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Archive for January, 2015

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 ofΒ  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 πŸ™‚

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 hasΒ  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 πŸ™‚

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 ofΒ  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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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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