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In 1977 we hired our first narrowboat from Anglo Welsh at Market Harborough.From that moment our destiny was set. In 2006 we finally purchased our own brand new 57' narrowboat which we named 'Free Spirit'. Our aim is to travel the length and breadth of all the navigable rivers and canals of the UK. This will be our story as it unfolds.

Sunday, 24 October 2021

And she took off by herself

 We just had to do it, sent CRT's regional manager an email highlighting the dangers of this lock at Bunbury. Anglo Welsh manager Edward, well he told CRT about this ages ago but still nothing was done. But paparazzi me, always with camera to hand, had evidence now of the disaster that could have happened. All the photos were sent so if nothing is done about it now, well shame on CRT! These photos below show how simple a temporary repair of replacing that piece of wood would be. In fact so simple because as it's the middle lock of the staircase, both chambers could be dewatered and the job done in no time. All it needs is to remove the bolts, square off the damaged ends, replace with new wood and bolt it back to the gate Even Anglo Welsh themselves has offered to do this but to no avail.




Today then we met up with the family. Merlin was all ready and as soon as they arrived by midday, handover was done, papers signed and we were on our way.



 

Christine and Kev has decided on the Llangollen. Strange that, 'cos when Merlin was based at Trevor this was one waterway they had done numerous times, but apparently they had never come down to Hurleston Junction, so this part was all new to them.


 
Thomas

Usually a lockkeeper is on duty but by the time we arrived they had gone home. A boat was already ascending and one on its way down. We both managed to get up the first lock before meeting that descending boat so crossed over in the first pound. 


 

Kev went up next and I could see him at the top but why was Merlin right across the pound? Silly beggar had decided to get off Merlin right by the top gate, close the gate so Josh could start emptying for us. But to be fair he is hardly an experienced boater even though Merlin has been taken by the pair for years (only for one week though at half-term) and without a rope holding the boat, she took off when Christine opened the paddles to empty the lock on number 3. He barely made it back on board, visions of Merlin alone by herself with only FS coming to the rescue came to mind. but oh the agility of youth. Christine said he leapt on the back just in time. but of course by then Merlin was at the angle you see her in.




 

A lovely rural mooring was found about a mile further along. To dark for fishing, games were played instead. A new UNO Flip had been bought so we had to give that ago. Hmm, UNO is one of our favourites and I wasn't at all sure about this new version. It grew on us as the night wore on so maybe this will become the game of the holiday.

Kev has challenged me to a fishing competition. We have yet to decide if it's numbers or size but because of this I may well be too busy for the next few days to put finger to keyboard. I will be back though, you can't get rid of me that easily ๐Ÿ˜‰

And only this Robin today



Saturday, 23 October 2021

OMG... water poured over the hire boat bow.

 6.45am and Ian was up. Hmm, not even dawn yet I thought, but an early cup of tea was always welcome. I was wrong, he was checking the battery voltage and was massively relieved that the batteries looked a lot healthier this morning than the previous few mornings. The voltage was about 24.5 quite acceptable.  Having topped up the cells with distilled water and realised the stoves back pump was running continuously he deduced that this was the reason the volts had been down. By readjusting the thermostat and turning off the Wi Fi, it seemed to do the trick.

If we thought it was windy yesterday, well today was 10 times worse. To keep from heading to the opposite bank I did have to keep the revs up. And the rain....in fact I sent Ian down below because I WAS going to have the brolly up today! 

Plenty of water movement from the wind.



Barbridge junction came into view, brolly had to come down and Ian was sent to the front as lookout. A long blast on the horn deafening Ian (Te he) and a glare and then a thumbs up and I made the right turn toward Chester.


  A stop at the facilities to water up and do the cassettes and both had a shower whilst waiting. Then it was off to Calveley Moorings.

Calveley facilities and yes it's still raining!

 

First mooring

Our daughter and son-in-law are taking Merlin out tomorrow and we knew from Gavin, manager of Anglo Welsh Great Hayward, that a new manager had been appointed at Bunbury. So we walked the 3/4 mile to their base to introduce ourselves. Name of Edward, he mentioned how well Merlin was doing at the moment, I think it's because this year with the Covid situation most are staycationers. Anyway he said there would be room for us once the hire boats had left so to come on down about 16.30. 16.15 we began the journey to the lock. It was as we stopped on the lock landing, walked toward the lock and noticed two Anglo Welsh boats entering at the bottom that the incident occurred. 

These two locks are staircase locks, the top lock empties into the bottom lock and how it works is the top lock should be full and the bottom empty allowing the boats to enter. Middle paddles are lifted and the top lock empties into the bottom lock so raising the boats. Well, with the top lock full and one of the boats being 70ft and too far forward and with the middle gates peeing out torrents of water, the 70ft boat well deck was completely swamped. Front doors were closed, but the force of water poured in through gaps in the front doors flooding the boat. 


Starting to list to the left



 

I was looking down at the amount of water pouring through the gate and suddenly realised what was happening. My god, I legged it down the steps to the chap on that boat screaming at him to get back. He looked at me gone out but slowly he did as I asked. When the boat took on an alarming list, I raced back to Tony (Anglo Welsh engineer) and told him to come quick. When he saw what was happening he was spurred into action and sped down the ladder to the boat. 

 


 To resolve this problem that top lock needed emptying. To do this without raising those boats the bottom paddle also should be lifted. We knew this and mentioned this plan to Tony. He looked a bit unconvinced but when Ian explained that to get that boat out of the lock it would first have to go forward again to enable the bottom gates to open. This would then flood the well deck for the second time. In the end Edward came over and took charge. He did what Ian suggested and as soon as the top lock was empty, and the water had stopped peeing through the gate, that boat (River Dance) was reversed out. 

Not quite the end of the saga. Even though water had poured in throughout the boat soaking the carpet, only the beer and some food had got wet. Their clothes had luckily been placed on the beds so stayed dry. With no replacement boat for these hirers and not wanting to let them down, Edward managed to suck up all the water and use one of those quick dryers to allow them to continue with their holiday. 

As for us, we never did descend to claim a mooring. Instead, Ian reversed FS to a gap behind the dayboat. No way could we get against the side, I had to do a leap of faith to get back on board!


That blasted wind made his task difficult, but check out that rainbow

 

And wildlife,




Friday, 22 October 2021

That took a humungous effort

 Autumn cruising, something special when the elements are kind and today was perfect cruising day. Yes the temperature had dropped and we have now put the secondary film across the windows, not to act as double glazing but because it almost cuts out all the condensation. The only downside is the inability to open the hopper windows but with the side hatch not covered and the Houdini still openable, we can still get ventilation if needed.

Only had two locks to do today, the nearest being but a mile away. As we left for the first lock, this was Middlewich moorings, far cry from yesterday when we arrived.

 

Heading toward Stanthorne lock the site of the breach in 2018 was seen. Boats were left stranded, one being extremely lucky not to be washed away. To read about how it happened HERE  This photo taken from CRT website


 And this is how it looks today.

More hire boats out than ever today from at least 8 different holiday hire companies, in fact there were very few private boats on the move. As usual its great fun watching their antics. But I must never forget that this was me 40 years ago. In fact somehow I managed to wedge Windsor, a 70ft boat, (I never forgot the first-ever hire boat from Anglo Welsh) right across the canal affectingly closing navigation for quite a while.  Like the boat in the photo I steered the wrong way and panicked. It took the 5 crew on board, 2 on the bow, 2 on the stern with boat poles and one on the bank with the bow rope to get me free!


With the glorious cloudless blue sky came another problem. Sun quite low on the horizon and looking directly into the sun equals difficulty in seeing what's coming. This photo shows why.

It wasn't all plain sailing though, because at Minshall Lock I got caught out by the wind. Strong and gusty and not the easiest to control FS. I dropped Ian off well before the lock and then tried to 'hold out' to save going onto the landing. But Ian signalled that there was a boat waiting to descend so I headed in. Well, that was fun trying to get there. That wind took hold of FS and pushed her toward the opposite bank...sideways! Somehow I got the bow to the concrete, swung the stern so I could get off, grabbed the center rope and jumped off, FS's bow was again making a break for the far side. Only wrapping the rope around the bollard and holding on for grim death could I get her to respond. Took another humungous effort to bring her back to the side. It was times like these that I wished Ian would glance back to see if I was alright. My fault though, because in the past when he has come back to help push the boat away from the bank, I have told him quite forcefully that I was quite capable of doing it myself!

I wondered why this boater had trouble trying to pick up his crew. Soon found out!
 


Could do with a repair.

Ian wanted to check the batteries, we seem to have low voltage every morning, so stopping after this lock on a long stretch of moorings was the idyll place. Fishing here was terrible. It's the first day I haven't had even a bite. Giving up I went in search of sloes. Two bottles of cheap Gin was bought in readiness and I got lucky by bridge 7.  There are now three bottles prepared, 2 of Gin and a half bottle of Vodka found in the back of the drink's cupboard. I added that to the leftover Gin so it will be interested to see how it turns out.




A question which someone may be able to answer about wind turbines on boats. We have thought about getting one when static but what sort. The long poled propeller type or this design seen on the photo below. Any thoughts?

And finally some wildlife photos to show,







Thursday, 21 October 2021

Blimey, where's the bollard?

 One minute we were enjoying a cup of tea in bed, the beep news being watched, and then the local weather forecast was shown. Good grief was that really heading our way? Heavy rain and thunderstorms and all to arrive mid-morning. Nop, didn't want to be caught out in that so we shot out of bed pretty quick. Breakfast then, was on the go and even teeth cleaning took a back seat until later. Only one boat joined us last night and that was a fair way away so we had no worries about disturbing their slumber as engine was fired into life and cladding pins removed.   

A 7.20 am get away.

We failed....the rain started just after leaving Booth Lane middle lock. Blooming local forecast, timings all wrong. Ian was on his way to the next lock, no waterproofs just a fleece. Hmm, a water magnet if ever there was one. I did notice the grass cutting team had left the lock landing looking pretty wild, and what's with those white posts almost in the middle of the towpath? With them hammered into the ground the width of the path had been considerably reduced.



Here comes the rain!

Only five locks to do to get to Middlewich, and who should we meet at King's Lock? It was Peter. A long day for them as Barbridge has to be achieved by the end of the day. Could locking for them take longer now that they are going up instead of down?


His boat already waiting below and the last of the locks descending

 
   

Middlewich junction was busy. More hire boats seen today than in all the two weeks of travelling and one right by the junction. I was intrigued how Peter would cope with the turn towing that boat. Well as I said in a previous post, I was watching a master at work.



My turn to descend Kings lock and I did wonder if there would be room behind the red boat. Ian was at the junction but I couldn't get his attention. Should I do the turn and hope, or do I wait? In the end I thought 'sod it' I'm going for it. Almost had the bow into the junction when Ian eventually realised what I was doing and waved me through. Hmm....better late than never I suppose.

Holding FS under the bridge, that red boat's bow was well into the lock entrance. Must mean no boat was descending. 

Watching the proceedings a lady walked up to me and said "Are you queueing for the lock?" "Yes" I replied, "Our boat is just about to come through the junction and I wondered where we should go?"  she enquired. Ah, not the wisest of moves I thought and told her she would have to inform the captain to hold fire, not to come in yet but wait from a signal from her.


At this lock (Wardle) there is a very big failing by who ever decided where the rings or bollards should be. The red boat with its bow well into the lock entrance could be tied to the top ring. After it had gone in and lock gates closed I pulled FS forward to allow that hire boat behind me to come in. 

Ian up there giving a hand.
 

And then I discovered I had a problem. There was no central bollard or ring to tie to. I had also been told by Ian that a boat was waiting to descend at the top, so no allowing FS's bow into the entrance. I could no longer pull back to the ring under the bridge 'ole because the hire boat had arrived. Furthermore, I was now at the mercy of a lock full of water emptying out, coming at FS at full force making her impossible to hold.

This to show where the rings were. My camera was on FS and no way would I have attempted to get back on board to fetch it.


No more photos of my plight obviously! What I did do was ask for the bottom gate paddles to be lifted really slowly. The gentleman on the descending boat was very obliging and when Ian turned up after helping Peter, he raced to help me with the rope. In the end Ian managed to get down the bank and get FS's bow rope and secured that to the top ring.  After that the paddles were fully lifted and we had no more problems. 

Gosh Middlewich moorings were busy, mainly with hire boats. I managed to squeeze in right at the very end of the mooring by the second bridge and just in time as the predicted rain came down in torrents. Short lived, thank goodness, and no thunderstorms at all! Then as we had settled down all those hire boats up and left leaving no end of room. 30 minutes later and we would have found a space nearer to the lock and, I might add, considerably nearer to the shops!



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