Well, where do I start this rather large blog post ? I guess picking up the opening sentence, something I reflected on while moving Percy single handed from Fradley on the Trent and Mersey to Shebdon on the Shropshire Union canal..... I'm 56 now and I don't really know how I got to that age so quickly.... quickly but 56 years quickly. The same as going along the canal at 3mph, the destination seems distant based on the speed and stop starts at locks, bridge holes and moored boats but you arrive at that evenings destination and ultimately you arrive at your final destination. So the conclusion is the destination while important is not by a large margin the prize, the prize is the journey so we should all enjoy it as much as we can.
Anyhow I had two weeks to move Percy before the clocks went back, the half term school break happened and the Shropshire Union canal closed at Norbury for a month or so.... I also only had a few weeks more to get my mooring cleared for whomever decided to take it on. So following the weather I decided last week was the better of the two weeks so committed to that.
Typically on the Monday the weather was just grey and drizzly when I got to Percy. I dithered a bit not sure if I should hold for the improving weeks weather or cut and run. I took the opportunity to clean out the soot from on top of the back boiler plate. My arms seemed to have got fatter and I was seriously concerned I may get my hand stuck to I invented this contraption that worked very well.
I needed water and as there were no boats moving I untied and motored across the canal to the Hunts lock landing water point.
Suitably filled I made a snap decision at 4pm to do the Fradley flight and moor above Woodend.... goodbye and thank you for 11 years safe and beautiful mooring.
No Vlokies, no other boats and no people around. I emptied the cassette and set Junction lock and kept going
Leaving Shadehouse for the last time for a while. I'll be back as there are routes around here that need to be done and done again
It was quite dusky dark by the time we got moored up in my favourite place on the canal (so far) in the woods above Woodend lock. The whisky and the fire soon had me contentedly tired and warm
About a mile and a half and 6 locks
Tuesday morning started badly when I checked the Smartgauge and it told me I'd run the batteries right down, not sure how, maybe the fridge on too high. The batteries are a few years old now so owe me nothing but I knew I was going to have a long day so they would get a decent charge.
The EP is Engine protect, basically the relay is only allowing the alternator charge to the starter battery until it is suitably charged then it connects them all together and charges the domestics. Simple but effective.
My overnight mooring in the daylight - on my own perfect.
It was a grey start but quite mild and no rain as I progressed from Woodend past Kings Bromley and Armitage. I was caught up by a hire boat, the only boat on the full trip I saw behind me until the very last afternoon.
I let them past as we approached the narrows at Armitage - cheeky but thats practical for single handers. As I went down past the long term moorings Victoria came towards me towing her butty and we past a boater who had just released his bow line, he struggles to hold his boat in as two big heavy boats passed each other and him at the same time.
Then I sounded my very loud air horn at the blind right hander at the Ashwood pub only to a few seconds later see a bow emerge !! I asked if they had heard my horn and they said yes but could not find their horn to alert me !!
One of the last pinch points in this area is Rugley visitor moorings - I always fret about this as there is no real passing place and the moorings can be long - but today the canal gods were with me as the weather improved and the passage went nicely.
Looking back and forwards at the largely unoccupied moorings
Another pinch point at the turn across the Trent as we leave Rugely I met another boater who was very capable and we passed easily. Another less glamorous issue the single hander has is toilet breaks so things like narrow bridge holes, locks and aqueducts are slow down to stop toilet breaks !!
Instantly you are in the countryside with views of Cannock chase and no residential and no industry, just farm land and peace.... perfect.
I had met a few boats coming to me by now, not many. Colwich lock I had to myself but had the benefit of a boat being bow hauled out (broken down) so I was able to motor straight in. Haywood lock was the same and as I did the turn off the T&M to the Staffordshire and Worcester canal I had a brief conversation with some Canadians (they were videoing me as I turned) who were tracing their family tree and were keen to tell me they had relatives that used to work the boats.
I was hailed and thanked for my 'Proper tickover' speed as passed boats on the Anglowelsh moorings.
Tixel wide looking wide and quite empty
Maybe a bid sad but made me chuckle
I motored in ever improving weather to my target nights destination Deptmore lock.
17 miles and 4 locks - a decent days cruising and my batteries were fully charges and the fridge very cold !!
Now this is where I started to get some troubles, the hell part of my cruise. I noticed the temp gauge was moving around far too much up high then down low...
Another compliment from a fisherman in this match for my tickover speed. Every one was happy to engage in conversation - not all anglers are miserable
A stop in Teddersley lock to get some elastic bands (don't ask) from Midland chandlers who did not sell them but has some in a draw so I put a donation into the charity box - sorted. Another comfort break while in the lock... Leia is a great crew mate she stays put and guards the boat while I am shopping or peeing !!
Teddersley boat yard was as busy as I've ever seen it
As I was climbing (filling each lock) each lock presented me with a challenge as some ladders were in the middle some at one end some at both ends - no consistency. This one was quite scary as the foot gap was so limited so I was climbing it with just my toes on the ladder rungs and the ladder was slippy as it had been underwater !!
Then some lock landings were just fenced off - where does a single hander secure their boat to ??
Some bridges had taken such hits - how do people get it so wrong ?
Lots of Herons about
The obligatory Gailey tower shot
Re the engine overheating - I rounded on it either being the thermostat or the pump...
I got another decent boat free mooring not quite where I wanted to be but I wanted to let the engine cool as it was getting too hot.
10 miles and 10 locks today.
Thursday I was up early (again for me) as I wanted a 7.30am start to get through the Pendleford narrows before the boats (if any) hit them from the moorings on the Shroppie. Seems others had the same idea....this boat emerging from the mist as I set Percy up for the day.
Another Heron out early for his/her breakfast
I had my headlight on for the first couple of hours as it was very misty.
The sun was doing its best and would soon join me in all its glory for the rest of the day
Then we hit the narrows (not literally thankfully). Nothing came the other way which was good as the passing places are few and being on my own I did not fancy holding the boat while another passed in such confined spaces.
This family were just exiting the narrows as I approached so they went all the way back in front of Percy
The sun was waiting for me at the other end of the narrows
Then is was the turn onto our new home canal - the Shropshire Union canal. There is a stop lock just inside the junction., no doubt put there in working days to keep the waters separate so the Shroppie did not get the Staffs and Worcester canals water. Lucky for me there was a boat approaching but I was there first otherwise I'd have had to reverse back out of the canal and hold/moor up.
There were quite a few boats mored (4 a breast) at the hire base at the bottom of the Shroppie.
Straight (ouch) away you get the feel for this canal.... a Telford canal, his last and his grandest in England. Large embankments and deep cuttings being its signature feature.
At the bottom there are still some narrows and yes I did meet another boat here !!
The cuttings are seemingly 'plugged' by high bridges
You feel for these boats. They must have owners somewhere but have not been visited for a very long time. Goodness only knows what they are like on the inside !!
Expensive mistake was now realised as I had put my MTTP solar controller under a shelf in the engine room. However the engine header tank spat water out of the relief valve and it ran down and damaged the controller - bugger, but my error and lesson (expensive) learnt
More heavenly cruising spoilt in a way by the engine overheating .... I was giving it a lot of though as to why !!
Over the A5 aqueduct - poor souls rushing .....
I stopped at Weaton Aston after the lock (anyone care to tell me what was different about this lock to the other 21 I had done on my trip ? ) and emptied the cassette and disposed of my rubbish while Percy cooled a little.
I decided to see of the belt was slipping on the water pump causing the overheating as it was so variable, so got the tools out and changed both alternator and water pump belts. Old water pump belt at the top so you can see some wear but not too bad.
The new belt certainly sat higher on the pulley.
Times like this am very grateful for an engine in a space I can work around easily.
I ticked over to Turners garage and filled up with 113 litres of diesel with a engine hours count of 570 hours (need to check that )
14 miles and 2 locks
Friday was another heavenly day but turned into hell with the overheating. The morning can only be described with pictures so here goes.... click them for the larger images.
Percy like all motors had two loops to cool the engine. The closed loop is for warming the engine up and when it gets to temp 60c in Percy's case the thermostat opens passing the now hot water to the skin tank to cool it. The thermostat then should moderate the water flow to keep the temp at 60c. What I concluded was happening was the thermostat was randomly closing causing the engine to be only using the closed loop... as the temp sender is on the open loop this has the effect of showing a cooling engine, when the thermostat opened the temp sender got a hit of hot water and shot right up to then slowly dropped as the skin tank did its job....
I decided to let the engine cool as I approached Norbury, just 3 miles from my new mooring. I had a breakfast and then took the thermostat out of its housing.
Frustratingly this introduced an air lock that I could not seem to clear so the engine was still getting hot. Top and bottom of it was I decided to limp to my new moorings. However there was still some heavenly cruising to do.
Good job this was not a vulture otherwise I'd really have got a complex about this cruise.
I got to within half a mile of my new moorings and the engine got too hot again so I stopped it and tried to float into the bank... but this is the Shroppie and its either the shelf or shallow moorings and this was the latter so I was suck about 3 foot into the canal. Nothing for it but a jump that I just made with one welly in the water.
I had an hour wait almost in sight of my new mooring but I could not even bow haul the boat as the sides were so shallow. The image below is about how far I was out !!
Looking back where I spent a frustrating hour
Of course as I was moored half in the channel boats started to pass....including this one. It was Annamarie and Kath who I follow on Youtube - they Vlog as The Narrowboat Experience
They were experiencing the same frustrations as I had trying to moor up. As I passed I gave a little advice on the Shelmore embankment moorings just a few hundred yards up the canal.
The new mooring gave me a real natures best welcome as the sun set, I got the whiskey out to toast my arrival and rested as the evening burnt away to darkness and peace.