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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2015 – Day 43, 44 & 45

Posted by indigodream on 5 February, 2016

Rewind to Monday 5th – Thursday 8th October

Weston on Trent to Mercia Marina

It may seem strange to amalgamate the three days which mark the end of an epic odyssey, but the reason is that we didn’t cruise them!

It’s a long story, but we had a great opportunity to let my cousin Denise and husband Wyn to cruise the last leg of the journey to our winter mooring in Mercia Marina. Although they haven’t been on board for a while, but we have complete confidence in them, and we were excited that they would be bringing their labrador, Choccie, for her first narrowboat holiday. Choccie sadly has a large tumour on her lip, malignant and inoperable, but, being a labrador, she hasn’t let it slow her life down in any way:-)

I hadn’t tasked Denise with writing a blog but let’s see whether this link to her Facebook album works – they had a ball, especially Choccie!

How to sit out a traffic jam? In style of course :-)

How to sit out a traffic jam? In style of course:-)

We had uhhmed and aaahed about where to moor for winter – our criteria were: definitely a marina, definitely in the Midlands – within a 3 hour drive of home, definitely on a canal rather than a river,  but that hardly narrows the choice! In the end we decided on Mercia – it looks fantastic with great amenities and we’ve been impressed by the experience of our blogging friends on nb Sanity Again who have moored there for a while.

Richard had agreed to meet Denise at Mercia to sort out the paperwork and give them a lift back to their car in Weston. We weren’t sure how the timing would work, but fate has a sense of humour. Indigo Dream’s cruise was delayed by an unexpected stoppage caused by a body in the canal – eeeuw! In the meantime, Richard was delayed by an accident on a dual carriageway which had to be closed for the Air Ambulance. Richard had taken Henry and Archie Beanz along for the ride, but when the traffic stopped (the road was closed), the car started to heat up so he got out and gave them a little walk along the carriageway; where he was soon joined by another greyhound from a car parked a little way behind! The road was closed for so long that Richard and the hounds set up camp on the side of the road – trust the Beanz to take centre stage:-)

So, that’s Indigo Dream in her winter home – she’ll be there until the end of March (we will have maintenance visits and mini-cruises in-between) before we start the 2016 Odyssey, which may surpass our previous efforts – we need to hot foot it down for a convoy to the Medway towards the end of May – the nearest navigable waterway to our home in Surrey; We’ll then lurk around London so that we can join a very special event at the Olympic Park at the beginning of July. We’ll then need to hot foot it back to the Middlewich Branch of the Trent and Mersey for our planned repaint in Mid-September. It’s going to be a busy year on the water:-)

Update on Ollie:

Against all expectation, Ollie celebrated Christmas and has seen in the New Year; he’s frail and doddery but still enjoying his life – long may it continue:-)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2015 – Day 42

Posted by indigodream on 24 January, 2016

Rewind to Tuesday 29th September

Barlaston to Weston on Trent

Legion of volunteers painting lock beams and mechanisms on the Meaford Flight...

Legion of volunteers painting lock beams and mechanisms on the Meaford Flight…

I’m really cursing my lack of cruising notes as my recollections of this day are really hazy – I didn’t remember that we passed through Stone until I saw it on the map!

Never mind, we had a full day’s cruising and it surely deserves some record! I don’t have a narrative, except that we set out mid-morning and I recall the following notable “events”:

There was a brief stoppage in the Meaford flight as volunteers were painting the lock gates and mechanisms.. As if to make up for the wait, we had a legion of volunteers working us through to of the locks!

Stone was as charming as ever – we stopped to take on water below lock 29 – I recall doing a tricky solo reverse mooring while Richard helped a single hander through the lock. As always we stopped off at the Chandlery and spent money . . . .

We had debated whether to press on to Great Heywood, but it was getting late and we still had the long drive home ahead of us. Weston on Trent seemed to be the ideal spot and we found a good length of towpath mooring just beyond Bridge 80. There is a little path up to the Woolpack pub which has signs warning that there are chickens and other birds roaming around free – oh dear! Fortunately for us, they had all gone to roost by the time we needed to get the greyhounds to the car; having said that, the hounds were sparked out after yesterday’s races so maybe we needn’t have worried anyway:-)

Henry Beanz making a new friend in Stone.

Henry Beanz making a new friend in Stone.

 

Approaching Stone - arguably the most boat-friendly town on the network :-)

Approaching Stone – arguably the most boat-friendly town on the network:-)

 

Here's an unusual sight - a pair of young coots perched precariously on the slender branches of an elder tree, making a feast of the ripe berries :-)

Here’s an unusual sight – a pair of young coots perched precariously on the slender branches of an elder tree, making a feast of the ripe berries:-)

 

A well-deserved snooze

A well-deserved snooze

 

Classy - tied to a tree offside by a centre rope and swinging back and forth across the canal with every movement of wind and water..

Classy – tied to a tree offside by a centre rope and swinging back and forth across the canal with every movement of wind and water..

 

Perfect....

Perfect….

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2015 – Day 41

Posted by indigodream on 6 January, 2016

+Rewind to Monday 28th September

Red Bull to Barlaston

The Beanz and their diminutive new friends....

The Beanz and their diminutive new friends….

We had another fun but busy day ahead, though with far fewer locks!

We started the day with a car shuffle, this time taking a car down to Barlaston, our target for the day. It was a slow trip and we were a bit late back for our rendezvous with Steven from CRT’s Red Bull office, who was coming on a boating buddy cruise with his two whippets, Fly and Max. Nonethless, by 10.30am we were assembled on the towpath. The houndie introductions went well, sighthounds always recognise their kindred breeds, no matter the size difference:-)

We were soon on board with coffees and pastries and heading towards the Harecastle tunnel. We had a short wait at the tunnel, though there was only one boat ahead of us. It gave us time to take the boat off the roof and drop it onto the front deck. I’m not sure whether we’ve done this before our previous passages, but since the tragic death of a boater in the tunnel in 2014, it’s been “safety first” all the way.

Zoomies at Westport Lake....

Zoomies at Westport Lake….

Steven sat on the back deck while Richard helmed us through the tunnel; he really enjoyed the experience, though the whippets weren’t too sure about it – the engine does sound very loud in a confined space. While the whippets demonstrated their devotion to Steven, the greyhounds showed their legendary devotion to their sofa.

We stopped off at Westport Lake for lunch – this was the highlight of the cruise for Richard, because he couldn’t wait to see how the greyhounds would fare against the whippets in zoomies. We moored a distance away from the visitor centre so that innocent walkers wouldn’t be run down by charging sighthounds and let them go! The jury’s still out on who’s fastest (the whippets have a quick start but the greyhounds have longer strides at the finish!) but what IS certain is that the dogs had a ball:-) Needless to say, Ollie watched all this with dignity – he doesn’t do big zoomies any more (but he has his moments…).

We took lots of zoomie photos – there’s an album here

Concentration....

Concentration….

Once the crew was exercised, fed and watered (in that order), it was time for Steven to take a turn at the helm. He has been on CRT workboats, so he wasn’t a complete novice, but there was a certain amount of trepidation, especially when we persuaded him that his day wouldn’t be complete without the experience of steering a narrowboat into a narrow lock – much more difficult when locking down in my opinion! We were confident that he’d be fine and so he was; he was elated and we hope that he’ll come cruising with us again when we’re back in the area.

We really endorse the Boating Buddies scheme – we work hard to give CRT people a positive experience of the canals and do not spend our time giving CRT staff an ear-bashing – we don’t need to, because the canals speak so eloquently for themselves. Steven looks after canal maintenance (though not on the stretch that we were cruising today) – it was priceless for him to see the impact of unkempt canalside vegetation on cruising lines of sight; amply demonstrated when we had to dodge an oncoming boat on a narrow blind bend. Luckily I was on the helm, so there was no drama, but it was a point we made without our ever having to open our mouths:-)

A good day....

A good day….

We had a very satisfying day’s cruise, reaching our target of Barlaston by late afternoon. We got the dogs packed up and piled into my car to get Steven back to our starting point in Red Bull and pick up Richard’s car. I don’t recall why we did it this way, but we took our dogs with us too, though whippets are so diminutive it was hardly an effort to find room for them:-)

I think that the motive for taking our hounds was to explore likely looking pubs for supper. But in the end we went for the simplest option and ate at the Plume of Feathers, which is owned by actor Neil Morrisey (of “Men behaving badly” fame). There was an information board telling us that he was filming in London, but gave a date when he would be back at the pub. It was a nice touch, after all, it answered the question we’d been asking in our heads! The pub itself was spacious and dog-friendly; we and the hounds were made very welcome and the food was good – add the fact that there are good towpath moorings alongside and it has a generous free car park, well, what’s not to like?:-)

Photoblog:

The rusty interior of the Harecastle Tunnel....

The rusty interior of the Harecastle Tunnel….

 

The visiting whippets weren't at all sure about the tunnel...

The visiting whippets weren’t at all sure about the tunnel…

 

Although Archie looks disconcertingly like a cheetah running down a gazelle, no whippets were harmed in the making of this photo!

Although Archie looks disconcertingly like a cheetah running down a gazelle, no whippets were harmed in the making of this photo!

 

Fly and Maz are very devoted - to each other and to their daddy :-)

Fly and Max are very devoted – to each other and to their daddy:-)

 

One of Stoke on Trent's traditional bottle kilns - will they enjoy a revival following the success of the Great British Pottery Throwdown??

One of Stoke on Trent’s traditional bottle kilns – will they enjoy a revival following the success of the Great British Pottery Throwdown on TV??

 

Stoke on Trent's more attractive face...

Stoke on Trent’s more attractive face…

 

Tired puppies :-)

Tired puppies:-)

 

Steven's first lock entry - nice job :-)

Steven’s first lock entry – nice job:-)

 

This section of canal has deep narrow locks with a fierce draw forward once the paddles are opened...

This section of canal has deep narrow locks with a fierce draw forward once the paddles are opened…

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2015 – Day 40

Posted by indigodream on 2 January, 2016

Rewind to Sunday 27th September

Stud Green Bridge to Red Bull

A kind of magic...

A kind of magic…

We had a very quiet night on the moorings – it’s the first decent mooring spot past Middlewich, yet we were the only boat moored between the bridge and the lock. This made it nice for the hounds, who could have a good rummage before we started the day.

We had a relatively easy day’s cruising ahead of us, so we filled the morning with car shuffles instead! I needed to move my car from the lane near the moorings, so it seemed sensible to drive Richard back to Anderton to pick up his car before we both headed off to Red Bull to leave one car there. At this point we became very well acquainted with the A533, though we did not drive at mad speeds and took a moment to enjoy the fine sight of a canal running alongside – I’m not sure the motorists last night would have noticed the canal unless they crash landed in it!

You get a great view from the top of the lock....

You get a great view from the top of the lock….

We dropped Richard’s car off at Red Bull (there is unrestricted road parking uphill from the Red Bull pub). I then drove us back to the boat – there is a little parking space just by Crow’s Nest Lock which allowed me to park up while we got the boat moving. There was a boat already approaching the lock when we arrived back, and another approaching the bridge behind us as we moved off the mooring – Clapham Junction!

Once we got through the lock, Richard took the boat along the two mile lock-free pound to Wheelock while I went off in search of a supermarket. We needed supplies because we had another boating buddy cruise tomorrow, this time with a CRT employee from the Red Bull office and his two whippets:-)

All in all, it was a very smooth morning – though it took me a little while to find the boat in Wheelock because Richard’s mobile was with me in the car! But it was only a matter of deduction as we have stopped at Wheelock before and my vague memories led me to the convenient free parking next to the canal/service block. I loaded up the supplies while Richard helped a hire boat moored behind us – I don’t recall what the problem was now, was it a fouled prop? Not too sure, they had real difficulties mooring up their very aged hire boat, we had been following them and their prop wash had looked strange. By the time we opened up the weedhatch the prop was clear so had something dropped up or as Graham would say did they just have a little one?

Sheep may safely graze - though the long shadows of autumn are coming...

Sheep may safely graze – though the long shadows of autumn are coming…

With both cars now safely parked and the boat adequately stocked with hot chickens, we set off for an afternoon’s locking up Heartbreak Hill. We have fond memories of this stretch – it’s familiar ground from our first narrowboat nb Dragonfly and even better memories from Indigo Dream. It turned out to be a lovely afternoon, warm and sunny but with that crisp crystalline edge that marked it as autumn.

The Beanz enjoyed the fabled Cheshire Locks – the canal was quiet, so they could have some unrestricted rummaging time though they didn’t favour lock-wheeling with Richard, mainly choosing to cadge a lift on the boat between locks:-)

Having been at sea level for the last few weeks, it was a great pleasure to be climbing again. The flight gives a fine view of the Cheshire plains as we headed for the summit at Red Bull. We had a fine afternoon’s cruising but there are a LOT of locks, so it was dusk again by the time we moored up.

We were quite weary by the time we moored up. I know that the Red Bull pub is not dog friendly and doesn’t do food on a Sunday, so Richard went off to forage for a Chinese takeaway – he eventually found one in Kidsgrove. We spend another evening with the DVD – not a hardship as we decided to leave our half-finished box sets on board so we’ve been keen to catch up after a few weeks away.

A tribue to artist Steve Sanderson :-)

A tribute to artist Steve Sanderson:-)

Today’s Trivia

I’ve been following an artist called Steve Sanderson on Facebook for a while now – he does the most beautiful and poignant paintings, most featuring and old man and his greyhound. The fundamental truth of “art imitates life” was manifest when I say this man walking the towpath – he could have walked straight out of one of Steve’s paintings:-)

https://www.facebook.com/SteveSandersonArtist/?fref=ts

https://www.facebook.com/SteveSandersonArtist/photos/a.311071898999047.61947.309847205788183/720531301386436/?type=3&theater

Photoblog:

"Why do you love the canals?" people ask; D'oh!

“Why do you love the canals?” people ask-d’oh!

 

Ooh, is that my ride?

Ooh, is that my ride?

 

So glad that the Beanz were supervising my lock entries - it's a tight fit :-)

So glad that the Beanz were supervising my lock entries – it’s a tight fit:-)

 

Such a lovely day....

Such a lovely day….

 

A rare bit of company - we hardly saw a boat on the move once we passed Wheelock..

A rare bit of company – we hardly saw a boat on the move once we passed Wheelock..

 

Road v canal? No competition on a day like this :-)

Road v canal? No competition on a day like this:-)

 

Archie and Ollie :-)

Archie and Ollie:-)

 

The paired locks of Heartbreak Hill....

The paired locks of Heartbreak Hill….

 

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2015 – Day 39

Posted by indigodream on 1 January, 2016

Rewind to Friday 25th September

Anderton Marina to Stud Green Bridge (below Crow’s Nest Lock)

Big Sid - the sweetest greyhound who ever lived...

Big Sid – the sweetest greyhound who ever lived…

When we left the boat a few weeks ago, Ollie’s vet in Northwich had given him a simple choice – get better or fade gently away. When we came back from holiday, we had another dog swap, Big Sid and Herbie came to stay while Archie and Henry went home for a rest; Big Sid was unwell – his Suffolk vet had diagnosed a kidney infection. So when we got back from holiday we had two hounds under par, but then the unexpected happened. Ollie decided to get better and continued to perk up during the week. But Big Sid deteriorated badly – our vet identified a problem with his liver,  a scan revealed it was probably liver cancer. Big Sid slipped away with great dignity on the 16th September to join the crew of the virtual Indigo Dream cruising serenely beneath the Rainbow Bridge😦

By the 25th September, we reckoned that Ollie had perked up enough for the journey to the boat and a weekend’s cruising, but Ty (who was still with us then) wouldn’t have appreciated an intense weekend of locking so we had the usual fun logistics as I did an epic dog swap and jam delivery.

Richard and Ollie headed up to the boat on the Friday evening. This would allow them to get an early start on Saturday in order to get to Kings Lock boatyard in time to see Steve. We needed to get our Webasto remote control up and running properly – it hadn’t been working since we had it installed since May. This wasn’t an issue over the summer, but it was essential for us to get it sorted before the winter. Indigo Dream really suffered in the northern cold last winter; we hoped that the ability to set the heating going remotely would save her from damage if Winter 2015/2016 turned chilly (hasn’t happened yet, but it is very soggy!).

I stayed at home, but on Saturday morning I took Herbie and Ty off to Sarah’s for the weekend, stopping off at a Greyhoundhomer stand in Essex along the way to drop off some jam. It’s not a bad trip up to Suffolk via Essex, and I was soon picking up regulars Henry and Archie Beanz for a very special meeting on Monday. The satnav calculated a particularly fine route from Suffolk to Cheshire which avoided all of the usual tedium of the M1 and M6 so we all got together by early afternoon. Meanwhile Richard and Ollie headed off up the Trent & Mersey, through Big Lock and then up the three narrow locks to Kings Lock.

Miracle boy Ollie, taken on Christmas Day wearing a special scarf given to him as a gift by a friend :-)

Miracle boy Ollie, taken on Christmas Day wearing a special scarf given to him as a gift by a friend:-)

It was a fine day, so after we got the Webasto sorted (hurrah!) we decided to set off up heartbreak hill – we needed to get to Red Bull by Monday morning so we had plenty of time.

It is probably worth a few words about the Webasto: We had a TC3 unit installed when we had the works done over winter, there is a bit story here but can be simply summarised as the install was not good, we could operate the Webasto via our timer but not via the TC3 hence wanting Steve Wedgwood at Kings Lock to have a look at it. The man is a marvel, he looked at, checked things over and quickly decided that the issue must be that the wiring of the plugs was wrong. It turns out that the TC3 comes with bare wires and plugs which you need to configure to suit the installation, Steve always offers to send them out ready configured but Nantwich wanted to do it themselves and got it wrong😦 arghh. If you know what you are doing then it is relatively easy, take the wires out of the plugs, ready the pretty indecipherable circuit diagrams and put them back together for a narrowboat install. Of course I could have done it myself, it probably would have taken me oooh 10 hours? Took Steve less than 2 minutes.

I didn’t take any notes, but it’s basically relentless locking for the first few miles out of Middlewich, with the greyhounds restricted on board by the busy road that flank the canal. They didn’t mind too much, they were quite happy with the sofa and various other luxury beds available on board. It was just as well, from the slow perspective of a narrowboat, the cars drive at an unreasonable speed along the A533. We couldn’t think about mooring until the canal peeled away from the road at Stud Green Bridge.

It was near dusk when we moored up, with just enough light for Richard to cycle back to get my car from Kings Lock. It didn’t take him very long, and he was soon back at the boat. We’d contemplated where to eat, and plumped for a takeaway from Kings Lock Fish ‘n Chip shop which had good reviews.

Parking was a little tricky at Stud Green Bridge. we found a likely verge for the night, but knew that we’d have to move early in the morning. There was plenty of room for passing cars, but one of the big beastie combine harvesters we’d spotted in the far fields might have taken a wing mirror off, but by now it was far too late to worry about such things….

Photoblog:

Mist on the water - the canals are so atmospheric...

Mist on the water – the canals are so atmospheric…

 

We think Indigo Dream looks good for her age and "mileage" - how swanky will she look after her repaint in September 2016!

We think Indigo Dream looks good for her age and “mileage” – how swanky will she look after her repaint in September 2016!

 

The great saltworks of Northwich....

The great saltworks of Northwich….

 

This marina is now in water - wonder when the first boats will move in?

This marina is now in water – wonder when the first boats will move in?

 

Lovely Trent and Mersey - well worth a visit....

Lovely Trent and Mersey – well worth a visit….

 

Ollie having a solo bimble in Middlewich :-)

Ollie having a solo bimble in Middlewich:-) – it was quite a long bimble . . .

 

 

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2015 – Day 38

Posted by indigodream on 30 December, 2015

Rewind to Friday 11th September

Anderton Boat Lift to Anderton Marina

We weren’t sure what the day would bring, but as it happened, it brought good news.

I went to see Ollie in hospital in the morning and following a long discussion with the vet, we decided that Ollie would be well enough to travel home in the afternoon.

Ah, the end of the summer tour - time to crash out at last :-)

Ah, the end of the summer tour – time to crash out at last:-)

I went back to the boat and we started making arrangements for the trip home. We rang Anderton Marina to arrange a 3 week visitor mooring and Richard spent a few hours touching up the paintwork while I packed up. At 4pm I went to pick Ollie up from the vet – what a lovely moment – even the bill wasn’t too awful! I got him back to the boat and hastened to get us moving towards the marina – I was very anxious to get packed up and heading for home before it became too late.

We soon moored up in Anderton, though the process of leaving took far longer than expected; actually, that’s not true, it always takes us ages to tear ourselves away from the boat, so it was hardly unexpected that it took a long time! Anderton Marina hosts a hire fleet, so they offer a whole range of marina services, including a valet service. We booked a valet, which at least meant we could walk away from the boat leaving all the fluff on the floor!

We finally got away very late afternoon and were home by late evening – when I thought back over our holiday, it had been full of adventure with a great cast of new and familiar characters, though I could have lived without the drama of the last few days. The hounds had had a wonderful time, but they were so very tired; as all bands will testify, being on the road is exhausting!

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2015 – Day 36

Posted by indigodream on 29 December, 2015

Oops spot the deliberate mistake! I accidentally published day 37 before day 36 – here’s the missing day for completness!

Rewind to Wednesday 9th September

Bobbling around Northwich and Anderton

New development - nice to see the area being regenerated but that builidng is very close to the water...

New development – nice to see the area being regenerated but that builidng is very close to the water…

Between the anxiety about Ollie and Alan the vet giving us an update call at 1am, I didn’t get much sleep and woke up tired and out-of-sorts. The good news was that Ollie’s blood test results did not show anything sinister and it was all a question of giving him supportive therapy and seeing whether he’d pull through. The vet did take him off some of his regular medication. A couple of his pain-relief medications can cause gastrointestinal side-effects, though I didn’t think that was the problem, but better safe than sorry. At least in hospital they could give him intravenous painkillers.

With Ollie likely to be in hospital for a few days, we changed out cruising plans yet again! We’d already decided that a trip up to Salford Quays via Pomona Lock was not feasible; but now our plans to just head down the Trent and Mersey towards a winter mooring were scuppered too.

But there was only one plan for today – retrieve my car from Wigan. The Beanz had a last run round the moorings before we headed up to Northwich mid-morning. We moored up by the town bridge, after weaving our way past the substantial narrowing caused by the floating platforms being used by a canalside construction company. I was keen to get going, and left Richard to finish mooring while I headed off for the train station. I was surprised at how far the station was from the town centre – it’s quite a trek. The trip to Wigan was smooth and I was soon driving back to Northwich.

There are worse places to stay - the Weaver is lovely...

There are worse places to stay – the Weaver is lovely…

In the meantime, Richard had set off on a trek of his own to find the waste oil disposal facility in Northwich – quite a saga! There is a handy website for finding the nearest oil bank but for Northwich (http://www.oilbankline.org.uk/results2.asp?pc=CW9) the arrow is nowhere near the right place – you need to go to the municipal tip which is behind Aldi. So a short walk carrying 25l of oil became quite a long walk . . . .

We hadn’t really planned this bit of the trip, so we decided to stock up with groceries in Waitrose. We got the shopping done and I gave Richard a lift back to the town bridge before heading off to Anderton in the car. I was so relieved to have the car and found a parking space outside the main visitor centre car park (which is locked at night) – I didn’t want to be caught without emergency transport again.

Our timing worked well, the cruise downstream from Northwich to Anderton doesn’t take very long and we were soon moored up at the Beanz’ favourite spot.

We had an update on Ollie – there had been a slight improvement as he was no longer being sick, but he was still passing black poo. That would have to settle before he could leave hospital, so we were staying put.

I was anxious to get off the river and up to the canal, but we weren’t able to get passage up the lift in the afternoon so we just mooched around on the mooring. The Beanz continued to enjoy their zoomies, so some good came of the whole situation.

Photoblog:

View upstream from our new favourite moorings...

View upstream from our new favourite moorings…

 

The view downstream towards the salt works...

The view downstream towards the salt works…

 

Lovely spot...

Lovely spot…

 

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2015 – Day 37

Posted by indigodream on 20 December, 2015

Thursday 10th September

Mooching around Northwich and Anderton

Abseiling at Anderton...

Abseiling at Anderton…

I was still feeling despondent when I woke up today, but luckily for us, our dear friends Ken and Sue, and their dog Poppy, were joining us today. Their support really lifted the day and I was so grateful to them for their company and good cheer.

They arrived mid-morning and we had coffees and pastries while catching up on the news since they last came cruising with us in May. We had a discussion about the day’s cruise – I had thought to go up the boat lift as soon as possible, but we found that it is closed for routine maintenance on Thursday mornings. We did enjoy watching the maintenance men abseiling round the lift – that’s not a job I’d fancy!

So we decided to have another day of mooching around the Weaver. But first we went our separate ways; I headed off in the car to visit Ollie in hospital while the rest of the crew headed upriver for a jolly – I’d join them a bit later.

Oh dear :-(

Oh dear😦

Ollie was very woebegone and it was difficult to say what might be happening with his internal bleed. Because he wasn’t eating he wasn’t passing any poo, so we didn’t have any clues there. He was nicely hydrated from the intravenous fluids but the vet still looked very grave, only time would tell

whether Ollie could overcome this latest “insult” to his frail old body. The vet said there were two roads ahead of us – one led to Ollie getting better, the other to his fading away and leaving us. I had a chat with Ollie and asked him to consider walking a little further with us. In the meantime, I agreed with the vet that Ollie should stay in hospital for now; we both wanted to be sure that Ollie was well enough for the long drive home before he was discharged.

I rejoined the boat at the Red Lion in Winsford – the car park was overwhelmed with the enticing smell of chips – phwoar. But as I rejoined the boat, we made an executive decision to carry on cruising and lunch on bacon panini instead!

Such a comfort to cruise with dear friends :-)

Such a comfort to cruise with dear friends:-)

We cruised up to the Winsford flashes, playing our usual game of dare – the flashes are shallow further up and you don’t want the embarrassment of running aground, yet they are fascinating, so how far can you go??

We turned round without drama and headed back downstream. We had a lovely cruise – the weather was benign and the river is so beautiful through Vale Royal. We had a long discussion about whether to moor on the river again or try for a passage up the boat lift. I was very anxious to get off the river and up to the canal. As soon as Ollie came out of hospital we’d need to moor up and get him home; that would be very difficult if the boat were stuck on the river (the boat lift has had the odd emergency stoppage this year).

We rang the lift operators and managed to get a passage booked late afternoon; we cruised down at pace and enjoyed the last lift of the day – I was so relieved. The Anderton Boat Lift never fails to thrill – it’s such a grand piece of engineering and the views that emerge as you rise above the river are stunning.

We were soon on the canal and moored up on the 48-hour section adjacent to the visitor centre car park. It was a sociable mooring, our neighbour was a laden hire boat whose crew came out on deck with various musical instruments and entertained themselves and the towpath with songs from the musical “Oliver”. Ken and I went to retrieve my car from the Red Lion, but we decided to eat at the Stanley Arms in Anderton. It is a dog-friendy pub (in the bar) and served plain pub grub which hit the spot, as did the strawberry cider which Sue recommended – I’ve not had it before and it was delicious on ice. It also went down far too easily!

We said a fond goodbye to Ken, Sue and Poppy – it had been wonderful to spend the day with them. We wended back to the boat with the hounds – after two days of zoomies at the bottom of the Anderton Lift they seemed quite content with just rummaging at the top!

 

Photoblog:

Lovely view..

Lovely view..

 

River Weaver view - so lovely and a great introduction to river cruising if you've never tried it...

River Weaver view – so lovely and a great introduction to river cruising if you’ve never tried it…

Vale Royal lock - the huge locks still seem incongruous on such a quiet river...

Vale Royal lock – the huge locks still seem incongruous on such a quiet river…

 

Although the river is quiet, the local salt industry is still busy...

Although the river is quiet, the local salt industry is still busy…

 

Mountains of salt - of course, I'm writing this in the mildest December ever - but if the ice returns we'll be ready :-)

Mountains of salt – of course, I’m writing this in the mildest December ever – but if the ice returns we’ll be ready:-)

 

All go with the building work at Northwich...

All go with the building work at Northwich…

 

Still fascinating - no matter how many times we use the lift..

Still fascinating – no matter how many times we use the lift..

 

Rust...

Rust…

 

more rusts -hopefully not where it matters!

more rust -hopefully not where it matters!

 

Peek a boo!

Peek a boo!

 

I will never tire of this view from the top of the Anderton; the canal was where we needed to be, but I was sad to leave the Weaver...

I will never tire of this view from the top of the Anderton; the canal was where we needed to be, but I was sad to leave the Weaver…

 

 

 

 

 

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Boat Blog: Crossing the Mersey – a TO-DO list

Posted by indigodream on 12 December, 2015

INFORMATION GATHERING

Salthouse Dock in Liverpool :-)

Salthouse Dock in Liverpool:-)

Tidal waters can be tricky so make sure that you know what you are doing!

Here are the references we looked at. Of course, there are also useful general check lists and guidance on thamescruising.co.uk

Note: there are fees associated with the passages along the Mersey and the MSC – this is not a cheap exercise!

Liverpool Link:

River Mersey

Entering the mighty Mersey tideway - in thick fog!

Entering the mighty Mersey tideway – in thick fog!

A note on Mersey pilots:

Liverpool Port rules state that you must have a pilot unless you are familiar with their waters – we guess that there will be very few narrowboaters who will be familiar with the River Mersey so do consider a pilot!

In theory, the official pilots can be reached through the numbers and email in their FAQ.  We tried email – no response; we rang several times until eventually someone answered the phone. The Clerk I talked to was a bit confused, he did not really know what to do with a boat less than 82m long so he suggested that we talk to another person in the team, Joe Blyth 0151 949 6222. We probably tried his number 20x with no success.

The very friendly CRT staff in Wigan were very good They suggested that we get in touch with Stuart Wood on 07770 664951 or by email – his address is Chestermarine followed by the usual @ sign and then btinternet.com. This was the best advice we could have had, as Stuart is the ex-Chief Pilot for Liverpool. We found him to be a character – full of information and immensely skilled. But best of all, when he got on the radio to negotiate with Mersey Radio or the Manchester Ship Canal the reply came back along the lines of “Is that Stuart?” quickly followed by “How can we help you?”

On the Manchester Ship Canal..

On the Manchester Ship Canal..

Manchester Ship Canal

THE TO-DO LIST!

Ok this bit might seem pretty scary, but as with all exciting projects, the outcome is worth it!

I will list things in the order that we did them based on a trip from Liverpool to the River Weaver.

1. GET AN MSC SURVEY:You can’t cross the Mersey without a short hop on the Manchester Ship Canal but before you are allowed onto the Ship Canal you must get a survey. The MSC induction pack has a list of approved surveyors, we used Brian Taylor in Middlewich, a nice guy who has surveyed our boat before. If he is not available or possibly has finally retired then Stuart Wood (Mersey pilot) recommended Mike Carter in Northwich. Contact details for both are in the induction pack. The survey is not onerous providing you have a boat prepared for tidal waters, from memory he asked to see our anchor, navigation lights, fire extinguishers, VHF radio, our long ropes, life ring and life jackets, probably picking up other incidental information as he walked around e.g. does the boat float, is there an engine.

2. MAKE SURE YOUR INSURERS ARE HAPPY: Talk to your insurers, make sure you are covered and take careful note of any restrictions that they impose, they don’t negotiate! We had been with Nautical Insurance Services for years – good policy, nice people to deal with and no quibble about any of our ventures on the Thames tideway; they happily covered us as far as Gravesend without any extra fees. We did not expect any issues for the Mersey. Ha! Got that totally wrong – they insisted that we needed to have a pilot boat so we changed to GJWdirect.co.uk who were far more reasonable; they also seem like really nice people to deal with.

3. GET PERMISSION FROM THE MSC: Send the signed survey certificate to the MSC, fill in a form requesting passage, pay a load of money and then a few days later you hopefully get a nice letter back saying “yes we will allow passage”.

4. BOOK PASSAGE INTO LIVERPOOL: You need to book passage to get into Liverpool. There is a link above; the nice people at CRT in Wigan will sort things, but they do want to see an insurance certificate. In fact just about everybody wants to see an insurance certificate so get it scanned and copied.

Ellesmere Port....

Ellesmere Port….

5. THINK ABOUT THE WEATHER AND DON’T GO OUT ON A BIG SPRING TIDE: Liverpool is fantastic – enjoy! But think carefully about when to leave via the Mersey. The important thing is to select a few days when tides are not too high (9m or less). You can only book a 7-day stay in the docks so coordinate that with when you want to leave. Be prepared to be flexible, do not go out onto the tideway in anything more then a force 4, ideally less. We reckon that winds of 17 mph start to make us feel uncomfortable! Lots of places have tide tables eg http://www.ntslf.org/tides/tidepred . If weather means that you are stuck, then talk to CRT either in Wigan or contact Andy Goudie, Harbour Master at Canning Dock, Liverpool (07920 862741). Acquire a sight hound before talking to Andy:-)

6. GET A PILOT: Book your pilot – we’d recommend just giving Stuart Wood a ring – don’t even think about going if he is not free! Well he charges a sensible amount, so perhaps I should have written when he is not available:-)

7. BOOK BRUNSWICK LOCK: You need to talk to Liverpool Marina to book passage out through Brunswick Lock. The lock opening hours are restricted to 1.5 hours either side of high tide, possibly a little more if tides are favourable. They can be contacted on 0151 707 6777 or mail@liverpoolmarina.com.  They will want to see your Insurance Certificate but are very nice people to deal with. Did we mention that Liverpool is fantastic?

8. KEEP THE COASTGUARD INFORMED: Fill in a CG66 – details here: https://mcanet.mcga.gov.uk/public/cg66/ . Give them a ring before setting out and when you safely arrive.

9. BOOK EASTHAM LOCK. Eastham VTS (Peel Ports/Ship Canal) is on 0151 327 4638, your MSC Induction pack will have all the telephone numbers. Check the day before that all is ok, they will tell you who else is coming in.

10. BOOK PASSAGE OFF THE SHIP CANAL: At Ellesmere Port: You need to get Neston Borough Council to swing the bridge (Contact Rob Taylor on 07799 658814) and CRT to unlock the padlock on the lock gates. CRT are best contacted through 0303 040 4040 but the direct number for the local office is 01606 723800. At Weston Marsh Lock for the River Weaver: You just need to get in touch with CRT. The Council and CRT only work weekdays and need at least 48 hours notice; we suggest giving them at least a week’s notice then talk to CRT the day before and again on the day

11. MAKE SURE YOU ENJOY THE CROSSING: this is the most important point!

Weston Marsh lock - gateway to the River Weaver...

Weston Marsh lock – gateway to the River Weaver…

We can’t mention this often enough – make sure your boat is fit to go out on the tideway….

The Thamescruising site has lots of general guidance, there is also a useful check list in the Mersey Guidance for small ships. We have no experience of going up the whole length of the MSC – it is too far without a comfort break for the dogs.

A final word from the reassuring advice Stuart gave us:

The passage is totally weather dependent (as in point 5 above) but at the time of year you are proposing the likelihood of two bad days together is low and the various agencies you are contacting are aware of this and will cut you some slack especially if I am on the case. Entry into the Ship Canal at Eastham Locks is now through a single large lock and is traffic dependent. The big boys have priority. Minimising any delays will be down to me.”

 

 

 

 

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Dog Blog: Me own calinder…

Posted by indigodream on 5 December, 2015

Deer me Pals

Mumi Sue sez me calinder is almost reddi – she dun showin me the “proofs”…..

Iz veri sad coz Mr “Im so vain, Iz a sooper model” Archie Beanz, haz got soopermodel type pics, but I, youz own corrispondent, top croozin’ journo and all- rownd wonder-hound, I duz get the comedy pages – poo!

You duzn’t wont to bye fis calindar – even tho lots of poor howndies wot duzn’t have foreva homes wud gets lots of treets if you did – is a bloomin’ cheek!

xxx Henry B Beanz

Huh, Max and Archie - we'z so cute blah blah bah.....

Huh, Max and Archie – we’z so cute blah blah bah…..

Rood!

Rood!

 

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