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Archive for April, 2015

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!Β  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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚






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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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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.Β  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 theΒ  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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ˜‰

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 πŸ™‚


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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 πŸ™‚

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” πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ˜›

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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