Indigo Dreaming

The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

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Dog Blog: Indigo Dream at the Rainbow Bridge

Posted by indigodream on 5 May, 2015

Rewind to Monday 6th March

Regular readers, and other dog owners, will be familiar with the concept of the “Rainbow Bridge” (see below) – a nirvana for our much missed pets where they wait in pain-free peace for us to join them and walk over the bridge together.

The queen of Miffbania :-)

The queen of Miffbania :-)

As we started losing our regular Indigo Dreamers, a kind friend suggested that there would be a spirit Indigo Dream cruising serenely beneath the bridge to await the hounds that have cruised on her.

Since we launched Indigo Dream nine years ago, we’ve been privileged to welcome 57 different dogs on board (40 of whom were greyhounds!).

We recently said goodbye to Miffy – a regular Indigo Dreamer (before she retired from cruising last year). She reached the magnificent age of 14 years and 7 months . I hope she’s found the other Indigo Dreamers, I hope that she’s just ignoring the top girls (Lou and Susie) and is holding court with Princess Poppy :-)

Miffy was the 17th Indigo Dreamer  to go to the bridge – which has led me to think about how big the spirit Indigo Dream will need to be – definitely a widebeam, make that a VERY wide beam! Now I finally understand the importance of the mediaeval debate about “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin”. Do spirit hounds need as big a sofa as they did in life? We won’t know until we join them :-)

Note about the rainbow bridge:

For those not in the know here’s the ‘poem’ at the heart of the rainbow bridge – the author is unknown so I hope they won’t mind that I am reproducing it here:

Rainbow Bridge

There is a bridge connecting heaven and earth
It is called Rainbow Bridge because of its many colours

Just this side of the Rainbow Bridge there is a land of meadows,
hills, valleys with lush green grass

When a beloved pet dies, the pet goes to this special place
There is always food and water and warm spring weather

The old and frail are young again
Those who are maimed are made whole again

They play all day with each other
There is only one thing missing

They are not with their special person who loved them on Earth
So each day they run and play until the day comes
when one suddenly stops playing and looks up !

The nose twitches !
The ears are up !
The eyes are staring !
And this one suddenly runs from the group !

You have been seen, and when you and your special friend meet,
you take him or her into your arms and embrace
your face is kissed again and again,
and you look once more into the eyes of your trusting pet

Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together, never again to be separated

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Boat Blog: Maintenance Visit (February 2015)

Posted by indigodream on 1 May, 2015

Saturday 21st February

I did an epic trip to see Indigo Dream today.

Snow - meh!

Snow – meh!

We’d had a phone call from a fellow marina denizen to say that the TV was on standby. Now this was not a problem if Indigo Dream was hooked up to shore power, but a battery killing disaster if she wasn’t. We had rung/emailed the marina owner to ask him to check her for us, but a few non-returned calls later, we just had to look for ourselves.

I was very reluctant to make the trip – I got up early and was bemused by the large shadows falling past the bathroom window – when I’d woken up a bit, I realised that it was snowflakes the size of birds and that the garden was covered in snow. I didn’t fancy the drive at all, but an hour later things had improved and by the time I got to Northwich the weather was fair. Richard stayed at home with the dogs today – it wasn’t really feasible to take them – not least because all of the boat dogs beds are at home!

I had a good drive and got to Indigo Dream by lunchtime. She was hooked up to shore power, though I did connect the isolation transformer while I was there. Sadly, the boatyard had not put in the blowers and dehumidifiers that they’d promised (they’d forgotten!) so the boat was cold and damp. It was a bit dispiriting, especially as the yard had taken off some wall panels to investigate the work that would need to be done and had left them off so that we could do our own inspection. All this meant that she was uninhabitable (I’d expected that) and though I could have stayed in a hotel and done the return journey on Sunday, I decided to head for home (with frequent coffee stops).

I was cross – the return journey (with stops) came to around 10 hours for an hour’s inspection of the boat, all of which could have been avoided if the marina had actually rung us back!

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Boat Bog: Northwich to Nantwich

Posted by indigodream on 30 April, 2015

Rewind to Saturday 7th March

Since my last visit to the boat, the boatyard has finally started to assess the remedial work that needs to be done – the main problem being water damage from:

  • a leak in the filler hose to the water tank
  • a leak in the shower (found that later)
  • condensation being channelled and trapped by poorly trimmed spray foam insulation (done 9 years ago when Indigo Dream was built)

There were a few other maintenance tasks, all of which added up to a job that was too big for the marina/yard at Northwich, however, they could do the work at their yard in Nantwich. This caused us some consternation as a lock closure on the Middlewich branch meant that we couldn’t get her there until this weekend!  Edit: A “few” maintenance tasks, I wish!

We haven’t been cruising for months, so we decided to move Indigo Dream ourselves, having extracted a solemn promise from the marina owner that she would be made habitable!

Habitable for humans that is…….

We’d had a hint that Indigo Dream’s interior would need to be gutted, so we’d need to take more of our possessions home. This meant two cars and no dogs! Richard set off first – he’d get the boat going and cruise the lock-free pound towards Middlewich. In the meantime, I’d follow on with Ty and Ollie, the cunning plan being to meet Greygal in Norton Canes services on the M6 – she would take the hounds in for the weekend! Ty was not impressed by this plan and I left quite late after having to chase him round various hidey-holes before levering him into the car :-p

Despite Ty’s reluctance, our timing worked well – the hound transfer went smoothly, I had time for lunch and met up with Richard at the Old Broken Cross pub just north of Middlewich. It was a fine day and despite a very lively wind, we resolved to make the best of the weather and cruise until dusk – the forecast for Sunday was very wet indeed!

This stretch is becoming very familiar now – luckily we love the Trent and Mersey so it wasn’t a hardship. We envied the boats moored at the famous flashes – I’ve always wanted to moor there with the hounds but today we were on a schedule! This was a shame as we passed a twitter “friend” Nb Ruth who offered us a cup of tea, but we needed to keep going. They’re moored at Anderton and we keep missing each other – one day we’ll have that cuppa!

We turned on to the Middlewich branch and pushed on through the next few locks. Then we had a dilemma – we wanted to get as far as we could before dusk, but past a certain point, the Middlewich branch becomes wonderfully rural and inaccessible by road. This wouldn’t normally be a problem but we had zero food supplies on board so we really needed to have access to a pub.

In the end, we moored in a very quiet spot by Flea Lane Bridge (you are only allowed to moor there when you have no dogs on board). We uhmmed and ahhhhd before finally getting a taxi back to the Old Broken Cross, where we had supper. I like this pub – it’s dog-friendly, warm and cosy, it also has very kind and solicitous staff. Unfortunately their natty wi-fi bar/kitchen communication system wasn’t working very well, so the food itself was a bit random but we would go there again.

I drove us back to the boat, having found a handy lay-by near the canal bridge. We were pretty tired, but having had a dehumidifier running on board for the past month and the heating running all day, the boat was toasty and we had a good night’s sleep.

Sunday 8th

We woke up to a cold and lacklustre day with a fine drizzle that looked settled in for the day. Sadly the drizzle was soon replaced with proper relentless rain which only stopped when we moored up at Nantwich! We set off relatively early, having decided to do the car shuffle after we’d arrived at Nantwich. The decision was based on the fact that we expected much heavier rain in the late afternoon and thought we’d cruise while there was just drizzle – oops, got that wrong!

It was good to be on the water but I confess that I got cold today and was very glad to arrive in Nantwich. We got there at lunchtime and ate at the canal basin cafe – there’s nothing like an all-day breakfast for lifting the spirits :-)

It was then time to get a taxi back to my car, but rather than pick up Richard’s car then, we came back to Nantwich to pack up the boat.

Oh my goodness, we are careful with what we keep in the limited space on board, but we still had enormous amounts of stuff! My car (a decent sized estate) was soon full to the brim and it was time for me to drive Richard to Uplands to pick up his car. Our grand plan was for Richard to stay on board so that he could talk to the boat-building team on Monday morning (and pick up the last of the boat stuff). In the meantime, I’d drive home on Sunday evening so that I could drive to Suffolk on Monday to collect the hounds.

It was a great relief to have the boat in the right place so that the long-anticipated works could start. I should have been careful what I wished for – it’s proving to be a bigger job than we ever guessed!

Today’s Trivia

We didn't take many photos but I think these are lenticular clouds in the centre of the photo (see text for definition!)

We didn’t take many photos but I did snap these lenticular clouds (centre)

This is a photo of the many lenticular clouds that we saw today – apparently they’re a rare enough phenomenon to be reported in the local newspaper –

Lenticular clouds are apparently formed by shear winds created by a front – the reason they’re rare here is that the terrain is relatively flat (they’re generally associated with mountains and tall buildings

I’m quite proud that I did recognise them for lenticular clouds and didn’t mistake them for UFOs, which is apparently quite common :-)






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Boat Blog: Maintenance Visit (November)

Posted by indigodream on 28 April, 2015

Rewind to Saturday 29th November

Uplands Marina

Uneven spacing - I hpe this is put right when they install new timbers....

Uneven spacing – I hope this is put right when they install new timbers….

Because of my concerns about the uneven pontoon timbers at the marina (a perfect trip hazard for clumsy hounds) and the fact that we’d planned to spend the weekend working on the boat, I decided to leave Ty and Ollie with Greygal and the pack in Suffolk.

This left us free to spend the entire time on the boat. We’d been perusing the weather forecasts every week and decided that this would be a good weekend for painting. This was our major task, to touch up a few bare areas, apply some more protective polish and paint the gunwhales, which were worn beyond the reach of a simple touch-up!

We had thought we might be moving the boat down to Kings Lock for her winter maintenance, but sadly the chandlers had not got back to us with the necessary quotes, so we asked Bill at Uplands to cost the work instead. We had a good drive up on Saturday morning and were in good time to invite Bill on board to look at the work.

Our main problem is damp – we’re still getting water into the cabin bilges, and parts of the walls are mysteriously damp; the bedroom floor also needs replacing. Bill said he’d look a the job and set a bilge blower going to dry the boat properly in December then give us a quote and get the work done from January onwards. With boat builders/maintainers very busy over winter, we’re a bit concerned that we’re now going to run out of time to get the work done before our summer cruising starts. Fingers crossed that Uplands can get the work done.

And this is the slat that cracked under my foot - definitely overdue for replacement...

And this is the slat that cracked under my foot – definitely overdue for replacement…

Having been empty for a month, the boat was very cold indeed, and the weather “oop north” was nowhere near as good as when we left Surrey. We ran the heating all day to warm and dry the boat. Tempting though it was to stay inside, we wrapped up and I set to washing and polishing the boat while Richard prepared a particularly nasty patch of rust for painting (an area worn by the rubbing of our deck door).

In the cold and damp, the pontoon timbers were more lethally slick than ever and I was doubly glad that I’d left the hounds at home. One dodgy timber actually cracked under my foot! This does not really matter to us, Uplands is still a good winter lay-over for Indigo Dream; however the news that Bill has new timbers and is intending to renew the pontoons over winter must be welcome news for the residents.

We were moored opposite one of many boats called “narrow escape” – this one was occupied by a very friendly couple, Kim and Christine, who owned a charming little lurcher called Cara. We instantly bonded with them and were sorry that we’d see so little of them during our intermittent visits. Cara the lurcher was exceptionally well-behaved as a cat wandered at will along the pontoon and the boat roofs. We found out later that the cat lives a few pontoons away but considers that every boat in the marina belongs to her. Ah, another good reason for leaving the greyhounds at home, though in all fairness, Ollie’s too old and Ty’s too scared to be interested in a pesky cat!

This is just the first load of dog beds to leave the boat :-)

This is just the first load of dog beds to leave the boat :-)

We hadn’t bothered to provision the boat for such a short stay, so when it went dark (far too early at this time of year) we headed off towards Warrington to find a supermarket, a cinema and a place to eat. We got hopelessly muddled in the confusion of retail and leisure parks around Warrington but we eventually found an Asda and a Frank & Benny’s restaurant, where we had really excellent service. We finished the evening with a viewing of part 3 of four of the Hunger Games “trilogy”. It was a dark and thrilling movie, very faithful to the books, which I have read. Richard is saving the books for after he’s seen all the films so I have to be very careful not to give anything away :-)

We’d had a good day, and returned to our toasty boat with a sense of satisfaction.

Sunday 30th November

Today we had the weather that we had been expecting yesterday – clear and sunny, though quite chilly in the shade. Time to get painting!

We managed to paint one gunwhale, and between the fresh paint and new polish, Indigo Dream looked quite magnificent. There’s life in our molecule-thick paintwork yet!

While Richard got the painting done, I started clearing up inside. The interior works that Bill had planned meant that we needed to move some stuff out of the boat so he’d have room to move. We took the most bulky items home – the bikes and the dogs beds – two trolley loads! We may need to move more stuff out later, depending on how much work we need to do to the floor and wall panelling.

The days are simply too short in November – we had planned to paint both gunwhales, but we were running out of daylight. However, we’d achieved a lot over the weekend – most of the cabin has an extra protective layer of polish, one gunwhale was painted, the boat was ready for the works and we’d warmed and dried her thoroughly – not bad for a weekend’s endeavour :-)

Today’s Trivia

We took our centre ropes home for washing as they had turned an alarming shade of green on the cold, damp roof. It shouldn’t surprise me that boaters have numerous conflicting opinions on how best to wash a rope, but here’s how I do it!

Put each individual rope into a pillowcase – it helps if the pillowcase has a zip “seal”; put in washing machine and wash at 40 degrees with ordinary powder and a scoop of stain remover. The pillowcase method means that they don’t get tangled and washing two or more ropes together gives an even spin. The ropes are almost dry coming out of my machine (1200 rpm spin) so I can just hang them in a warm room and they dry in no time. Hey presto, clean ropes :-)

Mucky ropes...

Mucky ropes…

Clean ropes (they won't stay that way for long I'm sure!)

Clean ropes (they won’t stay that way for long I’m sure!)





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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – day 45

Posted by indigodream on 21 April, 2015

Rewind to Saturday 11th October

Middlewich t0 Anderton (Uplands Marina)

Indigo Dream looking a bit out of sorts - the end-of-garden mooring has now been dredged but it wasn't for us....

Indigo Dream looking a bit out of sorts – the end-of-garden mooring has now been dredged but it wasn’t for us….

We spent the week musing on winter moorings and were intending to spend this weekend investigating our options. Our plan was to start at Uplands Marina, if we didn’t fancy that we’d go to Venetian Marina (by car initially!) and so on until we had Indigo Dream safely tucked up for the winter. We had sort of decided that the end-of-garden moorings where we’d left Indigo Dream for the week would not be suitable for the longer term.

But I’m ahead of myself, we had an early start on Saturday morning so that we could investigate our first option, Uplands Marina, before they shut at noon. We had a good drive, but we were shocked at how the traffic on the M25 had already started to build up – it’s getting to the stage when the only time you can actually move on that motorway is between midnight and 5am!

We got to Uplands at 11.40am and met the proprietors Sharon and Bill. They gave us, including the hounds, such a warm welcome we were instantly drawn to the place.  It’s not as grand as some marinas we’ve visited, but it’s in a good location and is cheap. We were sold – especially when we were told that a couple of other greyhound boats had moved in there recently! Uplands Marina will therefore be Indigo Dream’s new home until April 2015.

The Trent & Mersey has wonderful contrasts - stunning rural scenery.....

The Trent & Mersey has wonderful contrasts – stunning rural scenery…..

So, here was the last day of the odyssey, defined as Indigo Dream coming home for the winter, all be it to a new home. It’s been a pretty slow odyssey by our standards (not including the 24 hours of the BCN Challenge!) but we’ve covered a fair few miles since we left Limehouse in April.

Having made this big decision, we drove back to Middlewich. Firstly we dropped into Kings’s Lock Chandlers to ask them for quotes for some more maintenance work. If all goes well, we can pop up and move Indigo Dream to King’s Lock when they’re ready or us.

As we drove into the  King’s Lock Chandler’s car park, we got a great view of Indigo Dream on her moorings. We were gobsmacked – not only was she some feet out from the edge of the mooring, she was also listing at an alarming angle. We knew then that we’d made the right decision to go for the marina.

..and living industry at Northwich - the salt industry is ancient hereabouts...

..and living industry at Northwich – the salt industry is ancient hereabouts…

In all fairness, I’ve had a call from the end-of-garden owners since, saying that they have been manually dredging the mooring and have removed a large quantity of stones and rubble. They now say that the mooring is deep enough, but we won’t got back there – we’d also been concerned about being clattered by the random manoeuvres of boats at the junction. They had suggested that a boat moored there before had successfully used tyres as fenders, but overall it’s probably better to be in a mooring where they’re not needed!

Once we’d sorted our maintenance wish list with Kings Lock, we moved over to the boat. Today we were cruising with Ollie, Herbie and Ty – we figured that Ty could manage a short weekend on the boat, though he wasn’t happy about it! Ollie, whose muscles are not the strongest, was particularly unimpressed by the floor’s strange angle at the mooring, as he said “I’m a greyhound not a mountain goat!”.

It was a beautiful day for cruising - in mid-October!

It was a beautiful day for cruising – in mid-October!

When we got on board, Indigo Dream was well aground, but fortunately a few boats moved through King’s Lock just when we needed then and obligingly topped up the low pound. It took less pushing than I expected to set us free. I winded at the junction and headed north. We had a bit of a wait at the first lock – there was a hire boat in front of us, then we had a wait as another boat came up. There’s a very sharp turn between the middle and lower lock. I waited in the pound while the boat below came up. I was torn between doing the proper thing i.e. pass on the right hand side and doing the right thing i.e. pass on the left which would give us both a better angle for getting into our respective locks. In the end, the bywash decided it! While I was hovering, the wash pushed me to the left and we were able to pass each other smoothly – right OR proper – hmmm, there’s a choice!

We shared Big Lock with the hire boat, who’d kindly waited for us. I was quite glad that there weren’t any other locks though – the helmsman had snapped the wooden tiller extension (caught it on a lock edge) and we helped out with some wood glue. They faffed around with that for a while, giving the helmsman plenty of time to tell me how brilliant he was at boat manoeuvring (though the broken tiller suggested otherwise!). It kept him happy so I just gritted my teeth and they were courteous enough to let us go out first.

Beautiful end to the day....

Beautiful end to the day….

We’d left the car at Middlewich, but with a long lock-free pound ahead, it was easy for me to get a cab back from Northwich and drive up to meet Richard at the marina. In fact, I arrived at the perfect time – he picked me up from the Anderton service point so that I was on board to help with the mooring.

We were soon settled in at the end of a linear pontoon. It was at this point that we discovered the downside of our cheap and cheerful mooring, the pontoon had old and unevenly spaced timbers with an archaic anti-slip mechanism – a narrow strip of chicken wire nailed to the centre of the boards! I had some misgivings – the whole gap and chickenwire arrangement were a hazard for hounds, especially Ollie, who’s not so steady on his feet. I did, briefly, consider driving home, it would have just about been early enough; but we decided to stay the night on board and travel back fresh in the morning.

The hounds enjoying dinner at the Three Greyhounds - Ty was pleased that we found him a safe corner; Herbie was pleased that he could lie in the way of passing fuss :-)

The hounds enjoying dinner at the Three Greyhounds – Ty was pleased that we found him a safe corner; Herbie was pleased that he could lie in the way of passing fuss :-)

We had the car, so we drove to our new favourite pub – the Three Greyhounds, where we found a snug corner with the hounds and had a very good meal indeed. I’ve recently been impressed by Richard’s nephew, who is remarkably tolerant of some older people – he feels they’ve earned the right to be loud and tactless! I wish he’d been with us when the group of older people next to us started talking about the greyhounds in loud stage whispers – as if we were deaf! We did have a chat with them and corrected a few misconceptions – in the meantime, the greyhounds accepted their admiration with great aplomb, together with the magnificent sausages that the chef consented to cook for them ;-)

By the time we got back to the boat I was very tired indeed and very glad that we hadn’t attempted the drive home – far better to enjoy our new favourite pub and have a good night’s sleep on our favourite boat :-)


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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – day 44

Posted by indigodream on 19 April, 2015

Rewind to Sunday 5th October

Saltersford Lock to Middlewich

Anderton Boat Lift - never fails to impress :-)

Anderton Boat Lift – never fails to impress :-)

We had a bit of drama with Arun again this morning, this time with a spectacular attack of the dire rear which managed to anoint a surprising surface area! I’ve always said that looking after old dogs is a privilege not a chore, so we were not bothered….

It was soon cleaned up and the boat settled to sleep while Steve took Arun on a lengthy early morning pyjama walk. Regular readers will know that it’s not unusual for me to be walking the towpath in my pyjamas in the wee small hours, but this was a new experience for Steve! His opinion was that pyjama walking was “quite liberating” :-)

Once again, we were in no great hurry, so there was time to fill up with water and to take the greyhounds for a bobble before we set off upstream ready to catch the 10am passage through Saltersford Lock. I have a note that Herbie hound was exceptionally well-behaved – he’s come so far from the timid and slightly feral stray that was rescued starving from the streets so many years ago :-)

Our starting point offered some spectacular cruising options, but we’d already decided not to try for Weston. We had hoped to take our guests north on the Trent and Mersey so that they could see my favourite view back down to the river, but Steve had already seen it on his morning walk! The others voted for a bobble back towards Middlewich but with a stop at the Lyons salt museum in Northwich (canalside).

I do love a bit of living industry - the steam emanating from the salt works is always dramatic. Signs ont he road warn of the danger of thick vapour reducing visibility :-)

I do love a bit of living industry – the steam emanating from the salt works is always dramatic. Signs on the road warn of the danger of thick vapour reducing visibility :-)

It was a lovely morning with a classic October combination of warmth in the sun and chill in the shade – can’t ask for more.

We were soon at the boat lift and this time enjoyed the full experience of seeing the opposite caisson descending while we ascended.

We stopped at the service point at Anderton and offloaded some rubbish and the dogs had a little pitstop. The towpath and surroundings are very well-maintained here – mainly, I suspect, because the boat lift is such a draw for visitors.

Having eaten so well yesterday we had something of a food dilemma – I had plenty of calories on board, but nothing that would make a coherent lunch (though we had eaten a very good breakfast). But we weren’t that far from Middlewich so we adults thought we’d hold out for a late lunch at Big Lock. Alfie looked a bit alarmed by this, so I did manage to find him a decent meal out of the available ingredients :-)

The deep locks are a shock after a long day of lock-free cruising!

The deep locks are a shock after a long day of lock-free cruising!

We stopped off at the Lyons Salt Museum but were disappointed to find that it was closed for renovation. We must stop there when it’s open – the history of this area is fascinating.

It always takes us longer to get to Middlewich than we anticipate – the Trent and Mersey is so lovely. We were just in time for a late lunch at Big Lock, where we were made welcome in our usual dog-friendly snug.

It was gone 4pm by the time we’d eaten – Steve and family were keen to head off for the long drive back to Surrey. In the meantime, we needed to find a week’s mooring spot for Indigo Dream. We cruised up through the remaining locks to the junction with the Middlewich Branch. We’d spotted a private end-of-garden mooring and wanted to try it out – it had potential for the winter, though we had some concerns because the water was shallow and the boat might be vulnerable to being bashed by traffic around the junction. It was running late though, and were happy to try it out for a week.

We got the boat settled, though her bow was sticking out some way because of the shallow water. The mooring’s owner promised to try some hand-dredging while we were away and assured us that she would be fine for the winter – hmmm. It was too late to move, so we paid for a week’s mooring and packed up to go. I was rushing to get away as we needed to pick Ty up this evening. I couldn’t understand why Richard wasn’t feeling the urgency – until he realised that his watch was wrong and it was at least an hour later than he thought :-P

We had a reasonable drive home, but it’s a long way and we didn’t get to Simon and Carrie’s until very late – fortunately they were very gracious about it. Ty had been looked after magnificently. Carrie and Simon had been generous enough to turn their house and, in fact, their entire lives, over to the care of Ty – he obviously approved of this! We were so very grateful for their kindness and consideration.

2015 Note: Poor little Arun recently lost her battle with age and illness but, having become an Indigo Dreamer on this trip, I hope that she’s cruising beneath the rainbow bridge with Blue, Lou, Lynx and the many others waiting there for us.

Our temporary mooring spot...

Our temporary mooring spot…


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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – day 43

Posted by indigodream on 26 January, 2015

Saturday 4th October

Northwich (River Weaver) to Saltersford Lock (via Vale Royal and Acton Bridge!)

I said we had a drama in the morning….

Soulmates Herbie and Alfie spent most of the weekend on the sofa; as for the rest of this photo? I should start a caption competition :-)

Soulmates Herbie and Alfie spent most of the weekend on the sofa; as for the rest of this photo? I should start a caption competition :-)

The boat was woken at 7am by Steve shouting “Arun’s in the river”. He’d taken her out for a morning walk and she had absentmindedly strolled off the path into the water between Indigo Dream’s bow and the boat in front (quite a drop). Luckily, Arun is very light, and Steve has long arms, so by the time we’d mobilised to help, he’d managed to get her out. Being a spaniel, she was unperturbed by her dunking, and Steve’s greatest fear had been that she would enjoy her swim too much and head over to the far bank.

We had dog towels to spare, so Steve dried her off and we settled back to bed – except that the boat was suddenly filled with the smell of petrol! Cue panic check of the diesel tank, but the smell was emanating from Arun! The Weaver is a clean flowing river, so how on earth did Arun manage to fall in at the exact place where a boat had dropped (hopefully accidentally) a tin of gooey yellow resin??

Apart from the overpowering smell, we couldn’t leave Arun, with her dodgy liver, covered in a potentially toxic petrochemical, so cue an extensive showering session. Although this removed an acceptable amount of goo, the stuff was horribly tenacious and poor Arun needed another super-bath later on with a “Sue Special” degreasing formulation – always handy to have a pharmacist on board :-)

Steve and Alfie on the helm - Steve is a natural so we were able to relax and leave him there for most of the day :-)

Steve and Alfie on the helm – Steve is a natural so we were able to relax and leave him there for most of the day :-)

We did manage a moderate lie-in after all this commotion – it was raining and there was no particular rush as the Vale Royal lock wouldn’t be open until late morning. We were able to enjoy a very leisurely breakfast and eventually set off after the worst of the rain had passed.

The Weaver was precisely as lovely as I remembered – we cruised through Vale Royal lock and went all the way up to the flash at the end, venturing as far as we dared into the shallows before turning back downstream.

We’d had a vague ambition to get as far as Weston, but once again we were scuppered by the early lock closures. We got through Saltersford lock, but we realised that we wouldn’t make it through the next – what a shame. We went down to Acton anyway, as the giant swing bridge is well worth seeing. We were amazed by the amount of traffic on the river – we hadn’t realised that there was a steam boat rally at Acton. Luckily the rally included fuel boat Alton who we know from many years back – we like to support boating businesses so we filled up with diesel at a reasonable 85p/litre.

We stopped at the Riverside Inn for a quick drink and to scout it out as a potential overnight mooring spot. The pub was not dog-friendly so we sat outside with the hounds – they were soon wrapped in blankets as the afternoon turned more autumnal. The pub mooring is fenced from the road but it wasn’t a good place for the dogs – the landing was a bit too narrow for comfort; we also had a lot of very fine food on board! In the end, we moved up to the visitor moorings just below Saltersford Lock, as recommended by the lock-keeper earlier.

It was a quiet and idyllic spot. Steve used the early finish time to de-grease Arun – the yellow resin was intractable and it took an age to get her clean; I ended up throwing away the towels that we used to clean her – horrible stuff :-(

In the meantime, I cooked dinner – always a pleasure, especially then the galley window offered a view of  a stunning sunset followed by a starry black sky of the sort you rarely see in the populous South East. There’s something very snuggly about sitting on board with the heating going, good company, good food and fine wine – we had a merry evening :-)

Note: we were so busy enjoying the cruising and company we hardly took any photos – d’oh!






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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – day 42

Posted by indigodream on 11 January, 2015

Rewind to Thursday 2nd October

Today was all about logistics:

First Richard took the day off and went up to Middlewich to get Indigo Dream from the boatyard. She’s had an exciting time as first Neil Coventry worked his usual magic on the engine and then Indigo Dream has  been flashing her bottom! The engineers pulled her out onto the slipway to re-set the prop and better investigate the Vetus stern gland. It was a bit scary because they found that the original hadn’t been installed properly and the shortcomings of the original installation were now showing! It says a lot for the robust design that it’s lasted eight busy cruising years, including many many tideway adventures. The boatyard fitted a new vetus stern gland, properly this time!

After sorting out the bill (reasonable), Richard single-handed the boat down to the moorings above Big Lock, where we were due to congregate later in the day.

Our human guests this weekend were our favourite vet, Steve, wife Helen and youngest son Alfie – they cruised the London Ring with us last year and are tremendously good company.

Our canine crew were Ollie, Herbie and Steve’s ancient spaniel, Arun. Ty was going to spend the weekend with Simon (nb Tortoise) and Carrie (nb Blackbird) who offered to be his refuge.

Simon and Carrie have a shore base in Brentford so how’s this for logistics – Richard drove up to the boat with all the boat stuff (big bag of washed towels, human and hound bedding); then after work (could not take the day off), I dropped Ollie and Herbie off with Steve, he would drive them up to the boat. Then I drove Ty up to Brentford before taking the car to Watford Junction station and catching the train up to Crewe. Phew! Steve and family got to the boat around 11pm and I turned up at 1am! But it was all worth it as we had cars and people all in the right place and left us ready for a long-weekend of fabulous cruising….

Rewind to Friday 3rd October

Middlewich to Northwich (River Weaver)

Herbie and Alfie were soulmates - neither left thier duvets without a great deal of persuasion :-)

Herbie and Alfie were soulmates – neither left their duvets without a great deal of persuasion :-)

We had a most relaxed start to the day, luxuriating in the fact that we’d done all our commuting yesterday. Steve is an early riser, as is Arun, but the rest of us loafed around. Alfie continued his greyhound studies – with his natural teenage talent, and Herbie’s expert tuition, he’s turning into an accomplished bed/sofa monster with a great affinity for snoozing!

We eventually mooched down towards Big Lock, where Steve grabbed the last of  their supplies and on we went – this was the only lock of the day so we were soon relaxing with coffee, pastries and good conversation. Now, when we’re with greyhound people, we talk greyhounds; when we’re with boaters, we talk toilets; but Steve and family are very well-read so we talked about everything else! One of their four sons is studying philosophy, so reasoned argument and challenge is obviously the norm in their household; so it became on Indigo Dream :-)

We whiled away the rest of the morning, enjoying the balmy weather, the scenery and the company. Poor Arun the spaniel is very ancient and is on her last legs as she has an intractable liver condition. However, she really enjoyed cruising and although she’s desperately thin, she was in very good spirits and is not in pain.

Arun thought that the sheepskins might be a tool for her to work on her retrieving skills; Herbie soon put her straight - "relax" he said "and whateverr you do, don't lie on the concrete - we have standards!"

Arun thought that the sheepskins might be a tool for her to work on her retrieving skills; Herbie soon put her straight – “relax” he said “and whatever you do, don’t lie on the concrete – we have standards to maintain!”

Unusually for us, we hadn’t stocked the boat up with food, though I could have rustled up a lunch, However, we happened to be passing the “Old Broken Cross” at a suitable time so we moored up and went to the pub. The Old Broken Cross is dog friendly and really cosy inside, but it was such a lovely day we decided to sit outside. The hounds were getting on really well and Arun was a bit gobsmacked by the luxurious life of the greyhound, with comfy sheepies and special orders of sausages. Arun is a working gundog and normally eschews the softness of the house, but she soon got the hang of it!

We had a good lunch – plain pub grub but well done…

We dragged ourselves away – we had booked a passage down the Anderton boat lift at 4pm, and although we weren’t far away, we may have been a bit too relaxed so far….

The stretch leading up to Anderton is quite amazing and is rapidly climbing up my canal league table – the flashes are quite unique and the salt works, ancient and modern, give the landscape real purpose.

When we got to Anderton, there was a hire boat waiting to go down. We moored up and Richard went to check the timing of our passage down to the Weaver. There had been some muddle so we had a bit of a wait – time for me to have a bimble with the hounds and for our guests to browse through the visitor centre. When our time came I had a real d’oh moment – I’d released the centre rope (we didn’t moor up properly as it was only a short wait) and set off. The boat suddenly lurched violently – I hadn’t realised that she’d been securely tied at the stern. I overheard some tart comments from the boatlift staff about “women drivers” but managed to redeem myself with a perfectly-placed, neatly controlled entry and mooring in the lift’s caisson. We were joined by the hire boat and down we went. Because it was the last passage of the day, the other caisson didn’t come up as we descended – apparently they leave both caissons down overnight so that the hydraulic gear is not accessible to vandals :-(

Ollie and Herbie are old hands at this pub business :-)

Ollie and Herbie are old hands at this pub business :-)

We had a big decision to make now – upstream to Vale Royal or downstream to Weston – we didn’t think we’d have enough time to do both, especially with the manned locks now on winter opening, which meant no passage after 4pm.

We decided to head upstream to Northwich initially – we’d top up with supplies at the local supermarket, have a bimble round town and find a pub.

We moored on the left just beyond town bridge, the lock opening hours having forced us to stop a lot earlier than we normally would. However, this gave the menfolk time to explore the Waitrose opposite and for the rest of us to relax with the hounds.

Later on, we decided to explore the eateries of Northwich – there are surprisingly few, far fewer than I remembered from previous visits in fact! There were lots of attractive cafes, now closed, but pubs seemed few and far between. Luckily we’d left the dogs on board, we struggled to find a pub for ourselves, let alone for the hounds! In the end we settled on a huge Weatherspoons – the Penny Black (not dog friendly) which had reasonable beer and good pub grub.

After a good dinner we bimbled back to the boat and gave the hounds a last walk – we had a quiet night, just as well, because we had quite a drama to come in the morning…

Today’s Trivia:

As we cruised through Marston, we could see a large and distinctive tower in the distance. I did some preliminary research on the boat but didn’t get anywhere. So I made that my project for when I caught up with the blog. I spent some time looking at maps and photos and I think it was the tower of St Mary and All Saint’s church in Great Budworth. The tower certainly makes its presence felt, so maybe it’s not surprising that the Church is a Grade 1 listed building. It is an old church, the oldest parts date back to the 14th century; the newer parts were build in the 15th and 16th centuries.

The church is one of many listed buildings in the village. Great Budworth itself sounds like a very active community which takes great pride in its heritage – this is another village that was mentioned in the Doomsday Book.

Indigo Dream will be spending the winter in Cheshire, so I think we’ll put this village on our “must visit” list – I was worried that it might not have a pub, but it does – the George and Dragon – which serves food AND is dog friendly. We will have to make sure that Henry Beanz is with us so that the pub can be properly reviewed.


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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – day 41

Posted by indigodream on 6 January, 2015

Rewind to Saturday 13th September

Middlewich Branch to King’s Lock Chandlers

Beddy cuddles - only Ollie and Archie get onto the bed - Henry's quite happy in the back cabin...

Beddy cuddles – only Ollie and Archie get onto the bed – Henry’s quite happy in the back cabin…

This had to be the shortest cruise ever!

We left our moorings late-morning and dropped down the one lock to Kings Lock boatyard, having watched a succession of early morning boats coming up into the branch. It was quiet by the time we got down – a big advantage as we needed to turn round and manoeuvre into a brested mooring at the boatyard. After consulting with the staff, we moored 3 boats out just under the Kings Lock. We were subject to the vagaries of the flow from the lock, but Indigo Dream wouldn’t be there for long – the yard would be moving her round in order to get the work done.

Richard went off to get the car while I packed the last bits and pieces. He was able to bring the car into the yard’s car park, making it very convenient for loading. We were soon packed and ready to load the hounds – they were only to pleased to get in the car – they were worn out after their busy holiday.

The hounds enjoyed the long car ride home - they finally got some proper snoozing time :-)

The hounds enjoyed the long car ride home – they finally got some proper snoozing time :-)

By early afternoon we were ready for the long drive home. It had been a great fortnight’s cruising but the next few weekends would be spent at home. While Indigo Dream was in for some essential maintenance, Ollie would need some attention too. After much discussion with the vet over the last 18 months or so, we finally decided to have Ollie’s badly infected canine tooth removed. As well as being stinky, it was starting to affect his general health. However it is a big operation with potential complications, so he’d need some down-time to recover.

Note: Ollie’s operation went really well and he’s so much better in himself that I regret not having the tooth removed a year ago. Better late than never – getting rid of a source of pain/infection seems to have given the old boy a new lease of life :-)

The trouble with beddy cuddes is that Ollie and Archie sometimes miss the essentail ingredient - leaving room for a human who can administer the cuddles!

The trouble with beddy cuddes is that Ollie and Archie sometimes miss the essentail ingredient – leaving room for a human who can administer the cuddles!

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – day 40

Posted by indigodream on 30 December, 2014

Rewind to Friday 12th September

Middlewich (Big Lock) to Middlewich Branch Bridge 30/31

The Big Lock pub - we and the hounds ahve always had a great welcome here :-)

The Big Lock pub – we and the hounds have always had a great welcome here :-)

There was a bit of an “end of the holiday” feel to today’s cruising, but while it was our last full day of cruising for a little while, the Odyssey wasn’t quite over….

We had a smooth passage up Big Lock then up the three deep and narrow locks that mark the start of the Cheshire Locks, nicknamed, with some accuracy, “Heartbreak Hill”. We passed along the top locks of heartbreak hill on our first ever narrowboating adventure on a hire boat; I wouldn’t drive the boat then, so I ended up doing all the onshore grunt work. I recall being so tired at the end of the day that I needed both hands to lift my pint. Ah, happy memories of the trip that sparked our narrowboat obsession! :-)

Back to the present, once we were past the locks, we had to negotiate the busy passage past Middlewich Narrowboats – just beyond lock 72. This spot has always vexed me as the canal is narrowed by permanent moorings and hire boat moorings; then there’s the manoeuvres of the hire base staff as they move the boats around. It was characteristically busy, and although I’m now experienced enough to move Indigo Dream in tight situations, I don’t have to like it! I’m torn, I want to support boatyards, because making money out of canalside businesses can’t be easy, but impinging on the navigation in order to do it has never seemed right.

Our first stop of the day was Kings Lock boatyard – we’d booked Indigo Dream in there for some maintenance as we knew that we were having a few boating-free weeks.

Our job list was a bit extensive but the priorities were:

  • get our webasto services as Kings Lock is a recognised service place
  • get our vetus stern bearing checked – it’s been leaking ever so slightly for a while and Richard was using increasing amount of grease to keep it dry. Kings Lock also have a certified vetus engineer.
  • get our engine serviced while we’re in the territory covered by Neil Coventry, who fitted our engine – we reckon that he does a superior service and he knows our boat, which we think makes a difference.
There are some lovely views here - this phot doesn't really do them justice...

There are some lovely views here – this photo doesn’t really do them justice…

There were many more miscellaneous jobs, mainly to do with working out where the water in our cabin bilge is coming from. It’s been a problem for months and although we have a few suspected leaks, nothing quite explains the amount of water that’s coming into the cabin bilge. We need to have a section of the cabin floor replaced at some point (it has a temporary patch at the moment), but we figured that there wouldn’t be time for that before we needed the boat again on 2nd October.

With our maintenance list sorted, we headed off to our next appointment, this time with Andy Russell, who did Indigo Dream’s much admired artwork. He has such a good reputation that we’ve decided to ask him to repaint Indigo Dream in her entirety (and re-do the artwork). The trouble with having a good reputation is that everyone wants you – Andy Russell’s next available paint slot is in Spring 2016! We’ve booked an Autumn 2016 slot so that paint has a good few months to cure before being challenged by the rigours of our summer cruising.

We set off for Aqueduct Marina, where we knew Andy was working today. The Middlewich Branch is undeniably beautiful, but it’s not my favourite waterway.



I had a bit of a to-do when I saw a big truck, then a tractor going over a narrow canal bridge ahead. I hear a horn tooting and assumed it was from the traffic; the road was quite busy so I heard a horn again and thought nothing of it. What I hadn’t realised was that the horn was from a short narrowboat coming out from under the bridge and he was just in my blind spot – oops. There followed some frantic dodging but the boats passed each other with room to spare and neither of us visited the trees or the towpath. I apologised profusely but the man on the helm had obviously had a fright and made some uncomplimentary remarks – oh dear!

It was a much longer cruise to Aqueduct Marina than we expected so our plan of having a short day’s cruise then heading for home became unrealistic. Never mind, it was a nice enough day, though more overcast and not quite as warm as previous days. Because we weren’t in a rush to get anywhere, we took some time to have a pump-out at Aqueduct Marina. We also had a chat with them about winter moorings, as it’s a pleasant spot with several miles of lock-free winter cruising available.  Sadly they were already fully booked, which gave us pause for thought – definitely time for us to make a decision on our winter plans….

When we finished in the marina, we headed back to Middlewich. We’d planned to moor just above Kings Lock Boatyard (for easy dog access), then move her over to the yard in the morning. On the way back, we came to a quiet lock with a deserted towpath. There was a hire boat coming up so Richard took the hounds off for a bimble while I waited at the lock moorings. Richard got chatting to the hirers and the hounds went off for a rummage…….and an illicit race with a young retriever that was just out of sight below the lock. The next minute, the retriever’s owner was shouting at Richard that “one of your dogs is in the canal” – Archie Beanz had taken a dive! Richard went down to retrieve Archie from the water – he had a few little scrapes from trying to scramble out (unsuccessfully)  over the hard edge but was otherwise unhurt.

Three greyhounds athe the Three Greyhounds - perfect :-)

Three greyhounds at The Three Greyhounds – perfect :-)

Although the visitor moorings on the branch were pretty busy, we found a mooring quite close to Wardle Lock. Richard found some convenient street parking nearby – very handy for packing some of the more bulky items into the roof box.

We wanted to finish our holiday with a special meal. We had a desultory wander around Middlewich but didn’t see anywhere we fancied, so Richard suggested a place that he’d seen during yesterday’s car shuffle. We needed to car to get there and Richard wouldn’t tell me the pub’s name – mysterious!

I was delighted when we arrived at “the Three Greyhounds” pub – perfect!

The Three Greyhounds pub is dog friendly, but it was quite busy inside so we sat outside on their covered terrace, which was just about snug enough with the outdoor heaters on. There was great excitement in the pub – this was the first time that the Three Greyhounds had ever been graced by three greyhounds! The staff made a fuss of the hounds and took photos – sadly the hounds were far too tired to pose so their photos haven’t appeared on the pub’s website. :-)

As well as being perfect for our canine pack, the pub also does truly magnificent food and, despite the gourmet menu, the chef was happy to do some sausages for the hounds (splendid sausages I should add). An evening at a hound-perfect pub was a good antidote to a slightly lacklustre day and was a fine finish to our holiday.


Three musketeers :-)

Three musketeers :-)

Low flying helicopter - wonder where he's off to?

Low flying helicopter – wonder where he’s off to?

The three greyhounds at the  greyhounds pub - they were very comfy and didn't welcome their celebrity status!

The three greyhounds at the greyhounds pub – they were very comfy and didn’t welcome their celebrity status!

The red carpet treatment :-)

The red carpet treatment :-)

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