Friday 25 September 2020

The last hop....

Back to our Wales adventure.... to complete the trip record.

We woke on Sunday morning to a relaxed start. I had prepped the engine the night before (lubricated etc) so when we got a knock on the roof at about 9am from the local fishing club asking if we were moving off anytime soon as they had a match on I offered a 10 minute extraction which was greeted with happy smiles from the bailiff ! 

There was a bit of method in my compliance as when I popped up the back hatch and enquired on the number of pegs (I am a much retired match angler) I was informed 60 ! Now I am a fisher person so always travel in a match at absolute tickover and sixty pegs was a sizeable match so we fired up and headed home.

The blue skies belie the cold feel of the wind out of the sun. 

The bonus is there are little pockets of wind protection getting bigger as we approached our mooring 

The massive Wrekin is a marker of being home. Ironically we could just about see it from Chirk Castle and we can see it as we drive over Caudon Low on our way to the cottage. 

We've seen this little boat every time we pass through Tyrley locks " Spirit of Phoebe" As you can see its a narrow narrow boat and only about 15 feet long. I'd love to know the story of the boat if there is one ?

Then it was the last bit via the wharf at Knighton and Shebdon embankment to our silty mooring where Percy's rear end gurgles and farts as it passes the silt bar that has formed where the turning circle is for moorer's cars.

We had a lazy Sunday afternoon cleaning the boat (inside) and I cut the grass by the flower beds then headed home .... a summary will be added for the record. 

Wednesday 23 September 2020

Blogpress SOS

 Slightly unusual request for blogging help....

I have my old waterlily blog printed year by year as something to pass down to my great grandkids so they knew what Great Grandad Nev did with his time ! 

Anyhow I was prepping my old Waterlily blog and all the images I uploaded with 

"- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone" are missing. 

It seems when I did this Blogpress held the images rather than Blogger and Blogpress seems to have done a reinvention with paid accounts and possibly dumped all their old 'customers' and their data?

Anyone else had a similar experience as I'd like to get my blogs back complete ?

Any help advice commiserations greatly received.

Sunday 20 September 2020

Out in the dark, back in the dark

Yesterday was always going to be a longish day but an invite somewhere on Monday saw us making a seven hour day into a thirteen hour day. 

We set off at 7.15 am on another beautiful day towards Audlem. Other boats had the same idea and it was not long before the first boat came past us and at Coole Pilate a boat emerged in front of us (well in front of us) towards Audlem. 

When we got to the bottom lock at Audlem I realised it was John and Jan on NB Jubilee. We made it up the flight in about 2 hours 45 minutes with the help of John and Jan who set a few locks for us (we forgot to say thank you - so a heart felt thank you). We also met Nick on NB Mintball (great name) towards the top of the flight.

There was a lack of water evident on the flight and the canal in general. The by-washes were non existent. This slowed us later for a couple of reasons ....

Nick on Mintball, nice to meet you. 

We cleared the Adderley flight and took a three hour siesta in the beautiful woods before Market Drayton, supposedly haunted. We did consider an overnight here and a longer day on Sunday for out return but in the end took a calculated gamble on Tyrley lock moorings.....

As we cruised through Market Drayton we hailed our lock wheelers.... might they have something to tell ?

Then it was the slow chug to the Tyrley flight. Here it got very slow as the boat in front would not exit the lock until his crew had emptied the lock in front  ( no one coming down). He held in the lock so we could not close the gate and  empty it and make our progress. He said he was concerned he would be grounded in the pounds ? (despite his lock wheeler emptying water into the pounds from the lock above - can you figure that out  - we could not. ) So we had a very slow passage through these locks in the fading lights. 

Then our planned moorings for the night were full, every time we have been this way before - including late on the way out there were moorings but not today so off we went through the Woodseves cutting .... in the ever fading light. The water levels being low made passage through the cutting very slow but still very atmospheric and enjoyable. We both showered on the move and Rachel set to making a meal.

By the time we came out of the cutting it was getting dark to the point I put on the headlight - on the way out on this trip the light was also used ! 

I do like cruising in the early mornings and the late evenings 

We eventually put pins in at Soudley  - well out from the bank but it had been a 13 hour day and we had enjoyed every minute of it.

Friday 18 September 2020

The 10/10 turn

Today I woke to a colder boat and a chilly morning with dew a plenty on the boat, a sign of times to come for sure. 

The plan was for a 7.45am start to get to the Hurleston flight at 8am (we were just outside Swanley marina) in true lesson learnt mode we slightly overslept choosing to wake naturally rather than to an alarm so it was 8.30 when we eventually motored off our last mooring on the Llangollen for a while. It all worked ok  as we arrived a the flight the lockies set the locks but we dipped onto the water point to give us the last top up before Shebdon and home mooring. It helps there is a decent straight approach to the locks so I kept an eye out for approaching boats and slipped us back into the channel when I saw a boat in the distance. This was fortuitous timing as we had the flight to ourselves apart from the last lock with the lockies setting the three towards the junction. I had a decent chat with one of them who had his Braidbar in Swanley marina that had a JP2 all the way from South Africa - a 1956 vintage engine.

Then Rachel did a 10/10 turn onto the main line with two boats queueing to go onto the Llangollen watching in admiration as Percy was swung round under the bridge and pointed home.

We emptied the cassette at the services and got an embankment mooring for the first time and after coffee we went into our second favourite town centre after Chichester  - Nantwich.

Suitability fed and topped up shopping wise (wine) we slipped back into the channel at around 5pm for a cruise to take us just above the Hack Green locks to remove that little bottleneck in the morning. The no2 lock has really badly leaking bottom gates and takes an age to fill and empties the pound dramatically  in the process.  

This fella keeps following me ....

Percy enjoying the deeper and wider main line 

No worries about breaking wash

We are moored just past the first bridge above the locks - a lovely quiet rural mooring that will give me about 45 minutes cruising time in the morning before the Audlem and Adderley locks (20 in total) I fancy another dawn cruise so 45 minutes should see us at the bottom of the flight before 8am.

I got the drone out when we moored up for some shots of the area.

That is the 'secret bunker' behind Percy where the order to sink the Belgrano came from  - I've toured it twice - a good day out if a little sobering 

The canal looking back towards Nantwich and Hack green locks 

Looking towards our home mooring 

Percy's penultimate mooring of this trip just above Hack Green locks 

Thursday 17 September 2020

Splendid 8 hour boating day

 We (I) planned a 8am arrival at the Grindley brook staircase locks  - I really did not want the same 2 hour wait we had the other day. It worked well and I was able to use the services for rubbish and cassette as we were the first boat there. 

I had a good chat with Charlie the lock keeper. He said yesterday there were 63 passages through the locks with it getting a bit fractious at the bottom made a little more complicated by the Chamberlin pair of working boats coming up. He said he had one irate private boater approach him demanding he go down and ‘ sort it out’ and make the passages quicker !

His observations were there was more agitation and moaning going on this season, mainly from people like me ( he did not say that ) private boaters. My spin is more marina  boaters out at what is normally a quieter time only to fine lots of boats out. He said he had a friend up in one of the hire bases and they were booked out until the end of November. He also said all those bookings cancelled had been remade and people we coming back off their hastily booked canal  holidays that had enjoyed it then booked next year. Good for the canals and businesses  - and C&RT

Our 6 lock decent of the Grindley flight in under an hour was dented by a four boat queue at the next lock, not helped it seems as the lead boat had got caught on the cill. No great drama just a little slow down.

There is a need for some veg management on the lower part of this canal for sure. 

We came round a corner and found a boat blocking the canal. I had to use our boat pole and pole it back and re-tie it up with the bits of rope left  - it had been done a few times judging by the various bits of rope and knots.

The rest of the trip was just nice boating, still busy and a few hold backs at bridge holes but lovely warm mid September weather.

Just short of eight hours cruising today and we are just up from Swanley marina. Plan tomorrow is an early is start to get to the Hurleston locks then into Nantwich by late morning to hopefully get a mooring so we can go into town. Later we may move to a rural mooring for the cat. Then we will be set fair for the Audlem flight on Saturday and hopefully get above Adderley so we can have a lazy Sunday with an evening cruise back to our mooring.

Wednesday 16 September 2020

Today it felt like a silty ditch

There is a lot the boat hire companies need to improve on. 

They obviously don't give much detail on boating etiquette. Sure there are the speeders when moored up, some come by with a big smile on their face accompanied by an impressive bow wave. But on this canal it's the passing speed and distance that is the issue. Very few hirers slow down when passing and they are maintaining their bow wave speed  (no doubt driven by the need to be somewhere after massively miscalculating distance based on the mythical 4mph) 

The passing speed is one thing but the lack of appreciation of the varying depths of the canal along with the passing speed pushed us onto the silty  (no water cause the passing boats sucked it out from under us) edge. Happened four times today, once getting us totally stuck relying on the pole to get us off, other times we reversed off.  

We resorted to holding a much of the centre channel as possible and that worked in the main but got a few glares from the (no fault of their own) uneducated boaters.

I sound like a right private boating snob but these are the realties of a vey busy canal with lot of inexperienced crew. 

C&RT need to be more active on this canal with of side vegetation maintenance as well as dredging. Some stretches are one boat only .... another seemingly missed briefing to hire boaters - the tow path boat gives way to the non tow path boater.... again we were forced to hold or reverse as happy holiday boaters came around moored boats with no appreciation of where our boat was going to go .... I am of the opinion many bring road manners to the canals.....

Anyhow rant over.... 

Today we had a leisurely start and took a walk into Ellesmere ( not much compared to Whitchurch) for supplies then set off at 1.40pm and mored up just after Whitchurch in the same mooring outward bound at about 7pm.

Tomorrow we will be up earlyish to try and get to the Grindley Brook staircase locks before too much of a queue forms. We can't afford the hour per lock queues we had up the canal to reappear for the remaining locks on this canal.

Our target is somewhere near Swanley, a good days boating if we get that far that'll give us and easier day Friday ( and maybe a mooring in Nantwich),  a long Saturday doing the Audlem flight and Adderley locks and back to the mooring late Sunday if all goes well. 

Tuesday 15 September 2020

Got taught a lesson or two and an ambition long held realised

Planning and prejudging were my lessons learnt yesterday and a better person for the lessons I think I am. 

Two days posts in one as yesterday I was just too tired to blog ! 

So yesterday 14th September ....

Everything was set and planned for a 5.45am alarm call and a 6am start to get us over the aqueduct at sunrise. All going to plan until we came out of the Whitehouse tunnel in the early morning mist and still dark.... "is that a tree down" I said incredulously, yes sure was completely blocking the canal and in an instant kicking all my planning and considerations into touch. Lesson one of the day and I'd not been awake an hour !

I called C&RT emergency number and got through after about 5 minutes then pulled the boat back and waited. The lengths person  arrived a couple of hours later and advised he had sent pictures...they dispatched a working boat from Trevor and by 11am a very tight channel had been opened. About 12 boats then came through from the Llangollen side then it was my turn to lead my ten or so boats away. 

This gave us the privilege of being the lead boat across the aqueduct, no drone flight for pictures but we got some off the camera.

We nosed into the tuning fork moorings at Trevor and started to wind  (those that know this location will know the strange layout.) I was cursing a fisherman who was fishing at the end of the right side moorings as you look in.... I was unsure if we'd get in front of the boat at the end and his 'peg' while discussing options with Rachel he came up and offered to move so we could get in.... I later chatted to him and he told me of some of his troubles and after he saw me fishing came over and gave me some of his maggots. As someone recently said to me those with the least often give the most.... I was humbled by my initial cursing of a very decent man. Lesson two of the day.

We decided as we had a lovely mooring we'd stay put and set off back home in the morning. We didn't fancy the extra few miles of what is advised as shallow canal to Llangollen only to be in the mix with lots of people. 

We had some food then set off to explore the valley ...... This is the bridge you can see from half way along the aqueduct.

I sent the drone up and got some nice shots and a short video ......

We retired to the boat and had an early'ish night as the alarm was set for a 6.45am call and a 7am start...

We untied the ropes and then started the engine to avoid disturbing our neighbours. Our reward was a deserted Trevor and aqueduct. Rachel was not keen on me flying the drone over the aqueduct so I only got the end on shot but still proof we realised a long held ambition of mine to take Percy over this fantastic structure.

We then met a steady flow of hire boats on their way to enjoy what we had enjoyed. It started to get a bit daft when we got to Chirk tunnel. We had a boat in front who duly stopped then well over 10 boats came through.... very slow as they were running against the current.

We eventually got through and again met a steady flow of boats coming to Llangollen.  Around Chirk bank its quite tricky with boats moored on bends. One hire boat held back at a very congested and twisty  bridge hole section, no way two boats could pass, so we were amazed when we passed and advised there was a boat behind us that they just set off .... it would have been a complete stalemate and we felt for the boat behind us. In the main everyone was being sensible  - this was the first instance we met of sheer belligerence. 

It then got silly at the New Marton locks as we arrived to be in a queue of five. when we were at point three two hire boats came down and thought we were on the water point and tried to go thought the bridge hole where there were two boats waiting to go down... simple mistake, so many hirers seem to not have any maps or awareness of whats coming up ! 

It took 2 hours 20 minutes to do the two locks. !!

We are now the other side of Ellesmere having watered and de-wasted at the services. Tomorrow the alarm clock will be given another day off as we will be going into Ellesmere ( a place I've never visited) for supplies and lunch. then we'll set off in the PM to a destination not yet decided .... the right way to cruise. 

Sunday 13 September 2020

A recharge day ..... apart from the batteries

 Today we changed plans to plan C. After yesterday’s boating experience (polite) we decided to stay away from Trevor and not be the entertainment but more critically not be mixing  with the crowds .... and if anything they would have been bigger and more compressed than 5pm yesterday. 

Instead we had a leisurely start with a video chat with our youngest then a walk into Chirk for supplies and possible lunch. We struck lucky with a lovely place on the main drag that served up a superb Sunday roast, with a glass of wine and pudding with coffee. All in a lovely safe courtyard. 

Suitably stuffed we headed off to Chirk Castle after Rachel booked a 3.30pm slot for the gardens only (the Castle is still closed like many NT places.) The walk from Chirk with the aid of my Memory Map app took us across some fields that were well signposted but we got to a large field full of cows and a large bull that was concerning one woman enough for her to turn around. I offered to be the sacrificial human and passed said bull with no issue but she still turned back much to the consternation of her fella.

We last visited Chirk Castle when we brought Charles Rachel’s late dad to Wales for a long weekend ( he lived in Wales for many years) That was in 2013. It’s a lovely place and the grounds were a nice place to be on a mid September sunny afternoon. 

Getting back to the boat I set to getting the engine ready for a really early start tomorrow, I’m aiming to have the ropes untied at 6am so we can get an early morning cruise over the Aqueduct wind at Trevor and start our return journey. 

Part of my checks was the much ignored weed hatch. I am terrible checking this - I am sure I did it much more frequently on our previous boats, but when I have checked in the past it has always been clear. So today I did find a bit of rope and some vegetation that would not helped our progress against the flow. Note to self - check more regularly.

I greaser the tiller bearing and another grease nipple on the shaft  after taking off the grease nipple and cleaning it as the ball bearing has become stuck not allowing grease in from the grease gun.

So we should be good to go, I have got the Ginny running for an hour or so to pep up the batteries  as they held all day (fridge on) at 76%. The new starter has been a little lazy so I may have to use the emergency connect on the Smartbank to use the house batteries in the morning so best they have a bit of pep in them as we take some out tonight on pumps and inverter etc. 

Saturday 12 September 2020

Not my type of boating not my favourite canal by a long way.

The upper end of the Llangollen reminded me more of a theme park than a relaxing corridor of peace and tranquility today....

Back to the start of the day which was peaceful at Frankton Junction, a boater passing the other way advised it was chaos at the new Marton  locks which was maybe a bit of an exaggeration but there were three boats waiting to go up the first lock and when we exited the second lock there were six boats in a queue with more boats arriving as we cruised off to the next delay. 

Leia gave me a shock by falling into the very fast by-wash at the second lock, luckily she remembered how to swim and I was able to lift her out before she was swept into the canal but for the first few seconds she was tumbling in the white water ! 

It was warm and sunny so she dried out on the back counter 

We cruised on to Chirk and eventually (the canal narrows and the flow of water being pumped down the canal from the Dee really does slow the boat) we turned onto the Chirk aqueduct.

A real privilege to take Percy from England into Wales via this unique structure.

We were following a day boat but the flow across the aquaduct had us crawling along and the day boat disappeared into the tunnel. A walker advised there was a boat waiting at the other end so we tied up and waited. We were soon joined by three more boats. It was very difficult to see if a boat was coming as all the many walkers were using their phone lights to light the way and it was impossible to social distant to get into the tunnel to get a good look. Just as the boat came out I could see a boat approaching  - I’d waited a good time and the pressure of the other boats was growing I wanted to alert the boat we were due in the tunnel after waiting so I let rip with the air horn in the tunnel - much to the annoyance of a pair of walkers who took issue with me over it. I explained why I had done it and apologised if I had made his ears hurt (snowflake I think is the term ) .... the boat came through oblivious to my horn signal.... so we set to and has a very slow and noisy cruise as we were accompanied by a group of  people who were literally screaming and shrieking their heads off in the tunnel.

My patience was wearing thin so we stopped at our scheduled location of the visitor moorings near the Chirk marina. I counted over 12 hire boats that all went out between 3 and 4 ... there were 8 from a base below the two Marton locks and god knows how many from the Anglo Welsh base over the aqueduct (plus three day boats) 

I took a cycle ride up to the aqueduct to see if there were any free moorings at Trevor and it was horrible, people (ignorant people who had not a thank you for me waiting and giving them space to pass ) all over, boats queuing traders trading. - all great if you want something to see and do but I wanted a little peace ! 

One of the Chirk hire boats had motored over the aqueduct and was hopelessly trying to wind where the canal takes a sharp left to Llangollen. There was a lady and fella on another Chirk boat looking lost and I asked if they needed assistance... she replied “ I’ve just brought this £hit map for 11 quid and its useless ... I asked if she was looking for moorings or to motor to Llangollen, she advised the latter and I pointed her on her way. Boats were headed for the full Trevor moorings so the winding there would have been interesting. The winding Chirk boat gave up when a posh looking trad boat came wanting to go up to the Trevor moorings. ( that were full) he was advised to throw a bow rope to one of the boat year staff who had come across the bridge to help... he did indeed throw the rope all of it forgetting to put it over the t stud to howls of laughter from the posh trad boat lady (poor show) 

I had saw enough and our trip will complete the outward section very early on Monday morning with a trip over the aqueduct wind and then beat a hasty retreat off this lovely but overly commercialised canal. I don't think I’ll be back until I have the back stove fitted on Percy and do it in winter.

So tomorrow we will stay put and let the hire boaters disappear their individual ways and avoid all the people who just don't seem to know about social distancing. 

The Monty is looking so tempting !