Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Triumph over adversity and antipodean meetings

This morning at 7.45am we got ourselves and the boat ready to depart the Macclesfield Canal after about 7 weeks. Well, when I say got the boat ready, I mean everything from pulling in the fenders, opening the cratch, taking down the pram cover, putting on the tiller. As it was before 8am, I didn’t want to start the engine right next to the boat behind us. I shouldn’t have worried as the damn thing didn’t start. It turned over fine but wouldn’t fire. We did some problem identification ourselves first. David is keen on problems being connected with the batteries – he understands that stuff more than he is comfortable with the engine (he hates cars, by the way, and wouldn’t have one given the choice). But it couldn’t be the starter battery as the engine was turning over. I remembered we had the same hassle back some weeks ago (more than 7 as it occurred at Alrewas) and we called out the RCR guys. After the engineer identified it was a starter motor problem, he checked its connectivity all the way from the control panel back to the starter motor itself – all fine. Then he noticed that the wee nut that pushed the rod back into the solenoid was extremely loose. He tightened that, and hey presto, after a couple of goes, the engine started. So, I got down into the engine bay, found the nut and it was so loose it was nearly off. I could tighten it by hand very easily, so I did, and then I tightened it a wee bit more with the crescent. Attempted to start it. No dice.
OK, which set of ghost busters were we going to call? RCR or Ed. OK, in true project management style, we covered all options and called both and left messages. Ed, the champion, called back first and did some diagnosis over the phone. We followed his instructions, still no dice, so he said he would call in on his way to his first job of the day. While I was standing on the engine, I reached over and gave it one more try. Whammo, it started!!! Yay, and loud noises of triumph!! (It feels rather strange to be standing on a motor when it starts, by the way. Very vibratory. David had a rude comment about that which shall not be repeated.) However, as we were heading through the tunnel, we spoke with Ed and agreed he would still come to check things out. So I cooked and we ate breakfast while we waited. When he arrived he was certain that the issue was the nut and he further tightened it. Checking its drunkenness (is it tight or not) is now down to be part of my weekly routine – before we start the motor as I couldn’t do it when the engine is hot. David has eschewed it as anything to do with him for some reason. I think maybe it’s to do with engines being Booth territory and electrics being McDonald territory.
So we were ready for the off, and as I was undoing the stern rope, the phone rang and it was the RCR people 3 hours after I had called. I'm not complaining at all, but that did seem a long time since the original call. I was pleased to be able to tell them we were sorted - if it had taken that long for them to call back, they must have been pretty busy on other calls.
We set off down to the junction of the Macclesfield and Trent and Mersey, a right turn (or 90 degrees to starboard, I should say) and on towards the tunnel. We had expected that there would be a long queue but we were boat number 4, and arrived as boat 2 was entering the portal. There was a delay of a few minutes after boat 3 as we needed to register with the tunnel keepers. I sounded the horn and they were suitably startled. No danger it won’t be heard then – thanks, Steve!
In we went, and I still don’t like it but it seemed easier this time as most of the low headroom parts are at the northern end and once past them it feels much more spacious. I was pleased as I didn’t touch the sides at all – came close once, but stayed off them.
When we came out we pulled over to get water and were hailed by Ray and Leonie on nb FireflyNZ. They had been hoping they would see us on the other side of the tunnel this morning as they had read the post saying we were moored at the bottom of the Maccie. We managed a quick chat before they were on their way through the tunnel, and while we could have met on the other side by our walking over the top, they were keen to keep moving as the weather was fine. So next time!
As we had moored up just after the water point we chatted with a family who were on one of the lovely Aqua narrowboats for a fortnight doing the Four Counties Ring. Then we saw the boat Macter’s Filia, and knew we had seen it before. Then the penny dropped. We had met Jennifer and Peter at Middlewich, we think, when they were in their second summer on the boat. They come over from Tasmania and boat about 4 months of the year. We found them very encouraging as they were doing what we wanted to do, and they showed us over their boat which was the first reverse layout we’d seen. Waka Huia has the same configuration – with, from the stern, galley, dinette, bathroom (off the corridor), bedroom and then saloon.
So we had a quick chat with them while they filled with water and before they received their instructions for the tunnel.
It was lovely to meet two sets of antipodeans in rapid succession. It feels as though we may be taking over the waterways …
We then looked for the pathway over the hill to the other side of the tunnel. We found it, but the weather looked very threatening, so we returned to the boat, cast off and moved to the visitor moorings at Westport Lake. We have the first spot at the northern end of the moorings and still have the engine running to do a decent charge of the batteries, given we have been snails who’ve not moved far or fast for the last several days. 
David has just come through and has turned off the engine – suddenly it has gone quiet!! Do I hear the sound of the chardonnay o’clock call? I shall ignore it temporarily till I’ve made the batter for the toad in the hole I’ve planned for tonight’s dinner. It’ll be my first attempt at Yorkshire puddings in this oven, so I will report back tomorrow.
Ah, too late to avoid the chardonnay o'clock call - David has poured one for me. Best I get into the kitchen quickly and get that batter made!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

We done a runner!

Yesterday, after patchy heavy rain early on, we moved on in light drizzle. Alison and Mick went off ahead of us, and we caught them up again at the water point near the Hall Green stop lock. We had discussed gingernuts before they left, so at the waterpoint, we had a cup of tea and said gingernuts (Alison is definitely a fan), and we left them with the remains of the pack we started. Sorry, Lesley …
As we were all preparing to leave a small boat came down the cut with an inexperienced steerer who, when told by the woman on board to slow down, increased speed and steered directly for the pristine sides of 3 No Trumps. Aaarrrggghhh!!! Mick and the woman on board managed to fend him off, and Alison went ahead and opened the lock for them. The decision was it was far better to have them out of the way before they could cause any more mayhem! Just as we were undoing to follow Mick and Alison into the lock a few minutes later, a boat appeared around the corner. As they were underway and we weren’t, we sat back. Then another one appeared so I signalled them to pull in behind us. I don’t think they were too pleased but they thawed. The woman came to tell us that Heartbreak Hill was a bit of a mess at the moment with limited navigation allowed. David checked with CRT and found out that one lock, well up the flight, is being closed for repairs and part of the flight was being closed off.
So we decided to moor up at the bottom of the Maccie on the aqueduct and instead of doing part of Heartbreak Hill, we’ll head back through the tunnel earlier than planned. We thought it was possible that there could be an influx of people changing their minds once through Harecastle and coming up the Maccie instead of continuing up the Trent and Mersey down the locks. So we moored up tight to the boat behind us to maximise the number of mooring spots available. I hung up the washing then we set off to get some shopping in (a very English way of putting it, yes? Or should I say, innit?) We decided to find the CRT building on our way but came up off the cut a few yards before it, as it turns out, and walked into Kidsgrove’s main street through the station carpark where we stopped and chatted with the people who had warned us of the lock closure. They had done their shopping and were heading for the tunnel straightaway. It was well after 2pm by this time – where does the time go? Holidaying uses up time very quickly we are finding. So finding something to eat was a priority. We found a quaint (as in slightly strange) café called the Shaky Bean so in we went and ordered good basic English caf food, chatted with the grandmother and her daughter, ate and left having been given directions to Aldi. We headed there up hill but decided, that loaded up with groceries it would be too far to walk back to the boat, so retraced our steps to go to Tesco’s (don’t tell Mick). As we crossed the road, the café grandmother was waiting for us. I thought she was checking to make sure we had found Aldi. But no!! We had not paid for our lunch and she was coming to get us. Given we were the ones who’d walked out without paying, it was interesting that she was so embarrassed. Bloody hell, I hope they don’t think we’d done it deliberately. Now that does make me blush. I thought David had paid when he ordered for us, and as I was already sitting down I wasn’t looking. He thought he’d asked me if I’d paid and we had to agree that it was a silent question that never left the confines of his head. And it was unlikely I’d paid as I don’t carry cash or cards – I’m like the queen in that way…
So we paid the huge bill (£7.50 for eggs and bacon on toast, steak and ale pie with chips and gravy, a scone and a pot of tea), and left again. Off to Tesco’s for a small shopping foray (essentials only: chardonnay, fruit, coriander, tomatoes and peppers, GF biccies and bread, mayo, passata and canned tomatoes – forgot coconut milk, dammit). And back to the boat. I needed to blob – white toast in the lunch had knocked me, so we had a lazy couple of hours in the welcome warmth of the sun. Then as I was thinking about starting dinner I could hear David moving things around outside. He was clearing the decks (literally) to be able to get down and remove water that the bilge pump won’t deal to as it’s not deep enough. He had scooped a fair amount out by the time I poked my head up out of the boat, so I helped with the dregs – holding the bucket low enough for the handpump to work. It is now pretty clear. We are going to find some of the stuff I’ve read about in a blog or on the forum that soaks up oil from the bilge. I would like it to be as clean as it was when we bought the boat.
David also had a sudden rush of blood to the head about power consumption on board. Ed had told us that the inverter itself is quite hungry and that we could turn it off when the 240v appliances are not in use (in our case: the washing machine, the TV and anything plugged in to charge on the 240v power points). So instead of turning it off at night or when we’re cruising and the washing machine isn’t in use, he started wanting it turned off at any possible opportunity. I started to feel like I was in Baghdad with severely rationed power. ‘Is the TV on while you are here in the galley cooking dinner?’ ‘Not anymore.’ The upshot was that I suggested we look for the next marina that had a place where items could be donated so we could get rid of the TV to reduce our power consumption. A rethink of the power regime ensued, and we are back to normal, ie careful but not obsessively so.
A peaceful night and the weather looks quite settled. We are going to head for the tunnel now and eat breakfast while in the queue. I will take magnesium to settle my nerves … More later.

I have seen snails that move faster

Ed came yesterday and made sure the engine and prop were behaving. We’d been experiencing the singing prop phenomenon at particular revs. We were pleased to see that, since exchanging the great big enormous humungous alternator for a small svelte slim one, the engine mounts have not loosened at all. I have said on the blog before that we’d had to have the engine mounts tightened 3 times in 6 weeks when the GBEHA was in place.
Ed also looked at how to hook up the radiators that are currently linked to the bubble stove to the Webasto. Unfortunately, without adding another couple of batteries, it’s not really viable. And adding batteries means building a place for them on the swim. So we are going to use the bubble stove with a couple of the radiators closed off and see if it is more efficient than with them all going – when we’ve used it previously, the stove has barely warmed the radiators. When we’ve used it over the coming  weeks or so and formed an opinion (or two knowing David and me), we will consider the options and costs while we are back in NZ and decide what to do. Ed did tell us that the bubble stove is designed to be left running all winter, so when it gets consistently colder we will set it going and see what it’s like. We only used it in short bursts back in June.
We have moved a HUGE distance in the last few days, not! We are now about 700 yards from where we moored on Saturday and Sunday, and we chose last night’s mooring because there is a pub close by where we went for dinner last night. We shared a table with Alison and Mick from nb 3 No Trumps who we are moored in front of on the 48 hour moorings – no gaps and we had a shorter boat come and moor up right in front of us late yesterday in the rain, so the whole of the mooring was used efficiently. I do like that!!
This morning the weather is changeable again but according to the hourly forecast it is meant to be cloudy but sunny this arvo. So we will probably move on down to the next waterpoint by Hall Green, fill up, pull back and moor up for the night. If we are feeling very energetic we will leave the Maccie by travelling through the stop lock (1 foot drop) and turn on to the Trent and Mersey again. It seems ages since we were on any canal but the Maccie or the Peak Forest. On looking back at previous posts, it seems we have been here since 4 July. I’ve just looked at the length of the Maccie and the Peak Forest, including down the Marple Locks. It’s 34.25 miles. In 46 days, if my maths is correct, we’ve puddled around on 34.25 miles of canal. Of course much of that has been traversed 4 times and we’ve had a two and a half week break away from the boat while David was in NZ and I was with Lesley in Essex Kent. But even so, our pace has been slower than many snails…
There are exactly 7 weeks till we leave the UK for this year, and probably only 6 of those we’ll be boating. So I wonder if our pace will pick up now?

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Little Moreton Hall

From the front, with the bridge over the moat
  Yesterday we decided to move on from Congleton in case Sunday’s weather turned sour. We moored our boat close to the South Cheshire Way and walked to Little Moreton Hall. What a treasure the house is. And what a treasure NT has in James McGrath who was our guide. He was erudite, articulate, full of knowledge about the house and the Moreton family, and most of all passionate about the place and its history. We and a number of others in the bunch of people he led the tour with thought he was the best guide we've had in a historic place.
This is not the most flattering photo of me, but it shows how scared I was - I could barely grimace and my fists are clenched - if I concentrated hard, the floor would not fall in

See the rise and fall of the floor and windows?

James McGrath, top guide.
  If you are pounding up or down the A34 or boating along the Macclesfield Canal - do stop and see this manor house. It is well worth the couple of hours to wander around by yourselves and do a tour - seeing the place is one thing, but understanding how it was built and extended in less than 100 years really made the visit wonderful. And if you are not yet a member of the National Trust, join up at Little Moreton Hall as it gives you free entry and it puts more money from your subscription into LMH's coffers for maintenance.

Most of the above is the review I tried to put on TripAdvisor – my least favourite review site (lack of moderation, the power to destroy businesses that it gives to people who are slightly miffed by something they didn’t like at a restaurant, hotel, B&B, … Rant over.) This time, I couldn’t load the user name I wanted to use that reflected our B&B  - TA seems to want to use my Facebook ID, so I swapped back to that – sorry that name is taken. Yes, by me, you idiot! I will try again later or get my IT consultant who travels with me to sort it. But he is stressed at the moment trying to get Facetime to work on our i-phones or somesuch, and growled at me last night for texting Lesley instead of using Viber or WhatsApp which are both free. And Lesley asked why I was sending every text twice. Well, I wasn’t but maybe something the onboard IT consultant was doing had that effect. Maybe I’ll just sort the Trip Advisor review on my own in a quiet time …
Anyway, Little Moreton Hall is amazing. I didn’t like being in the large room at the top – I don’t like heights or staircases where I can see through or am not protected from vertigo on both sides – my bad. And then the floor of the room is distinctly up and down, seriously! As are the window frames – the whole of the top floor has subsided in places. However that was my personal flaw re heights and lack of steadiness (we did wonder if it was the boating effect where we seem to be less steady on our feet on shore for a bit after being on the boat which moves most of the time). The room (and whole house) itself was amazing, the leadlight windows have been in place for 500 years – must have cost them a bomb when glass tax was introduced! National Trust spent about half a million on supporting the topfloor, so I didn’t need to worry, but the guide did say (after we’d been up – I wouldn’t have gone at all if I’d known) that until then only 12 people at a time were allowed up.
The ducks and fish co-exist happily. I don't think the herons have yet discovered the moat and its large fish!

I think this is a recent addition or otherwise a recreation of an old feature - easy to find the way around at the moment ...

The two large bay windows were added by the son of the original William Moreton. He also added the second storey,  flagged the groundfloor and built a fireplace in the Hall respectively replacing the earthen and straw covered floor and the fire in the middle of the room.

The hall has no foundations, hence the subsidence. In the white bag is our dinner - two cheese and tomato tarts.

Our mooring - space for a boat in each gap (the one closer to us filled later in the afternoon) and we are on the last ring of the  48hr moorings.

This morning we headed to Heritage Narrowboats about 8 minutes away to get a pumpout and top up with water, turned around (easy using the wind to help the turn!) and came back to where we are in the above pic, just pointing the other way. Tomorrow morning we will move all of 500 yards to about Bridge 85 Aker’s crossing, to be ready for Ed. He is going to make sure the engine is fine after his work a few weeks ago (we think it is sounding lovely and yesterday, as we were coming down the cut, a guy on a boat coming towards us said how quiet our engine was – he wouldn’t have said that before when we had the world’s largest alternator on board as he could have heard and felt the vibrations from a mile away, let alone the engine! Do I exaggerate? Well, just a tad …), and Ed is going to measure up so he can link all of the radiators to the Webasto over the next couple of weeks, wherever we happen to be. At the moment, only the bathroom one is linked and that makes the Webasto inefficient and increases its chances of getting coked up or something – I didn’t know they were so into cocaine myself.
It has already clouded over and got windy, chucked rain down, got sunny, stayed windy from a sunny calm start at 7am when I got up to make tea and provide David with gingernuts – I cannot should not eat them as they are not gluten free. Fortunately Tesco’s does a lovely range of GF biscuits and their ginger ones are yummy – not the same style as Griffin’s gingernuts, but pretty good all the same.
So a big day ahead for me watching TV, reading, cooking a Thai green curry for dinner, and David has some Weaving Memories work to do ;-) Best we get on with it.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Darren's territory

Well, it has been a real case of making haste very slowly over the last few days. We were totally slothful for almost 3 days!! On Tuesday and Wednesday, while moored up below Bosley Locks, waiting for parts for the horn so Steve could come and do the necessary repairs, I don’t think I stepped out of the confines of the boat – how bad is that?? At 5.45 one of those mornings, I did get up (original intention for removal and ingestion of vital fluids: p out, t in) and take photos from the cratch of the mist on the canal and in the valley beside the cut which is high up on an embankment. The embankment photo didn't come out for some reason.
See the slight mist - I should have time-stamped this photo, to prove I did get out of bed early, even if I did go back to bed for most of the morning.

I must have stepped out of the boat to take this one of the raindrops still clinging to the ropes and chair. A reasonably arty shot for me! See the mist in the valley in the background?
On Thursday Steve arrived on his bike looking rather wet but ready with the parts to fix our airhorn. Before starting work, he did need reviving with tea and gingernuts – sorry, Lesley, we gave him a pack to take home with him and he did say he thought they would probably be devoured in one hit.
The horn is now functional, and how! From sounding like a strangled goose that could barely be heard screaming for its life, it is now worthy of being on a large truck. I feel like I should have a call sign ‘Ten four, Rubber Ducky’ or somesuch. We needed the horn fixed to qualify for going through the Harecastle Tunnel. However I am scared now, that if we had to use the horn to signal that we’d broken down, the sound would blast the mortar from between the bricks … A word of warning – if you are on board Waka Huia sitting in the dinette, and I need to use the horn, for heaven’s sake, make sure you’ve already used the facilities to empty your bladder and bowel!

Having fixed the horn and disconnected the immersion heater (we thought it was a bit of overkill having three ways to heat water on the boat - engine, Webasto and immersion heater), it was about 4pm when Steve left to bike back to Macclesfield, so we decided not to move on. There had been a steady stream of boats all day until about 3pm, even though it rained quite heavily off and on. We didn’t notice that the stream of boats coming from the locks had stopped, but did notice that the moorings were surprisingly empty. At about 5pm a CRT man came along, and given we had guilty consciences about having been at the 48 hour mooring for 50 hours by then with a planned 16 hours more, I went out to confess and apologise. The man wasn’t at all worried about our overstayer status. He was checking how many boats were heading for the locks. Apparently one of the gates at the top of the Bosley Locks had broken and there was a boat in pretty much every lock in the flight. CRT had got them to stay in the locks as the pounds were emptying – some of the gates are rather leaky. We found out they had repaired the lockgate, and had everyone out and up through the flight by 8pm. Well done, CRT!! The boaters who told us that had stayed in one of the locks overnight as a heavy rainstorm came through and they decided discretion was the better part of valour.

We headed off in bright sunshine yesterday morning, stopping for water at Buglawton (such wonderfully evocative names in the UK) and then before noon we moored up just short of Congleton, Darren Handforth’s territory. (I worked with Darren in WorkSafe before coming over here.)
A sunny morning but not shorts weather. The stain on my T-shirt is where I dropped my cornflakes ...
 Our mooring is just past an aqueduct over the former Biddulph Railway that is now a walk/cycle/bridleway. The canal is on an embankment high above the valley floor which incorporates the Dane in Shaw Meadow, an SSSI, ie a Site of Scientific Significance – can’t remember what the I stands for ... Last evening we walked through it – just lovely. It is a place I would love to bring the grandsons as it is ideal for kids – lots of picnicking, running and playing space, and the stream at the bottom is obviously crying out to be temporarily dammed up as a day’s work by industrious kids. It reminded us a lot of Seton Nossiter Park in Johnsonville where we used to take Tim and Kirsty when they were young.
There were masses of these flowers beside the path down into the Dane in Shaw meadow.

The bridge across the stream

From the bridge

The railway viaduct - a number of trains went over it, both north and south while we were in the park, but they didn't seem noisy.

Now, isn't that stream crying out to be temporarily dammed up by kids?

Our boat up on the embankment

The aqueduct over the old Biddulph rail bed - David used the flash as it was getting a bit dark

The caisson for the canal - I wonder if trains would have fitted through given that headroom

Near our boat there is a bench seat dedicated to the memory of a local rambler. This was the evening sky when we got back from our walk.

Before going for a walk, we had a lazy afternoon, as we went into the Queen’s Head pub in Congleton for lunch, accompanied by a large Oz chardonnay for me. We found a neat little hardware store across the bridge and managed to buy the bits and pieces we’d been looking for. These wee shops are great – they have all sorts of things that the big places don’t, and their stock list is amazing. We found de-ionised water, tennis balls to go on the mooring pins, mugs to replace the ones that we’ve managed to break, blutak (for some reason he didn’t stock earthquake wax …), and, very surprisingly, earplugs. I almost had to be pulled out of the shop as I could have kept finding things we just had to have – these shops are more attractive than clothes shops, I reckon. We went to a tiny but well-stocked convenience store (NZers, read dairy) for milk, cheese and toothbrushes, and back to the boat to blob a bit. The rain came down for a bit so I felt justified in watching a few videos of Robin Williams – on Michael Parkinson, on the Jonathan Ross show, who of course called him Wobin, on David Letterman and performing in a show in London called AMUSED I think. If you can find it, check it out. He was extremely funny about George W.
David's back was very sore (had been for a couple of days since the locks he finally told me), so he had a sleep before sorting out the TV reception.
This morning, having given David tea and a gingernut and a digestive biscuit, I am finishing this off prior to posting. When David is more compos mentis we will decide whether to move on to Bridge 86 and visit Little Morton Hall today, or stay here and explore some more, and head for LMH tomorrow.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Back down the Maccie

I am just looking out at the canal at the bottom of the Bosley Locks just before the Dane Aqueduct and it has brought a flood of memories to me: not of being here twice with Olek just recently which occasions were in themselves lovely. But looking out at the smooth surface of the water with raindrops still on the windows and some spattering on the cut reminded me strongly of waterskiing on the Tongaporutu River in this weather. I loved waterskiing in the rain, yes it stung as it hit the face and body (no wetsuits for us), but it felt invigorating, and best of all, we had the river to ourselves! No-one else came out skiing in the rain – only the mad Booths. It is one of the things I remember most clearly about my dad was his ability to make it fun even if the weather wasn’t the best – and if I was having fun skiing in the rain, he was only minimally protected by the windscreen in the boat. He considered himself so lucky to have moved to NZ, to have a bach (beach cottage to the English – but basic, a no frills place), to have built a boat and to use it to take us skiing between mid high and mid low tide times and to go fishing - out to sea across the bar of the Tongaporutu River between mid low and mid high tides. Those two activities brought the combination of what he liked to do for relaxation – the energy of waterskiing (he had his last ski at aged 68 – dry start, single ski) and the opportunity to snooze, having dropped the longlines overboard, ostensibly rod fishing while unconscious!

I am now happy when people tell me that I am like my dad … except I wouldn’t bother with the fishing, I’d just curl up somewhere comfortable with my kindle! Narrowboats are better for that than jetboats – as the former come equipped with a bed! And I don’t mind boating in the rain, especially if David keeps furnishing me with cups of tea.

When I have finished this post, we will get on our way again. Today we are heading to Bridge 86 so we can walk to Little Moreton Hall. We eschewed the trip when Olek was with us as he was clear that walking around old buildings wasn’t his favourite, but playing football was, and climbing hills was pretty high up there too (boom, boom!) – that was when we climbed up Mow Cop.

Yesterday we left Gurnett Aqueduct and our nice mooring – scene of the previous joint D&M tantrum when there was plenty of space for at least 2 more boats if only people hadn’t left gaps sized 0.5 of a boat length. When we moored there at noon on Monday it was reasonably empty, but we made sure to moor up close to the boat in front of us, knowing that there would be others wanting to moor later in the day. And it did fill up. It is pretty much the last nice mooring till past Macclesfield. At Lyme Green we stopped and tied up but didn’t switch off the engine, while I scooted back to the service station to buy bread, milk and Jammy Dodgers, then on we went again. As I pulled off the mooring, Clive and Fran (on Sacramour) who had moored behind us (close up) at Gurnett came through the bridge, but David was already extended to his full height length (make sense?) in pushing the bow off so I kept going. When we got to the swing bridge I messed up offloading David and ended up across the canal so when I’d pulled the boat back to the towpath, I turned it into a piece of making up for having pulled out in front of them and sent them through first. We had to wait anyway as putting the bridge back to rights involves having the CRT key in place until it’s done. They did the electric bridge at Oakgrove for us and we were then in front again. After we stopped to fill with water before the locks they came past but had weed around the prop, were filling with water at the second waterpoint (there are 3 within 150 metres at the top of the locks – amazing) and were offloading their guests, so we were into the locks ahead of them.
Looking back up the locks from the third one down.

The sky to the right

And to the left

David checking if there's a boat coming up - does he need to close the gates or leave them open?
  David didn’t have to fill any locks and mostly didn’t have to open or close them for me as there was a succession of boats ascending towards us. That was a good thing as he is still not back up to full strength – his man flu is almost gone but has left him a bit washed out, and it is only a week today that he returned from NZ – we always find it is a week before the sleep patterns are re-established.
This woman and her companion (out of shot) are the slowest moving people I remember seeing between locks, and they'd only done about 3 by that stage. Maybe they were pacing themselves.

We were moored up below the locks for the afternoon by about 1pm, had lunch and then blobbed for the rest of the day – a nana nap for both of us as I gave up trying to stream Lewis (itv3) on the laptop as the wifi service here isn’t great. I was going to do Jamie Oliver’s beef kofta curry but, although I could replace the fresh coriander with ground, I found I didn’t have any coconut milk. Instead I made a sort of bolognese with the addition of red pepper, mushrooms and celery.

Later in the evening David disappeared to the stern of the boat with his bags of cables (about 5kg of our luggage allowance) and came back triumphant as he’d managed to do something technical to improve the wifi service. I on the other hand watched 2 semi soaps on TV and then went to bed …

This morning has been a leisurely start as evidenced by the fact that it is 9.50am, I am still in my dressing gown, David is just serving me with fruit salad, yoghurt and gf muesli. But my excuse is that the feather duvet is now back on the bed and it is difficult to get out of bed when it is so snuggly and warm – although I have been sitting at the dinette typing this mistresspiece.

Enough already. The engine is on to warm the water and when I’ve eaten I will shower and we’ll be on our way again. This is the life!

Update: We have decided to stay put today. We have no operable airhorn at the moment, so if we decided to go through Harecastle Tunnel, we wouldn't be allowed. And it feels a bit vulnerable not having a horn to warn oncoming boats at tight corners and bridgeholes. Importantly, I can not summon David to the stern when he is required (requests for tea, grab this rope, jump off now, more tea, etc). Steve, the electrical engineer is going to sort it out when parts arrive, so we are making haste slowly. Hence staying put. And in spite of what I said above re not minding the rain, we are no longer hirers with a tight timeframe ... And I am still in my nightie, but I have emailed friends, made lunch and blogged and updated said blog. So not totally inactive, then.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Family, the social whirl, modest modifications, weather update

On Friday our son came down from Scotland to collect his nephew Krzys and pick up our lovely grandsons and his mother in law from Manchester Airport. It was lovely to have Tim with us, even for such a short time. We hope that he and Marta will bring the boys down before we head off back to NZ. Karol and Marta haven’t yet been on the boat and that needs to be rectified.

On Saturday David and I drove down to Nottingham to the garden party of the year at Colin’s place. It was in honour of our friends Paul and Nigel who are over in the UK and Europe. Paul is an organist and is on a concert tour that is becoming an annual event – much like the garden party. I gather that originally Paul and Nigel used to host the party when they were living over here, but Colin has assumed the mantle since P&N moved to NZ. I went to it last year and enjoyed it hugely. This time it was also lovely to see familiar faces. The journey to Nottingham was painful though – roadworks and a football game in Nottingham meant that traffic was nose to tail for the last 20 miles. Well, maybe the last 10 miles but it felt like 20. On Sunday we returned early instead of going to breakfast at Colin’s (Paul was cooking kedgeree) as David was feeling poorly and needed to be in bed. On the way back, the traffic was much less and we had a straight run through. The trip over the Derby Dales was lovely and in places it reminded us of Taranaki. Leek is a lovely town with very attractive buildings, and it’s much bigger than we thought – we have only ever approached it from the canal before and were very surprised at its size when driving through it.

Since we came back to the boat last week, we have been attending (or others have on our behalf, given we are non-DIYers) to the continuing list of required modifications and repairs.
A lovely couple that we met at the marina have been most helpful. Jimmy (of Jimmy and Jeannie Walker fame - he specialises in poo, he tells people - see his website and you'll understand) welded the duck hatch hinge back together. Today, after we’d moved off the marina, Steve came and did a check of the electrics as well as identifying what the unlabelled ones did. He has also sorted out the horn (which had repeatedly failed and, when working, sounded like a slowly strangling goose) having diagnosed (through application of first principles – he is now David’s hero because David is addicted to first principles) that there was a significant voltage drop in the wiring between the batteries and the horn which is about halfway along the roof of the boat. As the self pumpout wiring needed to be decommissioned, it has been brought in to use to power the horn. There is some talk (Boy’s Own stuff, I believe) re putting in a relay but my only interest is in whether Usain Bolt will be involved. (I am trying to see how many sets of brackets for asides that I can fit in this paragraph – have I reached the limit yet, do you think?)

Now it is time for the weather update:
Yesterday when we arrived back at the boat from Nottingham, it got rather chilly. After putting on my socks and my hooded sweatshirt (I was already wearing jeans instead of shorts as I have been almost since we arrived in May), I checked my weather app. Much to my horror I found that it was 12 degrees here in Macclesfield, Derby, Manchester and Dalry (Scotland where my lovely grandsons are), and it was 13 degrees and the middle of the night in Wellington NZ! To add insult to injury, David decided to sleep in the saloon, alone, without me, on the single bed, ostensibly to allow both of us to sleep better as he is still poorly with the cold (man flu) he arrived back in the UK with. That meant I was cold in bed as he is generally the overnight central heating unit. And the additional blankets are stored in the lockers under the saloon bed and, as everyone knows, I am too kind to rouse him out of his warm slumbers to hoik bedding out from under him, so to speak. So I made do with adding my dressing gown and my hooded sweatshirt to the 4.5 tog duvet to try to limit my shivering … (Of course, if I’d thought about it, I could have got the feather duvet out from under the double bed that I was in. However that would not be quite so dramatic or self sacrificing.) And I wasn’t cold enough to bother. You know what it’s like when you’re sleepy: it’s easier to stay in bed than move, get cold and then have to warm up – totally destroys the restfulness that has been conjured up since getting into bed with the kindle and camomile tea.
Today it has been a mix of seasons. It started off sunny and a little bit warm, then the wind came up and was especially strong as we moved down to Gurnett where we moored for Steve to do the electrics. It was so windy I felt as though the boat was barely moving even though I had the engine at 1200 rpm. As we were putting up the pram cover, the black clouds opened up and there was a short but very heavy shower, then sun out/sun in/sun out. Currently: clouds over. I had been saying that I was keen for a day or so of cooler weather. Now we have had it, I am ready for more warm sunshine. I may be out of luck for a bit.

Earlier this arvo I pre-boiled the jacket potatoes and now have them in the oven to finish off and crisp up. It is chardonnay o’clock and time to prepare the coronation chicken to go on the potatoes for our dinner. This will be a nostalgic meal for me – when I worked in London at the Home Office (I worked in the Reform and Change Team but quickly realised they would do neither, so departed before my contract was up) I used to go to a place in Strutton Ground and get a coronation chicken jacket potato for lunch reasonably often. Yummy!! I will keep you posted on how these ones turn out and if they are good with chardonnay. I am reasonably confident they will be, as what doesn’t go with chardonnay, I ask?