Sunday, May 19, 2013

Back To Base

We left Stoke at 10.30am, yet another early one!!  Elaine and her trusty assistant lockie Bombo prepared the locks, so Sam nicked the prime position ...

At least there were a few boats on the move through Stoke so generally there was always someone to give Elaine a hand through the locks.

Question..... are fisherman miserable bastards before they start fishing or does the fishing turn them into miserable bastards, just wondering - and generalising, of course!

Geoffrey then assumed the prime position for a while ... he is such a lovely old boy (23 years old), no ears due to skin cancer, plus skin cancer on his nose and a dodgy looking thing coming up on his right eye ... but still happy.

The excitement got all too much for Sammy, time for a kip ...

Lots of little swannies ...

Here we are held up at lock 34.  The boat in it got hung up on the cill, it was lucky there was a lady from another boat who was on the ball, she quickly opened the paddles and refilled the lock before it sunk!

Elaine went to help them drag it back through the lock, it had dislocated the rudder.
How did it get hung on the cill?  Well, the chap went down below to check the kettle whilst they were descending in the lock....and no it wasn't a hire boat.  The couple from the boat were very shaken at would could have been.

At lock 34 we met the crew from NB Pendlebury, apparently they read the blog and recognised Bombo on the towpath, thanks for reading guys!

When we got to Lock 34 and we met Merlin! I will let Elaine tell you his story, all I know is she gave him my pork pie supply :-(

El here ... he was a very well spoken gent with a large denim cloak on and a sort of biblical looking staff.  He told me he lived around the lock ... his lounge was beside the bridge, wc was the lock and his sun room was the bench beside the lock.  He told me he is a christian who had fallen on hard times after a marriage break up and his son had committed suicide aged 18 but he had travelled the world and ran out of money.  He told me it was pentecost today.  He was very philosophical about his situation; he told me he does You Tube videos and I found them here but I havn't looked at them yet as we are saving our computer data !!  Anyway ... I felt sorry for him so I instructed Paul to bring out some pork pies and apples for him (I hate it when Paul sneaks pork pies into the shopping so I was glad to share them for him!) - Mr Francis was very grateful. An interesting encounter.

Back to our winter base Stone ...

We spent 5 months here over winter.  How nice it was to arrive here on a warm sunny day ... there were plenty of people outside the Star pub to help Elaine with the lock gate.  (El here again - actually the only ones who helped me open and close the top gate were the couple who were already sitting on it with their drinks!)

And finally through Aston lock, which is the last lock of the day and the last lock for a couple of weeks ...

We are now back in Aston Marina, we even got our old berth back.

Once we got tied up it was on with the shore power and start hoovering and washing the boat, it feels really strange to be here and not be cold, it is quite lovely.

Tomorrow we will get the train to Macclesfield and pick up the car, then we are going to spend a couple of weeks land bound, visiting family and friends plus doing some touristy sightseeing away from the canal.  My brief from Elaine is ... I want to go to a dog friendly hotel, near a beach and she wants to lie in a bath for a very very long time!

We will go to the Crick show, not sure what date yet, but lookout for two little white dogs.

So I will also give the blog a break for a couple of weeks - also, it hasn't had a break since we started it in March 2011.

See you all soon may the sun keep shining xx

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Tortoise in the Harecastle!!

We left our overnight mooring very early this morning (10.30am) as we wanted to clock up a few ks today!

Under the ever busy M6 ...

As I mentioned in yesterday's blog The Romping Donkey has seen better days ... shame, it's such a great name !

Through the Heinz lock ...

Some dirty, lazy bastard left a porta potti on the tow path!

We had 18 locks to do today, all up hill.  As they were all single (and up hill) I always jump off the boat to give Elaine a hand. Once in the lock I put the boat in forward gear and climb up the ladder as Elaine is closing the gates behind the boat. I then open the ground paddles and up she goes.

Once the main button fender has gone over the cill the lower fender then cushions the boat against the cill.

As the boat carries on rising it moves forward again once over the cill and once again the main button fender cushions the boat.  While all this fascinating stuff is happening Elaine has gone ahead with her assistant lockie, Bombo, to prepare the next lock.  Once out of the lock I stop the boat and shut the gate, simples. Not sure if it is the 'correct' way but it helps Elaine a lot, it gives me some much needed exercise and it is dead easy and safe.

Swannies of the day ...

Nice blossoms ...

Elaine and her assistant waiting for me to enter the lock. The assistant is to the right of the pic.

He really does shut the gate, good doggie.

Nice garden shed ...

Out of the 18 locks we went through today, all but the last one was against us, where are all the boats?

So when we arrived at the Harecastle tunnel, the chap from C&RT said we were actually too late to go through, but as we grovelled and he was a nice guy he let us go through!  He said there was one boat in front so asked us not to hang around as there were three boats waiting the other end to pass through the tunnel. I could see the stern light of the boat in front, he was a long way in front.   You can't really go fast in tunnels, I was doing the normal 1500 RPM but in 5 mins I was right behind the boat in front. My god was he slow.  I was forced to do idle speed the whole way and still had to keep taking it out of gear otherwise I would have run up his arse!  I would have blasted the horn and shouted for him to get a move on but blasting the horn is the distress signal in the tunnel!

A normal 30 min trip took over an hour and consequently, as it took so long, the group heading north had to moor up for the night and go through in the morning.

The boat in front was NB Solstice who moored up as soon as he got through the tunnel.  As I drew level I said to him that that was the most godawful trip through the tunnel ever, and asked if his throttle cable had broken?  I got no answer, his missus just smiled.

So onwards we went finally mooring at Festival Park Stoke.

Elaine reckoned this tree stump looked like a owl ...

We had a good 'feed' at the Toby carvery ... and am now back on the boat watching and listening to Eurovision Song Contest, the Romanian singer has just been on .... oh dear !!!!!  Go Bonnie !!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Nigels Again

Today was the day that we bid farewell to our cruising buddies for the last 5 weeks or so and became Nigel-no-friends once more.

Usual late start, although 'to be fair' one of the reasons we are late getting going is that every morning we fire up the two lap tops and check out the real estate pages back in Oz.  Our preferred location to buy is Byron Bay but we are extending the search area slightly.

It is so different to the UK housing market, every time a new place comes on we email the agent plus our friends who live in the area, to let them know we like the look of it ... the problem being that the good ones are sold by the time we get a reply 24 hours later!! Obviously the old crap sits around, but anything good is snapped up!  Of course we do all this research whilst still in bed with tea and biccies....that's are excuse and we are sticking to it .. plus we both hate getting up early!

Back to today, Firefly NZ was pointing in the wrong direction, so rather than reversing to the winding hole we decided to turn it on the spot.  I acted as the bow thruster and bow hauled her around, we made it with inches to spare.

Just made it!

Bombo was bored and wanted to get moving ...

Away they go.  Farewell Ray and Leonie, have fun I'm pretty sure we will catch up somewhere.

Away we go with Elaine putting in a few miles on the towpath with the boys ...

Rumps lock was the first of the day, it had a very noticeable kink in it.
I had about one inch either side.

Running close to the road on the outskirts of Sandbach.

I really like these paired single locks, trouble was there were two boats in front of us so we had to set every bloody lock.

They do look good though.

We pulled up for the day just before the M6 motorway at Hassall Green. We can see the traffic but can't hear it inside the boat.

I took the dogs for a walk to check out The Romping Donkey pub, but it is no longer romping and still looks rather derelict.

After my reader Andy Healey requested no more interesting facts but more pics of Bombo I obliged, but now another comment, pics must be Bombo on the here goes.....

Taken on a beach in Cornwall this year

Taken on a beach in Byron Bay 2008

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Much Nicer Day

Last night we went for farewell drinks and dinner with Ray and Leonie from NB Firefly NZ.  We went to The Salt Barge at Marston and had a really good night.  It turned out there was a Trio playing (The Pastry Chouxs), who were made up of a female lead singer, a female saxophonist  and a male guitar player.  It was their first-ever gig in front of a live audience, they sang all sorts from the thirties, forties, fifties and sixties and all in all they did a pretty good job!

Great, really friendly, pub to stop at if you are in the area, and dog friendly too!

So away we went this morning, at are usual starting time of around 11.00am!

Nice bit of industry on the oustskirts of Northwich, salt production I presume.

Mum and dad with their young 'uns ...

She's a gonner ...

Superb canalside house and garden ...

Out into the superb countryside ...

This fella attacked the boat as we sailed past ...

... the reason being that his mate was on the nest in the reeds, good hubby!

Into the first narrow lock. we so much prefer the narrow locks ...

Finally stopping at Middlewich for the night, lots of swans here ...

We fed a few of them through the side hatch tonight ...

Never before have we seen so many swans in one spot!  Swamped by Swans !

I hope no Romanians read this blog!!
Although last night dinner and drinks was our farewell to our Kiwi cruising buddies, they are in fact moored in front of us, but we go our different ways tomorrow.

We all had fish and chips for dinner from the Kings Lock Chippy, luverly greasy stuff.  Back on the good diet tomorrow, so says Elaine :)

The title of today's post refers to the weather today, it was delightfully sunny and towards the end of the day rather WARM ... yes, the CROCS are out again!

I had a comment from Andy Healey re yesterday's blog and the amazing facts, as in he didn't want any more facts, but requested more pics of Bombo.

Anything to please my reader ...
Pic taken back in Oz, he was very happy with himself after burying his bone in the garden!