Tuesday 31 July 2018

Days 11 & 12 - Blake Mere to Frankton Junction and a Shock In Store For All

Day 10 continued and a shock.

In the end the bad weather forecast on Sunday only amounted to a downpour overnight and not much wind though the latter could be due to our sheltered location.   We had made the decision to stay put so took advantage of our lovely location for another night and I updated the blog.

In the evening after dinner a few of us stood by the boats chatting when we all got a shock as an almighty crack was heard.  We spun round just in time to see a young tree come crashing down on the bow of a boat moored just upstream from our fleet.  The fallen tree now blocked the cut.  Luck would have it there was a lull in passing boats and no damage was caused to the moored boat.  With all hands on deck it was decided to pull the tree out of the way aided by a rope that I supplied.

After 30 minutes if shoving and heaving we finally manage to move the tree out of the cut and alongside the towpath.  Some boater's gold for someone!

Clearing the tree from the boat.  Fortunately no damage to the cratch cover or window

Now to haul it out of the cut

All together, two six.

Slowly but surely

Finally cleared and pushed across out of the way from the tow path

Barely had we got the tree out of the way than 5 boats, lead by two hire boats, appeared coming down stream.  Added to these were two boats coming up stream.  Rightly, the lead hire boat coming down moved over to make room for the oncoming boats and promptly ran aground.  Making the usual novice error he applied full forward throttle and got nowhere.  The result of this was his  now substantial prop wash then slewed the hire boat behind him across the cut running them aground with their stern bumping into AmyJo.  After that chaos reigned.

Repeated attempts to drive himself forward off the grounding, the lead boat was going nowhere and only making matters worse.  Added to that he now could not reverse because of the grounded boat behind him.  The other boats did best they could to stop and hold station out of the way.  

After 20 minutes of this I stood on the stern of the boat behind us and called for the lead boat's bow rope.  With that I pulled him towards me which enable him to get underway again.  Repeating the process with the hire boat behind him normality resumed and all boats got underway again.  With that excitement out of the way we settled down around the Bar-B-Q fire for the rest of the evening

Get together round the brazier.  The orbs are Citronella candles to keep the bugs at bay.

Day 11 - Blake Mere to Francton Junction

After a leisurely breakfast we got underway about 10:30am.  The weather had improved and the morning pleasant.  We slowly motored past the lake and moored boats.  I never tire of the view around these parts.  It must rank as one of my fav spots on the Llangollen second only to the aqueducts further on.

Blake Mere in all its glory.  I could stay here a lot longer if  I could

Morning reflections add to the atmosphere of the place

Next is Ellesmere tunnel, only a few yards long but, it is still as enjoyable as a long one.  I do so like tunnels as it concentrates the mind on the job in hand, steering the boat without hitting the sides.  Sometimes I get it wrong and the bang echos down the tunnel alerting everyone of my folly, but not this time.

Only a short tunnel but this one does have a tow path.

We had hoped to pull into Blackwater Marina for a pump out but a phone call to them informed us it was hand over day so they could not oblige until 4pm.  We are not desperate yet so we still have a few days to go (if you'll excuse the pun), though I am dusting off the shovel just in case :-)

Ellesmere was as busy as ever with many boats on the approaching moorings.  This boat was halfway into the marina before they realised it was not the arm!  Silly session at its best.

Waiting for the coast to clear so they can back out

and busy moorings outside

We then decided to stop for some shopping at the Tescos at the end of the arm.  I turned AmyJo into the entrance to find the arm chocker block with boats.  A moored boater ran up and advised us the winding point at the end of the arm was blocked with boats and we wouldn't be able to wind AmyJo.  I reversed out and just managed to get on the moorings outside, opposite the junction, and Chris went off to shop.  She later found that the arm was full due to a Christian fellowship boaters get together.

Feeling a bit vulnerable moored opposite the turn I opted to stay with AmyJo

This was the scene when Chris got to the end of the arm and two boats had just left

and this was the view at the turn.  Boats moored up everywhere

On Chris's return the C&RT services happened to become free so we quickly pulled onto them to top up the water and dispose of the rubbish.

We then had an almost uneventful cruise up to Francton. Along the way we were hit by a rain burst so heavy I had to pull in and stop as I could not see in front of the boat, this lasted for several minutes.  Just as we were preparing to get underway a rather soaked looking chap passed on his boat.  He showed us a whisky tumbler that he announced was empty before it rained.  It now held 2cms of rain water!

We continued when the rain stopped and got to Francton junction where later some of our fleet joined us.  I was then driven back to Blake Mere to bring our friends boat to our new moorings as she was working, so, once again the fleet was moored line astern of each other and another pleasant evening was had chatting with good friends.

Total distance:4.55 miles Elapsed time:3h54m9s Locks:0 Bridges:13 
Average speed:1.17 mph (1.17 lock/mph) 

Day 12 Staying put.

This morning Eric and Graham took the car on a scouting party to check out possible car parking at our next planned stopping place.  Eric also had a hospital appointment first thing back home.

They were gone most of the morning and on their return the report was not good as there was very little place to park cars.  With that in mind and our trip into Llangollen several days away yet the decision was made to stay put as the moorings here at Franction are pleasant enough with a good car park nearby.

This gave Chris the opportunity to catch up with some washing and me to get this blog up to date.  Mobile signal is less than ideal around here and the only one with any form of internet amongst the fleet is AmyJo's router.  Her little pepper pot GSM antenni earning their keep even if it has just taken an hour to up load the pictures!  

It would also seem I will have to replace my Mobile phone now, (as you will recall a refurbished replacement for the one dropped in the cut), as it has not been able to connect to a network for over a week now unless I am outside on the roof of the boat standing on tiptoe doing a pirouette when everyone else has full signal and 4G.  All this is why I'm not able to blog on a daily basis!

Today's mooring for the fleet

And the local Mooligans, young bullocks making their presence known.

Saturday 28 July 2018

Day 10 - Bridge 50 to Blake Mere and Flying Ants

Last night was hot and sultry despite the building wind but that was being held at bay by a line of tall trees on the offside.

About 9pm we could see loads of flying ants over the houdini hatches and assumed it was the weather bringing them out.  When I took Smudge for his last walk I found AmyJo's roof teeming with flying ants.  Millions of the little buggers swarming everywhere over the roof.  I can only assume the light colour of AmyJo was attracting them as the other boats were not affected.  I tried sweeping them off but to no avail.  Then a passing couple suggested fly spray and that indeed killed them all off (the ants that is not the couple).  I then swept them all off much to the delight of the fish that swarmed like Pyranna's behind AmyJo.

Our mooring prior to the ant invasion

Thanks to a kind boater running his engine at 6:30am this morning we rose at 7am just as he left.  We were planning to stay put so I took the opportunity to practise the guitar.   Oddly all the other boats left leaving us on our own, can't think why.

We got a call from our friend Eric to say the fleet were on the move and heading for Bridge 57 moorings by Blake Mere.  As the weather was still good and the winds not too strong we decided we'd join them so got underway about 11am.  

The Lyneal Project seems to have aquired 3 new boats all looking splendid in their new paintwork

We soon reached Cole Mere just visible through the trees and passed the lovely log cabins by the lake.

Lovely holiday cabin by Cole Mere
 We got to Blake Mere about midday and again all the moorings were empty.  Bridge 57 moorings were 5 minutes on so Chris went on to scout out mooring spaces.  Her news was not good as these moorings were busy with boats and fishermen so we decided to stop at our favourite spot beside the picnic table.

Busy moorings at bridge 57 just before Ellesmre tunnel

Not long after the fleet arrived and filled all the available mooring spots with us.  I had to move AmyJo a little and as I untied the ropes and was holding her steady a boat, whose name shall not be mentioned, came rushing past.  It was all I could do to hold AmyJo so I shouted to please slow down to which the pompous ass at the helm replied "I'm on tick over"  I relied then drop out of gear to slow down to which he called " no I have to keep control of the boat or I'll smash into you".  I'll not print my reply but I did get a mouthed apology from his poor wife.

Moored at our fav spot

The fleet all moored ujp

Good friends Eric and Marie enjoying an evening meal at the picnic table

and their view of the Mere

The forecast for tomorrow is not good with heavy rain and strong winds on the cards so we have all decided to stay put for now.

Total distance:2.32 miles Elapsed time:1h19m10s Locks:0Bridges:6 
Average speed:1.76 mph (1.76 lock/mph) 

Friday 27 July 2018

Days 6 to 9 Grindley Brook to Bridge 50 Visitor Moorings

Day 6 - Marbury to Grindley Brook

We have had an enforced break in services the last few days as we have had a distinct lack of internet signal up to today.  Hanging on with just 2 bars signal at present, I'll try and bring you up to date though this may be a bit long winded.

Wednesday we cruised the stretch from Wrenbury to Grindley Brook.  Apart from the Lift Bridge at Wrenbury and 3 locks (Quoisey, Willey Moor and Povey) there is not much to write about.  The day was warm, and boats were leaving the locks as we arrived so passage was good.  

Really quiet on the Llangollen so far this year

One of a few boats we saw on the move all morning

Willey moor pub, once again closed as we pass through the lock

We had friends visiting the next day, so we moored on the visitor moorings below the locks at Grindley Brook..  In the evening our friends in 4 boats arrived in convoy and moored up with us.  A pleasant evening chatting on the towpath in the warm evening was had.  We stumbled back to AmyJo at 1am in the morning.

Day 7 Grindley Brook to Chitchurch and back twice.

At 10:30am Chris’s work mate Helen with her mum Brenda and children Jack and Orla arrived and joined us for the day.  Jack and Orla really wanted to see the locks in action so we set off through the bridge and into the first lock.

The children were keen to help work the lock so Chris, her teacher instinct to the fore, explained how and why we work the locks.  Jack soaked up all the information and was clearly loving every minute.  Orla too enjoyed the experience and joined in when Jack allowed.

Jack and Orla get advise on operating a lock paddle

Whilst the children enjoyed working the lock...

Willing Lock wheeler Jack working hard,  Orla left to look on.

The mums enjoyed a glass of vino collapso in the cratch

Chilling out in the Cratch

Having worked the first three locks Jack then wanted to join me at the helm.  It was then I discovered he loves Dinosaurs, as he announced the gates of the middle chamber of the staircase looked like those at the entrance to Jurassic Park.  From then on we moved up the locks into the raptor compound keeping a good look out for the dinosaurs.  Lucky for us, none were seen so we reckon they were off hunting or having breakfast.

Waiting to enter Jurassic park

Jack giving me advice on what to do if the Raptors turned up whilst we were in the lock

Finally at the top of the locks and in raptor country we pulled in to top up with water.  During this time the kids got the chance for a photo session.  Part of their summer holiday tasks were to be photographed reading in extreme places.  AmyJo’s roof and life rings made the perfect place to start.

Extreme reading photo oppotunity

Looked quite comfortable up there

Helen and Jack at the back with Brenda and Orla in front

Once the water was full we carried on the 20 minute run to Whitchurch.  On arrival we passed through the lift bridge and was amazed to find the arm totally empty.  I reversed AmyJo back into the arm and tied up.

Reversing into the Empty arm

Family photo by the lift bridge

We had a leisurely lunch then chilled in the afternoon heat.  By 4 pm it was time to go and so with the children helping to raise the lift bridge whilst I winded AmyJo we retraced our steps back to Grindley Brook.

It took all of them in turn to raise and lower the bridge

After receiving "thank you"s from all concerned mums and the kids left and we returned back to the Witchurch arm once more.  The Arm was still empty and later our marina friends in their 4 boats arrived and joined us once more.  All moored in the arm with us.

In the evening a fantastic Bar-b-q was had and much laughter and drinking was the norm.  Needless to say another late night was in store

Open fire and a sing long with excellent friends for company

For one, who had been working all day, the evening was too much so, dressed in dressing gown, took the occasion to snatch a quick snooze on the roof.  I have to say with all the tubs of flowers and the eire darkness it would have been easy to think this was a wake for a passing friend :-)

Living corpse catches 20 winks

Day 8 0- Whitchurch arm to Lift bridge 42

Thursday dawned warm and sunny, so it was decided to go into town for a shop.  We tried to call a taxi but got no answer so we took a stroll instead.  

The Witchurch arm is owned by the Witchurch Arm trust who are still hoping to open up a small wharf with moorings on what used to be the route of the arm when it went right into town.  Whilst their dream is still very much alive sadly with each passing year more and more housing development is encroaching onto the area planned for the marina making the plan seem less likely to happen.

the site of the new marina can be seen on this maps

This is the site planned but already new housing is creeking ever closer

In the town first stop was a pot of tea and toasted tea cake.

Much needed tea and tea cake

After refreshment we walked to the local Sainsburys and did a big shop.

We then called a taxi who brought us back to the arm, in fact he stopped within yards of the boat so we did not have far to carry the bags!

After packing the shopping away we got under way about 2:30 pm.  It was really hot so we did not rush.  We crept out of the arm just as a boat was waiting for the bridge to be lifted.  

Approaching boat with three more behind

Within minutes of us getting onto the main line it got busy with boats coming down stream wanting to go through the bridge, however, the one coming through the bridge decided to try and turn into the arm.  It was clear from his length he could not do the turn but this did not stop him.  Now blocking the canal we left them to it to clear the blockage he caused.

Further on we waited while the hire boat staff moored up a boat that had come loose.  Once sorted we carried on.

Re-mooring the hire boat adrift
 This bull was cooling off in the water further on and was paying no attention to his mate who waited patiently on top of the hill.

food and water is more important than amore with this bull.

His spurned mate sulked off in the distance

Our mooring for the night just after lift bridge 42

Day 9 Bridge 42 to Bridge 50 visitor moorings

An earlier start today at 9:30am.  This morning was already heating up with the sun beating down.  We cruised through the next two bridges without hitch.  On arriving at the last lift bridge before Prees junction we caught up with a hire boat.  It was approaching the bridge when the chap aboard lept the 3 to 4 feet to the bank.  Not a good idea as the bank sloped away from the armco quite steeply.  The result was the fella shot head long into the bushes.  Luckily he was unharmed and eventually raised the bridge.  

Hire boat crew passing the bridge
By now we were apon the bridge so also passed through.  Whilst the chaps wife pulled their boat into the bank yet another boat headed towards the bridge from the opposite direction.  We carried on to the junction and made the turn without another boat in sight.

Approaching Prees Junction

The iconic house on the Junction.  Must be one of the most photographed on the canal.

We cruised the long straight stretch towards Bettisfield and only passed one boat coming the other way.

The lone boat we passed on the way to Bettifield

At Bettisfield we pulled onto the water point to top up the tank.  Whilst there the hire boat crew slowly cruised past followed buy another boat close behind.  We thought this a bit much but on pulling out behind them we soon found why.

The queue leaving Bettisfield

Turns out the hire boat crew had been travelling the whole way on just over tick over but slowed down to an almost stop when passing moored boats or when other boats passed the other way.  Progress was painfully slow with no chance to over take.  Still we don't mind after all we have no hurry.

We found some really nice moorings after Bridge 50 near Hampton Bank so decided to call it a day.  The forecast is not good for the next few days with strong winds in the mix so we may stay put and ride out the rain and winds.

Total distance:15miles Elapsed time:9h35m42s Locks:3 Bridges:34 
Average speed:2.10 mph (2.10 lock/mph)