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The Odyssey 2015: Day 2

Posted by indigodream on 23 May, 2015

Rewind to Monday 4th May

Middlewich to Anderton

Mind your nose Archie - always worth shutting the side hatches when locking down - a lot of locks leak :-)

Mind your nose Archie – always worth shutting the side hatches when locking down – a lot of locks leak :-)

It was the most perfect day for cruising today – sunny and hot, with a distinct absence of the wind that has enjoyed pushing us around the canal the last few days.

The fine weather incentivised us to get moving, and we shouldn’t have been surprised at the number of boats on the move, though strangely after the busy junction, the Trent and Mersey beyond Big Lock is relatively deserted.

The passing traffic meant that all the locks were set our way – we still had time to buy some cakes from an enterprising family who had set of a lockside cake stall to raise money for charity – yum! :-)

We had a smooth turn and passage through the Middlewich locks – there is an awkward turn between two of the narrow locks with a dry dock right on the angle. A man from the boatyard was very anxious when he saw Indigo Dream coming out of the lock above – he cautioned me not to touch the stop planks – they’d drained the dock that morning and were afraid that I might dislodge a plank and re-flood it! In all my passages through this section, I’ve never touched the dock, but the boatyard boys watched me avidly (no pressure) until I got past cleanly (to their grudging respect!).

The stunning Trent and Mersey...

The stunning Trent and Mersey…

Once we were past the locks, we stopped off at the rubbish tip on the left hand side. While Richard was ditching our rubbish, I noticed a few boats passing the other way – past a little plastic cruiser moored innocuously (but untidily) on the towpath side. Just after we set off, a boat came round the bend towards us at speed – there was plenty of room for us to pass each other  alongside the moored boat, but I was surprised that the oncoming boat didn’t slow down at all. He passed at speed and the man in the moored cruiser went ballistic – it’s one thing to shout “slow down” from your side-hatch, it’s quite another to stalk down the towpath issuing death threats to the passing boat; mind you, the speeding boat did nothing for boater relations by saying “can’t hear you” to the man yelling furiously at him. The whole thing was really unpleasant and, in the end, I had to muse on the fundamental truth that two wrongs could never make a right.

The greening...

The greening…

But we soon put it behind us and had a blissfully peaceful cruise along one of my favourite stretches of canal – the Trent and Mersey is stunning, surrounded by lush countryside and teasing us with glimpses of the Weaver Valley below. It’s a canal which lends itself to contemplation – I marvelled, again, at the beauty of the English countryside. In the brief breath between the blowsy gaudiness of the ornamental cherries and the delicate awakening of the apple blosson, there’s time for the greening. There is nothing to compare with the multi-hued extravaganza of the trees as their leaves unfurl in every shade of green.

I’ve always dreamt of mooring at the flashes – they are so scenic, reminiscent of Tixall Wide but not such a mooring hotspot. We’ve never managed to time it right for an overnight stop, but we did moor for lunch in an idyllic spot flanked by a shallow lake on the other side of the towpath. I’d hoped that the hounds would have a cooling dip in the lake, but they decided to have a quick zoom around before going back to the sofa :-)

The ghosts of last year's reeds linger on but the green shoots are on their way :-)

The ghosts of last year’s reeds linger on but the green shoots are on their way :-)

I don’t have much more in my notebook – I did note that Oakwood “marina” – currently just a few posts in the water, is advertising “pre-completion discounts”. I had a wry thought that it should really be a pre-commencement discount!

Northwich always feels like Indigo Dream’s spiritual home because this is where her build was finished by the ever-obliging Olympus Narrowboats. So it was that Richard dropped me off on the exact spot where Indigo Dream was moored for several weeks while we chased our original boatbuilder to get her finished. The plan was for me to get a cab back to the car in Nantwich while Richard took the boat up to Anderton to find a 14 day mooring as close to Uplands Marina as possible. That would enable the yard’s boys to finish the snagging list.

The stretch up to the Anderton service block is mainly 48 hour moorings, but Richard found a small section between the 48 hour post and the service mooring where we could leave the boat. I soon caught up with the boat and we soon packed up and headed for home.

It’s a long old drive home and we’re becoming very aware of the distance involved in this year’s odyssey, so it’s likely that we’ll cruise long weekends this year, but less frequently (hope that makes sense).

Photoblog:

We've always fancied this intiguing canalside development opportunity in Middlewich...

We’ve always fancied this intriguing canalside development opportunity in Middlewich…

Henry zoomies...

Henry zoomies…

Archie zoomies...

Archie zoomies…

Herbie zoomies - this is news - he usually runs straight back to bed!

Herbie zoomies – this is news – he usually runs straight back to bed!

And there he goes - Hebie leaping for the sofa :-)

And there he goes – Herbie leaping for the sofa :-)

That's enough of that says Henry....

That’s enough of that says Henry….

And so to bed - zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

And so to bed – zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

 

 

 

 

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The Odyssey 2015: Day 1

Posted by indigodream on 22 May, 2015

Rewind to Sunday 3rd May

Nantwich (Canal Centre) to Middlewich

Cruising with hounds - aaah, we're back where we belong :-D

Cruising with hounds – aaah, we’re back where we belong :-D

It was touch and go whether we’d get away today – we had a nice lie-in after being woken early by the rain drumming the boat roof and deciding that we needed no part of it! I did take the Beanz out for the necessary at 7am – it didn’t take long – the hounds like their comforts as much as I do :-)

When we eventually emerged, we faffed around unloading the last items from the car and chatting. We chatted to other boaters at the marina and to a very nice family (man and two sons) who were considering a narrowboat. We invited them on board for a tour and had a lovely time talking boats.

Despite the frustrations of Indigo Dream’s eternal remedial works, I do like Nantwich – it has excellent amenities (including a vet hospital!) and it’s a friendly place to stay. Nonetheless, I was desperate to start our odyssey and finally, at around midday, we set off.

It was a fair but blustery day, but I found that I hadn’t forgotten how to steer the boat!

Beautiful views...

Beautiful views…

Despite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing at the junctions (Hurleston and Barbridge), the canal was relatively quiet and it felt so very good to be on the move again. We have a twitter “friend” (I know that’s not the right word but we have too much in common to be “followers”) on nb Ruth – we’ve both been in the Anderton area all winter and we’ve yet to co-ordinate our cruising so that we can meet for a cuppa! This time we passed on the Middlewich Branch – we exchanged greetings in passing – again – one day we will have that tea :-)

I have hardly any notes from the day – I recall spending most of it on the helm so that Richard could get on with DIY inside, though he obviously emerged for the few locks.

If the sight of the valley below doesn't persuade you to visit the Weaver then nothing will :-)

If the sight of the valley below doesn’t persuade you to visit the Weaver then nothing will :-)

I do have one sentence in my notebook “why don’t I like the Middlewich branch?” – it’s a mystery because it has great views, especially where it soars above the Weaver Valley. I guess some canals just speak to your soul – it’s subliminal not logical :-)

We moored up in Middlewich late afternoon, but within minutes we had to move a little way along the canal in order to keep the peace – the hounds spotted a squirrel and a cat in the garden opposite – noise ensued! I hasten to point out that the cat was perfectly safe with goodness know how many feet of canal between us!

Once we’d settled on a mooring spot. we had time to watch the world go by – notably old working boat nb Col, who cruised by with the faded dignity of a duchess forced to shop at Aldi.

We’d been searching online for eateries in Middlewich and headed off in search of a mexican restaurant we’d fancied. Sadly for us, it was closed in a Sunday night, and in an excess of indecision, we plumped for another chinese takeaway (which was good).

Having been away from boating for so long, I found that the fresh air had an even more soporific effect than usual – we were soon in our respective beds (hound and human), with a fine day on the Trent and Mersey to come.

Photoblog:

Another new thing - we can finally throw  out the old round of polystyrene that we've been using as a porthole bung for NINE years :-D

Another new thing – we can finally throw out the old round of polystyrene that we’ve been using as a porthole bung for NINE years :-D

The cowslips are abundant along the canal...

The cowslips are abundant along the canal…

Greyhound! This one was enjoying a trip on a hire boat:-)

Greyhound! This one was enjoying a trip on a hire boat:-)

Dragonfly! Our old share boat looking mighty fine, for all that she must be in her teens now :-)

Dragonfly – this is our old share boat, looking mighty fine, for all that she must be in her teens now :-)

Rummaging! Hang on, that's only three hounds - where's Herbie?

Rummaging with Richard – hang on, that’s only three hounds – where’s Herbie?

Silly question!

Silly question!

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The Odyssey 2015: Almost…..

Posted by indigodream on 21 May, 2015

Saturday 2nd May

Indigo Dream - down to the bare bones!

Indigo Dream – she’s been down to the bare bones!

The Odyssey – finally! Well, almost..

Indigo Dream is almost cruise-worthy – still an irritating number of snags but not so many that we couldn’t move this weekend – what a relief.

We set off from Surrey early on Saturday with this season’s Indigo Dreamers – Archie Beanz, Henry Beanz and Herbie Beanz with resident old boy Ollie. Ty is exempt from cruising this year – he suffers on board and the Beanz love it, so we’ll probably be swapping dogs all summer! Ollie’s cruising days may also be numbered as he’s getting a bit frail and has a mystery problem with his parathyroid gland (long long story), but for now the best place for him is with us.

We had considered getting away today, but when we got to the boat we found some snags that needed immediate attention, we had a lot of new storage to install and fill, and I needed to get to a supermarket to restock our cupboards, which were completely bare after I condemned everything that had been living in our damp cupboards all winter.

We decided to stay put and start afresh in the morning…

All snug now - we even bought a new sofa (on the internet) but the seat was so hard we had to have an emergency purchase of a topper so that the greyhounds could lie in comfort!

All snug now – we even bought a new sofa (on the internet) but the seat was so hard we had to have an emergency purchase of a topper so that the greyhounds could lie in comfort!

Just as well because we had a few dramas to deal with – all involving Herbie hound!

Firstly, Herbie stole a doughnut off the counter – not a problem except that immediately afterwards he fell into such a deep (and happy!) sleep that I wondered whether he’d fallen into a sugar coma! I needn’t have worried, he woke up in time for a walk with Richard while I got their dinners ready. But when Herbie came in he had a new lump on his cheek, which grew and grew until it was the size of a small walnut! Cue call to the emergency vet – the consensus was that he was reacting badly to a sting and would need observation and an antihistamine. But the antihistamines I had on board were not dog-friendly, so off we went to Sainsbury’s (again) to the very handy late night pharmacy. Of course, by the time we got back, Herbie’s lump had disappeared!!!

After all this, I decided not to cook and we ordered a Chinese – while we were out collecting it, Herbie stole a whole hot chicken off the counter! Chicken wrestling with Herbie is a popular sport in our house, so Richard was able to get most of the mangled remains away from him. A close forensic examination showed that he’d managed to eat the leg bones, including the nasty needle-like pin bones. I though it would be impossible for a hound to look both immensely pleased with himself and slightly dyspeptic but Herbie managed it :-) I kept him under close observation in case of acute chickenbone-itis, but he was absolutely fine – crime pays!

My goodness, after all that excitement, I was so glad to get to bed – but not until we’d enjoyed a DVD – “Monuments Men”. We’ll need to replenish our DVD collection following the big sort out :-)

Photoblog:

A lot of the work we’ve had done over the winter was remedial, so the boat doesn’t look vastly different inside, but we have added a few new features…

Our new water gauge -wonderful!

Our new water gauge – wonderful!

New decking - we got to the point over the winter that we'd spent so much on the main infrastucture we may as well spend a bit on the finishing touches too :-)

New decking – we got to the point over the winter that we’d spent so much on the main infrastructure, we may as well spend a bit on the finishing touches too :-)

Our new decking has a bottom layer of decking tilesfor drainage (but too hard on houndie feet) and a top layer of foam tiles (very nice to stand on). I've no idea ow hard wearing the top layer will be, but the whole combo was pretty cheap (all tiles on special offer).

Our new decking has a bottom layer of decking tiles for drainage (but too hard on houndie feet) and a top layer of foam tiles (very nice to stand on). I’ve no idea how hard wearing the top layer will be, but the whole combo was pretty cheap (all tiles on special offer).

New rails with hooks and baskets from Ikea - so handy :-)

New rails with hooks and baskets from Ikea – so handy :-)

Extra large horn - bought for us by a yacht sailor who went to a shop more used to selling equipment for alerting ferries to the presence of small boats in the Solent - it is LOUD!

Extra large horn – bought for us by a yacht sailor who went to a shop more used to selling equipment for alerting ferries to the presence of small boats in the Solent – it is LOUD!

 

 

 

 

 

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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 – http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/beautiful-lenticular-clouds-photographed-wirral-8798648

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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