With Graham still away I took the lead helming his boat round Press Junction and was confronted with my first ever single handed lift bridge.
I was not sure how to tackle this at first but needn't have worried. Kingfisher knew what to do and so without me steering slewed herself across the cut, stern to the towpath, and bow to the bridge landing. I simply had to walk across the bridge, grab the bow line and tie off. I lifted the bridge and then bow hauled Kingfisher through to allow the others to pass. I then lowered the bridge, stepped back onto Kingfisher then, one by one, overtook them all to take point again. I have to say I don't think I'd find that as easy single handing AmyJo!
|Bow hauling Kingfisher through the lift bridge
Next day at the Viking Hire base and Chris at the helm of AmyJo leading the fleet, we were confronted with the hire fleet 4 abreast on the bend and little visibility beyond. Chris did a fab job rounding the bend and hire boats without touching any. The rest of us were not so lucky and bashed them as we passed. We heard later after this the hire boat team moved the boats to make passage easier, which they should have done in the first place.
|Chris approaches the tight passing place and showed she could manage AmyJo in a tight spot if needed.
We spent the night, once again, all moored line astern in the Whitchurch arm. In the morning I reversed AmyJo out and Chris raised the bridge for me to pass through. I then moored up and we repeated the same whilst I moved Kingfisher through and moored up. Finally, I raised the bridge again to allow the rest of our fleet through and then Chris and I followed behind.
|Marie brings Old faithful through the bridge
An easy run to Grindley brook saw us queueing to wait our turn so each took turns to fill with water.
|Waiting our turn at the top of the staircase and filling up with water
Whilst descending in the top chamber I could hear a commotion going on below in the bottom of the staircase. Seems a grumpy elderly gent in a hire boat was not prepared to wait and tried to ascend despite not letting the lockies know he was there. They tried to ask him to wait without much luck and only making him more angry. It was not until he realised AmyJo was descending above him and no way he could proceed that he reluctantly backed down shouting and hollering at his poor suffering wife who was doing her best at the helm. The volunteer lockies were not impressed and made him wait whilst two more boats followed AmyJo down the staircase. He was still shouting and cursing at his suffering spouse as we cruised past him in the pound. Clearly for them their boating holiday was not an enjoyable one, such a shame, I did feel for the poor woman who looked close to tears.
Next day Graham joined us again so I could resume my place on AmyJo. We ticked of day by day making two hour cruises and chilling whilst we waited for the workers to catch up in the evenings. Whilst waiting I took the time to give AmyJo a bit of a polish to keep her looking clean
Just before Wrenbury we passed a familiar boat. Little Bear is what we call AmyJo's stablemate as it was Little Bear that was in build at Fernwoods the same time as AmyJo was. We managed to catch up with Mike and Helen later at Wrenbury for a good old catch up.
|AmyJo's stable mate Little Bear.
After an uneventful descent of Hurlston Locks and an overnight stop at Barbridge,we continued north towards Tattenhall. We had a good run through Calverley services and then stopped for the night. Next day after an excellent breakfast in the cheese factory we continued our run home.
|The fleet on the run past Calverley
We all arrived at the Bunbury staircase locks to be informed there would be a delay as Anglo Welsh needed to perform a repair on one of their boats. Seems the boat had been caught on the cill forcing the skeg up. This was now required pushing back down so the boat could be steered properly. The staff quickly drained the bottom two chambers and using a hydraulic jack forced the skeg back down to its original position.
|Staff forcing the skeg back down with a hydraulic jack.
As a queue had formed we proceeded to descend when given the all clear and then had to perform the now famous Bunbury shuffle. For those not aware this entails two boats going up or down and one moving in the opposite direction. In the middle chamber the boats are moved like tiles in a picture puzzle until they are in the correct chambers to continue.
|The shuffle, AmyJo going forward, Chas Harden boat pushed across behind AmyJo, and the other boat takes its place
then the gates are shut and we all go our own ways. Simples!
Saturday is not a good day so go through the Bunbury staircase and this time was no different. Most of the Anglo Welsh fleet were home leaving little room to maneuver. I was first down. By the time the others got down a queue was forming alongside the hire boats making passage extremely hazardous. Nothing new here though.
|The usual Crowd of hire boats, at least not quite as bad as usual. Not so a few minutes after this was taking
We tied up after Iron lock, just past Chas Harden's boat yard and celebrated the finish of our cruise in the only way we do best, beer and Bar-b-q.
|Last meal together, tomorow we return to the marina.
|Watched by the local deer. Reminds me of of a western movie. Indians gathering on the hills
Our last day saw us through Whartons Lock and the final leg to the marina. We waited our turn as two by two the boats locked down.
|The fleet arriving at Whartons Lock nicknamed top lock
|A final photo of our fleet before heading home. From front to back...
Jasmine (Paul), Old Faithful (Marie), Lucille (Eric), KingFisher (Graham) and finally AmyJo.
Those who locked down waited below so the fleet could enter the marina all together. We hit on the idea of playing Flight of the Valkyries loudly as we entered just like the film Apocalypse now and all moored up.
The whole trip took all of just over 5 weeks to complete. We have all become very close friends and had a fabulous time. For some, a lot of firsts were achieved on this trip and, for all of us, many more happy memories made too.
Our thanks must go to Marie, Dianne, Paul, Eric and Graham for a truly fabulous time, we loved every minute with them and loved cruising in your company. Thank you all.
So up to date now... After a night in the Marina we bade our goodbyes and after dieseling up and a pump out we headed out again. First a couple of nights at the Shady Oak and today we headed off up the Middlewich Branch for a few days chilling and doing nothing much. We just felt some down time is needed and with little traffic on the branch we hope this should also be peaceful too.