime.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Oh dear, now we're getting closer to home I'm getting lazy with the blog again. Though to be fair whilst a delight to cruise this section of the T&M is not very note worthy and for some reason we took very few photos of this section.

We did have a visit from eldest daughter Amy armed with a mound of post and parcels last night.  One of which was a new harness for Smudge as we feel he had out grown his old one.  The new one has a good handle to grab him if needed and the lead loop is really strong.  It is also fully adjustable so should last him a good while.

Smudge sporting his new harness
 After finally completing Heartbreak Hill and descending Kings Lock we found a hire boat in front turning into the junction.  With boats moored on the water point I hovered mid channel until Chris gave me the all clear to proceed.  

Unusually there was no sign of traffic coming down from the Middlewich Branch so after resetting the lock after the hire boat it was our turn and I swung into what is the shortest canal on the network and into Wardle Lock.

Kings Lock and chandlers of the same name on the left.  I had just turned under the bridge to Wardle Lock

Sign on the Bridge 'ole,

The canal here was built in 1829 so that the navigation authority of the Trent and Mersey Canal could maintain control over the junction.  Wardle lock or more commonly, Maureen's lock, is next to the lock keeper's cottage where boat woman Maureen lived.  I remember our hire boat days chatting to Maureen whilst we passed through here, she was such a lovely, cheerful lady.  Sadly she passed away on 2012 but there is a plaque at the lock in her memory.

We found the moorings above the lock surprisingly empty so pulled in for the night on the first set of visitor's moorings.  In the evening we took ourselves off to the local Tesco for some bread and milk.

Moored in Middlewich above Maureen's lock

Total distance:5.79 miles Elapsed time:3h33m25s Locks:6 Bridges:16 
Average speed:1.63 mph (3.31 lock/mph) 

Today we continued our journey along the Middlewich Branch.  Traffic today has been best described as heavy.  So many boats on the move in the other direction. 

According to Wikipedia this Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal  runs between Middlewich, where it joins the Trent and Mersey Canal, and Barbridge Junction, where it joins the main line of the Shropshire Union Canal. It is 10 miles (16 km) long, and was planned as part of the Chester Canal, which was authorised in 1772, but the company ran out of money, and construction did not begin until 1827. The Trent and Mersey insisted that there should be no direct connection at Middlewich, and instead built the short Wardle Canal to join the two, charging large compensation tolls for traffic passing along it.

The canal became part of the Shropshire Union system in 1846, which was taken over by the London and North Western Railway within a year. Traffic on the branch was always limited by the compensation tolls, and it was not until 1888 that they were abolished.

Along the way we did see a novel way of rounding up cattle at one farm as we passed.  Days of one man and his dog seem to be replaced with one lad and his quad nowadays.

New solution to rounding up the herd

Though now and again the old method still had to be applied

The lad was charging around the herd, who must be quite used to this as they stood their ground and took quite some cajoling to move along. 

Considering the amount of boats we'd had heading towards us we steeled ourselves for a big queue at Minshull lock which is the norm for this time of year.  This was the scene that greeted us.  Not a boat in sight and one leaving the lock ahead of us!

No queue!  We like this lock as its quite pretty here

Having gone through plenty of locks this trip Smudge is now well versed with locking procedures and stands watch casting a critical eye over AmyJo as she enters the lock from the lock bridge above.  He then checks everything is OK with a glance at Chris then helps close the gates though he does get under Chris's feet tangling her in his lead at times.

Keeping watch to make sure we get in the lock OK.
 We found some lovely moorings with Picnic tables in the sunshine so pulled in for the day.   We then sat out in the cratch watching all the boats go by.

Total distance:7.03 miles Elapsed time:3h15m44s Locks:2 Bridges:22 
Average speed:2.16 mph (2.77 lock/mph)