Thursday, 31 May 2012

End of May 2012

An interlude full of great events!
We arrived at PB Mechanicals, our destination for the Early Summer Cruise - on schedule.
My Log Book entry shows:
Early Summer Cruise: 14 days covering 7 canals and branches; 9 days travelling and 4 days painting ( 1 day chilling!). Covered 73 miles and 34 locks with 3 tunnels and 1 lift bridge and the amazing Barton Swing  Aqueduct.
50 engine hours, including some electricity generation gives overall 2.16 lock miles per hour.

Summary: This has been a great cruise, not least by the improving and brilliant weather once we pushed past Northwich and onto the Bridgewater. These were all fresh canals to us since our 1993 cruise this way on our first boat up here in nb Alcantara. This time, we took our time with stops at Dunham and New Springs, Wigan. The boat is running well and the various systems working OK. All in all excellent!
The boat outside PB Mechanicals
We have now transferred all we need (I hope?!) for our summer holiday from the boat to the car - 2 trips - and are now camping back at Overwater Marina on their small CL Campsite.
It's amazing what you can get into a motorvan!
On land - on Holiday!
Our first great event was to celebrate Chris' 59th Birthday, by getting over to the National Trust garden at Bodnant. It was in full early summer bloom and simply wonderful!

Enjoying the delightful gardens before the obligatory National Trust tea and coffee and walnut cake!
This weekend we settle in to enjoy the Jubilee Weekend which will include two band gigs for me and then up at the Audlem Festival to watch Blue Cafe, in which our friend Sally plays.

Monday is scheduled for a bbq if fine.
AND of course watching the River Thames Flotilla event -wow!
See Herbie's blog for info on this - Herbie in the Thames Flotilla

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Chilling Out! 26th May

We have progressed well and will move onto our summer destination for the boat at PB Mechanical tomorrow.
Today was a day to chill, clear the rubbish at the BW yard, restock the larder with a Tesco down the hill (bus back!) and have a gentle day.
I walked back down the locks to see how much, or in fact, no water was going down and not surprisingly, a pair of boats were caught on the cill entering a lock.

Our mooring spot high on the embankment was delightful with full sun and a strong warm breeze.

The Crown Hotel just down from the bridge had a couple of different real ales, so I sampled a couple! This photo shows the food for life - the near building is the Crown, then the Baptist Church and the Hovis Factory behind.
It was a great day and a lovely evening as the sun set over the land of Wigan.

The Wigan Flight - 25th May

Again an early start (for us) at 8.15 saw us 'last' to leave our overnight mooring and head into Wigan. We had arranged to go up with nb Christal Haze who we met at the bottom lock after the turn - Lock No.85. We had already done the 2 Poolstock Locks so only 21 to go!
It was again a lovely hot and sunny day with a strong warm breeze.
Chris took the helm and we paired up sharing the lock wheeling.

We made good steady upwards progress, climbing what is about 200 foot. There was a variety of paddle gear, in a variety of states of repair and some gates had a chain winch to close them. All gates were heavy and some exceptionally so. 
I have been following the Blog of Steve off nb Albert ( and knew he was coming down the flight today - we met at lock 78, shook hands and exchanged cards - it was rather surreal as we then went on our separate ways!

From inside a typical lock - except no water streaming in!

All was going steadily when we encountered a very low pound at lock 76 and got grounded entering the lock. Whilst drawing down from the next pound Christal Haze caught a rope/tyre and stalled. A weedhatch interlude was called for!

We reached the top in about 6 hours and as we couldn't get a decent mooring at the junction, went onwards through the next Bridge No.59A and found a great spot on the New Springs embankment.
This section of the Leeds and Liverpool was originally part of the old Lancaster Canal, heading towards Manchester. The line of the canal, which is in water though very reedy and full of rubbish, goes under the bridge in the photo for about 200 yards. A local man told me that BW had cleaned it out with a view to starting up a marina? There is no sign of that now - and I'm not sure another marina here is required.

It was a good day's boating and locking and we certainly slept well!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Slow boat to Wigan - 2

Speaking with Paul, the Peel Ports Engineer, was interesting, it turns out the delay was due to adjusts needed to the shims on the hydraulic wedges that seal the tank. These are adjusted according to temperature expansion - and there was plenty of that on the 234ft long structure, with thick grease and sawdust also being liberally applied. At last all was set for the Aqueduct to regain the canal alignment. It swung silently over about 4 minutes and I realised the ends were angled to take up a tight fit.

800 tons swings into place. The painted white vertical bar is the top of the hydraulic locking mechanism
As we tend to cruise slower, we let the others who were also waiting go ahead, including a very smart LMS Station Boat nb Achilles with what looks like a 4 cylinder Gardiner.
Crossing the Aqueduct was quite exhilarating with views all around.

Looking west to the road swing bridge

Looking east to Salford Quays

As we crossed over, there was a Peel Ports working barge. We had seen a number moored and only one in transit.

I realise my navigation can sometimes be poor though this building clearly confuses!

We had last passed this way in 1993, so my memory of the area was rather distant - and there has been considerable building development in between.  Some things stay the same through time and Worsley Hall and the Delph entrance are part of the folklore of how the canal system originated. Also the ochre colour of the water from the iron ore in the mines, there was talk of cleaning it up?!

We arrived at the newly installed self-operated Plank Lane Lift Bridge during the rush hour closed time.
Taking on a full tank of water filled (literally) the time and at 6pm I operated the push buttons to clear our way, just as nb Fletch (who was in front of us at the Aqueduct and stopped in Worsley) and Christal Haze appeared, holding the bridge up I could feel the looks from the growing queue of waiting motorists as a boat had interrupted their dash homewards! We arrived at the staging post of the old Dover Lock Inn and moored.
An 8 hour journey and some 22 miles! Tired and weathered, we eat at the pub with Alex and Kevin off nb Christal Haze swapping stories and planning the Wigan Flight Experience for tomorrow. Slept well!

Slow Boat to Wigan - 1

We had 'traded' off an extra day's painting on the embankent rather than travel into Castlefield and out again.
I was eager to leave early (for us - 8.15am) and followed other boats already moving into Altrincham.
It seemed we had been at Dunham for ages - three days, a very good place to stop over providing you have a full larder and water tank.
To complete an excellent Bridgewater cruise, I can't resist this Baker's Dozen of Ducklings.

Isn't the weather fantastic: shorts, t-shirt and sunglasses! Even cruising into Manchester seemed idyllic as we passed old and new.

The Sale straight mile was empty, not a moving boat in sight:-

What's this? - a morning sculler on the canal out from the Trafford Rowing Club - not an everyday sight on a canal!

The turn north at Waters Meeting came soon after, not for us Castlefield this trip.
On arriving at the Barton Swing Aqueduct, we were held for an hour by a maintenance stoppage. It did give us a chance for a cup of tea and a good look around (photo shoot).
No way through!
Chris holding the rail tightly - dont' step backwards!
Barton Viaduct - I know where I'd rather be.
The Aqueduct Control Tower - 1890's style by Sir Edward Leader Williams

After a cup of tea, more to follow!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Slow Boat to Costa del Dunham

We have continued our travels northwards via an overnight stop in Middlewich to go shopping/PO.
Although I say it myself, I made a text book left turn out of the Wardle Lock to head down through Middlewich towards Northwich. The weather was cold and dismal, reflecting the industrial scenes of the old and current salt industry.

Stopping overnight at the Lion Salt Works (work in progress to renovate it), I met up with on old Quintet mate for some beers and a chat in The Salt Barge.
The next day was warmer and the start of this lovely sunny spell. Further north, past Anderton are a series of tunnels, not exactly straight either!
                                          Will we fit?
                                          Yes! There is light at the end of the tunnel.
                                          Emerging into daylight!
Progressing slowly along this Brindley 1777 contour canal (and therefore twisty), we emerged from another tunnel - Preston Brook - to duck under the M56 and now onto the Bridgewater Canal. This is wide and deep with mainly sweeping bends and a delight to navigate. We last came this way in 1993 in our first boat!
Making good progress with the sun on our backs we stopped on the impressive Dunham embankment, near Dunham Massey Hall.
This was a perfect spot to spend for 3 days - I got on with some more painting and Chris worked at her cardmaking. A perfect Costa del Dunham! We had our first bbq of the year.
                                             A glimpse of the card maker's den!
                                              Watching the riggers scale the heights!
Next, the Slow Boat to Wigan!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Sun = Painting May 2012

We've left the Marina and are on our Early Summer Cruise up to PB Mechanical - in order to get some gearbox and assorted engineering done.
The run north through Nantwich (umbrella up job) and Barbridge is familiar yet very pleasant and I made the turn at Barbridge Junction in two goes without hitting (a record?). The weather improved with the sun showing between clouds scudding across the Cheshire Plain, a couple of buzzards came to inspect out intentions and a heron was clearly put out as we moored up on it's spot!
The visitor moorings above Cholmondeston Lock are lengthy and I pulled in at the near end, well out of the way.
The weather looking good tomorrow (Wed).
As the BBC said, Wed's weather was sunny and on our NE aligned mooring, sheltered being the tall towpath hedge from any wind.
Sun = Paint!
At last I managed to get the next step done in revamping the tired port forward side panel. We had decided to take out the stripe and go for a single panel colour. The rubbing down was done earlier and having masked everything up, on went the paint. I use a roller and 3" brush technique, with Johnstone's Trade paint.
Definitely an improvement, even at this undercoat stage.
I'm a very amateur, though 'needs must' painter and improving my skills as I go, helped by the excellent skilled advice from Phil Speight. A professional paint job is beyond our means, so I do the best I can. Perhaps, at some point, getting into a painting dock under cover will be worthwhile - until then it's all done when the weather allows from the canal towpath.
Writing this on Thursday morning, painting yesterday was a good shout as today - more rain!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

At the Marina - Apr/May 2012

After 12 days moored on the towpath, we decided to organise our finances and book back into Overwater Marina. Originally for a long weekend - though after more discussion this will be for a couple of weeks before we set off cruising again.
The main benefit of being in the marina is the easy plug into electricity - saves running either the engine (noisy) or the gas generator (also noisy and a bit of a pain in the rain). It's also not muddy, especially given the rain we've been having.
Whilst here, I've been doing the prep and some painting - in between the rain.
The saloon top light is off and having a make-over as this can be done in the front hold.

Other activities include getting to my band rehearsals and playing at some gigs.
With Rode Hall Silver Band, we went to the Buxton Brass Contest, came 9th in our fourth section - we didn't play as well as in rehearsal so some were rather disappointed.

 The above pic is our trumpet section with the Wychcraft Big Band
Going back to the benefits of the marina - it makes it slightly easier for visitors to park up and get aboard.
We've had the Men's Group (7 of us) in the saloon, my brother and partner for a vist, our daughter from Lisbon stopping over for a night, our long standing friend from Bollington Wharf came over and our son from Staines stopped over for the weekend.
Main focus now is preparing the boat to travel again next week in between some banding jobs this weekend.