Sunday, 13 August 2017

Well, that was fun!

Way back in the dim dark past, about 5 or 6 months ago, David came down to the West Coast to join me and we spent a wet weekend in Reefton. In spite of the rain and a persistent migraine that started as we left Hokitika and continued most of the weekend, we had a lovely time and managed to meet some locals, find Gary’s childhood home and speak to the current tenants who remembered Gary’s dad, and explore the museum at Black’s Point.

One evening (Saturday, I think) we were looking for somewhere to have dinner, and met a woman walking in to a pub for her evening meal. We had a quick chat about the place she was going in to, and then kept looking around. About half an hour later, after a great deal of indecision (shall we have fish and chips, shall we eat in a restaurant, shall we go back to the pub  (???), we headed back to the pub.

In the interim, the place had filled up, so we joined the woman we had met outside – she offered us the seats but would not share her food, for some reason.

Anyway, in the inimitable way that NZers have of making connections fast, we all clicked, and when we had spoken about the narrowboat and she had expressed an interest in it, David suggested that she and her husband come and join us on it for a few days this season.

Understand, she was on her own in the pub, her husband was nowhere in sight (back at home in Westport allegedly), she didn’t know us from Adam and Eve – I’m aware it’s an easy mistake to make, not knowing the difference except for the facts that:
  • Adam and Eve are fictional characters
  • They purportedly were young and nubile
  • They were purportedly naked, or at the most, wore fig leaves.

The rebuttal of it being easy to make that mistake lies in the following:
  • David and I are real people, allegedly, and some disagree with that I am sure
  • We are 68 and 66 respectively – neither young nor nubile
  • In Reefton on a wet chilly evening, naked is not a sensible dress code, and we are sensible, in the main.

So why Leonie would make that simple-to-spot mistake is anyone’s guess. She is an artist, after all, and they are not usually renowned for their common sense … I mean to say, one of them cut off his own ear, and many of them have lived in garrets and refused to work as waiters or engineers or doctors because they are prostrating themselves for their art. Now none of that sounds very sensible, does it?

Anyway, David suggested, and I concurred, that she and her unknown and absent husband (Paul) should come and join us on the narrowboat. We, as we do, followed up that suggestion a few days later with an email, confirming that we had said what we meant, and meant what we said, because we are faithful, 100% (apologies to Dr Seuss for plagiarising from Horton Hatches the Egg).

So cut to Monday on the cut: Leonie and Paul turn up at the pre-arranged meeting place (Swanley Bridge Marina), and join us for a couple of days.

It all goes to show that going with the instinctive response to connecting with someone, in Reefton on a wet Saturday night is a good thing to do.

The four of us had a blast. The things we found out include:
  • Neither of them have a degree, so they have been invited to join the Zero Degrees Club;
  • Paul trained as a diesel mechanic
  • Paul taught David lots about the engine including how to check if the oil needs changing (probably not every 100 hours as per the Lister Petter manual, but more likely closer to 150 – 200 hours). The technique is to do with the dipstick, visibility of finger print through the oil, presence of black spots in it. If you need further information, send me your questions and I will forward them to Paul;
  • Paul steered the boat for the two days and did a sterling job;
    Paul steering into the lock - I don't think he touched the sides at all, or if he did, it was a mere nudge.

  • Leonie was lock-wheeler in chief, and did a sterling job;
    Lift bridges on the Llangollen Canal - and she was a star at these and the locks.

  • I was cook in chief, and I overfed everyone
  • Paul was insulting about one batch of bread that I didn’t put in the oven as soon as it had risen – it tasted great as always, but looked a bit wrong – he declared it was the ugliest bread he’d ever seen
  • The second batch of bread was given the thumbs up for looks and taste …
  • Paul doesn’t much like chilli so the Thai Chicken Noodle Salad wasn’t a big hit -  he didn’t starve though …
  • Dinner on the second night was more successful – braised steak and onions, mashed potatoes, carrots and peas, followed by apple pie and cream
  • David loved having someone on-board who took part of his share of sh*t, and he taught Paul about strategic positioning of cushions when anatomies were under threat
  • Paul explained why the dairy farm fields here smell so bloody awful at times – it’s the ammonia in the slurry (i.e. cow poos and wees) that gets stored and then sprayed on to them as fertiliser. Problem with it, I gather from Paul, is the grass can be toxic as the ammonia is so prevalent …
  • Leonie and Paul just got in and helped – no hanging back waiting to be asked, they just start off with ‘What can I do to help? What do you want me to do now?’ It is a wonderful characteristic.

Leonie in the galley checking what she can do to assist. I see the julienned veges for the Thai Chicken Noodle Salad on the bench, so that must have been Monday.

We had a great two days going to Wrenbury and back to Swanley Marina. And then we followed it up with meeting up in Woodstock on Wednesday night and going out to dinner together.

They know, and are living in fear of it, that we are coming to Westport in the motorhome and going to steal their power and water. Apparently we cannot block their driveway as they have a huge driveway with lots of trucks and machinery – we had better be well behaved, I think …

A parallel story is that the grandsons are on a cruise with their lovely mum. Slightly different than narrowboating - their ship has three swimming pools and can get to and from Canada.

Here they are dressed for dinner. Don't they look spiffing? I am going to try and find NZ flag bow ties for their next adventure ...

Friday, 11 August 2017

Leaving Nantwich

This is becoming a theme, I fear ...

We had the weekend in Nantwich as I had an osteopath appointment on the Friday and we were due at Swanley Bridge Marina on the Sunday night waiting for friends to join us.

If I remember correctly (never a certainty ...) it was pretty quiet, punctuated by seeing nb 3 No Trumps go past, and having an extremely short conversation with Mick T on the stern and a wave from Alison in the fordeck. They were heading to Audlem for the weekend.

David and I debated going there on the bikes to see them but they had friends on board, so we opted not to intrude and took a bus trip into Chester.  You have read about that previously ...

We decided to leave Nantwich on Sunday at mid-morning as the Shropshire Branch of the IWA was having their annual fundraiser, the Hurleston Lock Wind, that weekend and we thought it may be rather busy there.

So down we went under the bridge to turn around. We did so, with great difficulty as the reeds seemed to hold the nose quite firmly in place and any reversing just resulted in the wind undoing any progress I had made. It all got better when I used a few more revs in forward to break the hold of the dastardly reeds ...

As we were turning, a guy on the towpath asked where the name was from, and on hearing it was Maori, he said he'd lived in NZ. Where? sez we; Waikanae Beach, sez he; WTH?! sez we, we live in Waikanae! Where in Waikanae Beach? sez we; Williams St, sez he (inner jubilation cos that's where our friend Derek had a bach for the longest time, so we know it well) Rata St, sez we, in response to his query about our address. Yes he knew it. Where did you kids go to school, sez we; Kapanui, sez they. Yes, we know it, we walk past it quite often.

Then (and I am not sure who fetched it from the house) he and his kids showed us their painting/photo of Kapiti Island - ahhh, it is lovely!
This is Karl with his two lovely kids. And their also lovely Kapiti Island picture.

So, what are the chances, do you reckon, of meeting people on the other side of the world who used to live about 5kms from us? When we come back through Nantwich next Friday, we will moor up and call in on Karl and his family. Don't worry, English readers, they did say we should do so, and as they have lived in NZ, I am sure they mean it!

I was really pleased that the winding had been a hassle - if it had been easy we wouldn't have seen or chatted with them, and that would have been a loss - one we wouldn't have known about, but a loss all the same.

And then it was back through Nantwich and on to Hurleston.

We had seen this boat as we went north to the environs of Venetian Marina to meet up with Ed and when we came back. I know someone lives onboard, as this time it was facing the opposite way and may have moved along a smidge. However, I am not sure it is driveable given the amount of crap on the counter. The cut was wide enough there for it to be turned using a rope and the breeze.

I think it is the abode of a serious hoarder, and that is a sad and difficult thing to be. I'll say one thing for the woman (yes it is, we saw her on our way north last time), she has not spilled out on to or beside the towpath.
The forward well deck is similarly full. Much of the stuff is unusable but obviously unable to be disposed of.

Hurleston Locks weren't very busy (we were third in line and the first was about to head in as we arrived) but the fundraisers did tell us that when they arrived to start at 8am each day, the place was heaving - obviously people wanted to avoid the queues and created their own ... David and I had considered going up really early too, so I am glad we resisted the temptation to be out of bed by 5am!

David gave them £10 and I gave the operators on the first lock some helpful advice: i.e. Talk to the people you are hoping to raise money from. Obvious, I would have thought, but they were deep in conversation above my head as I came in (without touching the sides, mark you). I did say it more jocularly than that - I think my words were 'Come on, guys, interact with the people who are going to donate to your cause'. It got a laugh and then one of the guys and I chatted for quite a while (I had to wait for the boat coming down to exit his lock) - he and his wife had been campervanning around the North Island so there was quite a lot to chat about.

It was an easy journey up to Swanley Bridge Marina, and an easy entry to the jetty, even in reverse, because there was no wind. A far better experience than our entry and exit at Overwater with Mike and Helen a week or so previously! Swanley Bridge is a lovely marina and the customer service was great too. I think their set up is excellent - they have pumpout and diesel on the offside of the canal so that passing boaters don't need to come in to the marina, and they have the services replicated just inside the entrance for their resident or stored boats. Speaking of which, look what we found:
The middle boat is an old friend, and we miss the original skipper and cabin boy! But we did see them in Gloucester so that was very very nice!
They stock very limited groceries (bread, milk, icecream and pies) we scored a steak and ale pies and an apple pie which transferred from their freezer to ours plus icecreams which transferred from their freezer to our tummies. And I swapped DVDs in their extensive library - if you are passing, and have books/DVDs/jigsaw puzzles that you no longer want, go in and shout yourself an icecream and get swapping!

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Back in Nantwich

You'll be pleased to know we are feeling less down about the weather now. We have had some sunshine and it is amazing how differently it affects the mind.

I think that during the last week or so we confirmed that we would not be able to live aboard all year round - we do not cope well with confined spaces in bad weather. So we would be hopeless (literally) in winter here when the rain/cold/snow would probably have us feeling incarcerated.

However, enough of negativity.

David has taken up Sudoku; and in the manner of a boffin, he has worked out a strategy that will stand him in good stead whether he is doing easy ones or diabolical ones - so he says. Given his first attempts at the Easy ones took over an hour then reduced to 45 minutes and then 30 minutes, I think I am safe from his crowing for a while yet. He tells me he is now on to Medium ones ...

He tells me he doesn't yet qualify for the yellow jersey of Sudoku but he does qualify for the yellow gloves for champion dishwasher ... He is aiming to get faster than me at Sudoku - and he will catch up, I am sure - he is extremely competitive and now he has taken it up, he won't rest until he has got faster ...
We had an entertaining day after my last blog - we moved all of 500 metres, having intended to cruise for at least a couple of hours to get to Bridge 14 on the Middlewich Arm to meet up with Ed, our favourite engineer.

We had looked at the forecast and it was meant to be clear until about 8am, so thought we'd move off early to beat the rain. But, sod's law, as we moved off at about 6am, it started to persist down. Into the lock we went thinking 'yes, we can boat in the rain, after all it's only water', but when we got out the lock we decided that given the forecast for the next few days also had some of the wet stuff, we would have to do the two hours again. So discretion being the better part of valour, we winded at the Venetian marina and pulled over and moored up. Of course, I had already put on a load of washing, so the engine had to stay on till that was done and the batteries close enough to 100% again.

Not to worry - I was busy making bread (started before we moved off), baking cheese scones - Ed was coming and I always feed the tradies, eh Luke Nattrass? There was Tom Kha Gai in the fridge for lunch, so food was sorted.

At one point he had to go back to his van in the marina carpark and mentioned the dog was in the van. Of course Orla had to come back to visit. She is a six month old lurcher - I knew Mick and Julia would be jealous, so I sent a photo.
She is rather cute, isn't she? Mel wasn't safe though, so when Ed and Lisa use the boat next week while we go down to have a few days in the motorhome, we will take Mel with us. Even though he has horns, Mel is not very good at defending himself.

The sun came out in the afternoon but the wind came up very very briskly - a number of boats came through the lock and we got whacked several times throughout the afternoon - we were moored just back from the lock moorings, so it was inevitable really. And people were very apologetic. But let's face it, it is extremely hard to control what is essentially a 60 foot steel sail when going very slowly forwards.

Ed had told us that the first lock is one of the busiest on the whole system so I decreed that we'd leave really early in the morning. David thought I was joking, until I woke him at 6 - I did make him a cup of tea, but he was more than a trifle grumpy ...

And even though it was scheduled to be clear, it wasn't until we got to about Barbridge. So I force-fed him magnesium to lighten the mood (his) and make sure I didn't toss him overboard.

When we got to Nantwich waterpoint it was about 8.30am and it was empty, so no waiting. And because we hadn't used much water in the previous 36 hours (we are grubby), the tank topped up fast, rubbish got disposed of and the portable toilet emptied. David headed off to find the laundrette and came back very chirpy that the woman would do the washing and drying and call us when it was done - excellent service!! We usually do the washing on board, but given the rain and the inability for it to dry outside, we thought that living in among draped wet washing would only add to the depressive atmosphere and should therefore, for the sake of sanity and relationship, be avoided.

So off he went with the pillowcase full of whites and the coin bag. Happy as a pig in mud.

We scored an excellent mooring, right next to the path down to Marsh Lane (convenient for the walk into town), and tied up - that was entertaining in hindsight. As we moored, a boat of NZers came past - we had seen them as we left the waterpoint, then saw them as I held the boat further along the moorings as David went up to find a better spot, and then again as we pulled in (they had gone to the nearby winding hole and turned). While chatting to them I tied up the stern only to find that David needed the boat moved back a few feet so we weren't encroaching on the long term mooring spots. Stern untied, boat moved back, and the man (no longer my husband at this point but some stranger who had taken over his mind and body) started giving me a lecture on how to moor up the boat. Given we have been boating for the same length of time (27 years) and given I have had two more weeks' experience than him (holidays without him) I quickly dismissed the body/mind snatcher and cut short his lecture and went inside to make breakfast, with my parting shot being 'My bad. I didn't check that you were standing where you needed to tie up to. Shall check next time. OK? Now give over.'

I did win forgiveness for not listening to a lecture by preparing BLTs with an egg on the side. So calm was restored.
Breakfast suitably smothered in cracked black pepper in case the man who came into the boat had turned back into my nice husband, not the grumpy old bugger mentioned above.
And that night we went to Simply Thai on Welsh Row for an early dinner (breakfast was actually brunch, so no lunch was consumed) and a bottle of NZ sauv blanc (OK with spicy food ... well, actually rather yummy).
Mains: I had a mussamam (?) chicken curry and David had something with beef. We did have starters but I forgot to photograph them, sorry. I am going to find a recipe for the soup David had - it was a hot and sour soup, rather than with coconut milk.

On Friday I went to the osteopath again - a second session to get my neck, back and right leg sorted. Grace is a lovely young woman - only a few weeks out of her (formal) training and already a good practitioner. She is also planning to do equine osteopathy - not that I am the horse's ass, mind you, in case you were thinking you could make that link.

Today we took a bus trip to Chester - it confirmed for me why I don't often travel by bus:
  1. the bus to Chester was about 20 minutes late arriving to pick us up
  2. the trip there took much longer than scheduled - lots of stops and lots of Saturday morning traffic - neither of those were a problem really
  3. the bus back was 30 minutes late leaving Chester
  4. the driver went like a bat out of hell, exceeding the speed limit for a large portion of the drive back - we know because we checked his speed on the Memory Map app we use on the boat. I am planning to dob him in as I did not enjoy being thrown around as he sped around corners. GGGRRR!!!
 In Chester we did a little bit of grocery shopping, and bought two bells for the bikes, some matt black paint, a cold storage bag and some freezer pads.

We then looked for somewhere to have lunch. We considered the Chester Grosvenor but looked at the prices, and went over to a popular-looking Italian place just across the road. Good value and the food was pretty good too.

And I don't think we met the dress standard ...

Mocktails at the Italian place - I am sure they were about 30% sugar, but rather scrummy.

Back on the bus, a calming cup of tea and now it is healthily chardonnay o'clock - David has already started on his alcoholic ginger beer so I am behind. Fear not, I shall catch up.

Dinner tonight is possibly going to be nibbles. They may be forfeited if we are full after the Gu puddings. As Garfield says 'Life is uncertain - Eat dessert first'. It is a very wise maxim, and we would be silly to ignore it!

And I realised that Friday was my 66.6th birthday - a devilish little number and two thirds of a century. Why do I not yet feel like I have grown up?

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The weather is pants!!!

We have moved from Nantwich this morning, had half an hour at least getting water (slowest tap on the whole system I think), then we've moved a wee way up on to the Middlewich Arm.

Rain stopped play - again!!

I am over this bad weather - I know it's been raining cats and dogs in NZ, but it is winter there. Here it is meant to be summer, FFS.

David and I have both talked about heading back to NZ early if this continues. It has been over 3 weeks now since we have had consistently sunny days. There has been an extended period though of rain most days - to the extent that the memory of rain is more prevalent than sun. Neither of us have put on any sunscreen for weeks. Now, for me that isn't significant, but for David it is, as he is a pale-skinned easily burned person.

See how bad it's got?

I blame Trump for pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Horrible herbivores

Just look at these caterpillars on my lettuces - the whole bucketful and one long trayful of lettuces have been tipped down the bank. Julia tells me her dad used to get her to drown them. Perhaps I should have put the bucket and tray contents in the cut and let them learn to swim, the little buggers!

However, given we haven't had much in the way of salad from the RTA lately and given it's rained a lot and I haven't been out watering, I didn't notice their hatching and their hungry rampage.

So on yesterday's trip to Morrison's I bought some living lettuces to plant out; but prior to doing so I am going to sterilise the bucket and tray, in case any eggs are still lurking ...

Another blobby day today, following on from the last two restful days where we:
  • walked into Nantwich to Morrison's and Holland and Barrett (both days)
  • had a visit from Tim and Dana on their way back from a birthday party in Leicestershire - I got up to make cheese scones on getting their text to say they were calling in - lovely to see them!
  • got thoroughly soaked yesterday when I made the trip to Morrisons alone ...
Today I am going to an osteopath here to get my neck, back and hips seen to again. Tomorrow we will move on and faff about between here and Middlewich (all of four hours' boating away) until it is time in a week to collect Leonie and Paul at Swanley Marina, a short distance up the Llangollen Canal.

Such a torrid pace we are now setting ...

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Mike and Helen were here

Well, what a fabulous two days we have just had with Mike and Helen on board!

As we waited for them on the Thursday morning, David swept floors and made beds, I cleaned the bathroom, baked bread, rhubarb cake (tasted good but did start to fall apart as I tipped it out of the cake tin on to my hand instead of flipping it on to a plate ...) and cheese tart and prepped the dinner. Then as a last flourish, I washed the floor - useless to do it before then as I always drop stuff on the floor as I am cooking ... Chardonnay, prosecco, beer and alcoholic ginger beer in fridge and we are ready!

They arrived on schedule at Bagley Lane Bridge, in spite of the taxi driver getting a bit lost even though he had the pin we'd sent to Mike the previous day.

As the taxi pulled up, and disgorged two lovely NZers, along came a huge tractor (bigger than the one we used on the Alexander job to transport the team and gear up to site each day) towing a huge tank of effluent for muck spreading. Still, he had to wait until bags were extracted from the boot so he could get past.

Then it was hugs all round, and down to the boat. In NZ time it was about midnight, but still I sent a photo on What's App to Dean (Mike's boss) to show him Mike was on board.

Lunch of cheese tart and homemade bread first, then off we went down the locks. I know there is a photo somewhere of us at the table ready to eat cheese tart but I cannot find it, dammit!
update on Sunday morning: Found it on Mike's facebook page - yay!

Cheese tart ready for serving in the saloon where the table was set up. Mike and Helen's bed was the converted dinette, and it is so much easier leaving the bed made up during the day and using the camp table in the saloon for meals.

There were 13 of the Audlem locks to do that day, and I managed not to hit 10 of them, I think, but 3 of them did get a nudge, and some nudges harder than others. I am blaming the by-wash, but actually it must have been something I was doing a bit wrong.
Helen and I safely in the lock (photo borrowed from Mike's fb page, thanks Mike)

Mike and Helen had a ball doing the locks, and outside the Shroppie Fly we stopped to fill with water, and Mike, in his inimitable fashion sat down and chatted with some locals having a drink at a table outside. It is SO wonderful having NZers on board with us - they chat to anyone and it is beaut!
The team in action

David instructing - he only wears his lifejacket as it has a convenient place in the strap to hold the windlass

Mike is watching the by-wash while he waits

There is a working boat festival on in Audlem this weekend, so it was lovely for Mike and Helen to stop and look at the ones that had arrived.
This little steamboat (I think) was moored just before the last lock.

We moored just out of town overlooking a lovely field, and even though it was a bit breezy, we sat out on the towpath for drinks and nibbles, then inside for dinner of Thai Green Chicken Curry. Yummy, even though it didn't look like the pictures - the paste is meant to be whizzed in a food processor but there isn't one on board the boat, so everything gets chopped up as finely as I can do it (or can be arsed doing it). It tastes the same, just looks different.
View from the mooring - it was this that prompted us to stop here.

Nibbles and drinks

You can see by Helen's and my hair it was a bit breezy. David had found the spot opposite a tree on the other side - it acted as a bit of a wind break. Can't have been too bad, as Mike's hat stayed on. We only went inside when the rain came down in a persistent way ...

Mike was keen to get going in the morning, so he made the morning cups of tea and coffee, and roused us out of bed.
He's ready for the off!

We had bought tyre fenders at Midland Chandlers (back on the day of the let's find the elusive water taps drama), and this red one failed. So Mike and David fashioned this arrangement to keep us away from the ledge - good, eh?

Mike was on steering for the day and needed minimal coaching - really minimal. The look on his face as he stood at the tiller was one of the cat that got the cream. He was in his element. So much so, that he and Helen have already decided they are going to come back and hire a boat.
Does he look happy or what?

She's a star on the locks!

Oooh, Mike, a slight nudge ...

Evidence - walking poles on the floor, But not as bad as my one several days ago when all the books came off the bookcase - don't tell Mike that ...

We were going to visit the secret bunker (no longer secret of course) at Hack Green, but realised we needed a pump out** so it was down the Hack Green Locks (where we met Bruce and Sheila from nb Sanity Again - we have been leapfrogging for some days), turn around and then back up the locks, have brekkie and then steer in the increasingly vicious wind back to Overwater Marina.

Mike turning the boat like a champion in the winding hole below Hack Green Locks - no vicious wind at this point, thankfully as that plays havoc with turning the boat! (Also from Mike's fb page)

The entrance to the marina as we passed it heading towards the Hack Green Locks - before we realised that a pumpout was necessary, and BEFORE the wind came up! You can see by the clouds there was some tempestuous stuff due ...
Getting in there was a bloody mission! The wind was fierce, the marina was a wide open and unsheltered expanse and the entrance was narrow; the major issue though was the wind: a 62 foot boat with high sides is just a giant sail and, if the side presenting to the wind could billow, it would have been fully curved! Fortunately we got caught by the wind in the entrance which allowed Mike, David and Helen to get off and use the ropes to progressively haul the boat to the jetty while I used the engine to assist. I did feel very incompetent, esp as the boat that had been following us down the cut had to wait outside the entrance for us to manoeuvre ourselves in, and then came in without any hassles - to be fair, the skipper did use the bow-thrusters all the way in to the marina until they were stern on to the wind, then again as they turned to moor alongside the jetty.

Pumpout accomplished, I decided that the only safe way out (safe for boats moored in the marina about 50 metres away and for my stress levels) was for Mike and David to use the ropes to haul the boat backwards out through the entrance and around so I could move off heading back the way we came (assisted by the engine of course). We were all agreed, although there was a suggestion that I could let the stern go out inside the marina and then turn to head out the entrance. That seemed like a bridge too far for me in the wind, so hauling it was. And all done very successfully - of course one fly in the ointment was that we hadn't put the pumpout caps back on, so that had to be done while Mike held the boat to the side before we moved off...

** As it transpired, we didn't need a pumpout after all - I was in charge of the hose during the pumpout operation and realised that a wodge of paper had got caught in the drop through pipe just below the dunny ... AAARRRGGGHHH!!! But not to worry - it extended Mike's steering time, gave him the opportunity to go through Hack Green locks 3 times so increased his successful (well, only a couple of small bumps) lock entrances to 6, and gave him the chance to wind (turn) the boat below the locks - very successfully done.

We moored up in Nantwich - Helen and I had walked from Hack Green to check out the best place to moor and the guys turned up a wee while afterwards - they had stopped to have a tea/coffee just as we phoned to tell them where we were. They had threatened they were going to have dessert (rhubarb cake) but our call managed the thwart that bad behaviour!

The timing was perfect as it started to hose down just as we tied up. However Mike declared he would happily continue steering in the pouring rain. But to be honest, he was just as happy to look up about hiring a boat, reading Towpath Talk, looking at ads for boats for sale...

He did succumb to a nana nap in the afternoon though, as did David and I, while Helen (the fit and energetic one) went out for an explore around Nantwich.
Evidence ...
We had thought about going out for a meal in Nantwich, but it rained consistently. So it was dinner on board. But considering we had:
  • a cooked breakfast after 10am, 
  • ham and salad sandwiches (bread baked that morning - it's amazing what I can do while the boat is moving when I don't have to steer - although I did mix and bake bread as we went down the Tyrley Locks a couple of days previously ...) for lunch at about 2 and 
  • dessert (rhubarb cake and cream) later in the afternoon, 
dinner was not high on the list. I made a cassoulet, but couldn't eat any myself or I would have felt most unwell and ready to burst. So left overs for dinner today, I think!

Helen and Mike left this morning for the final part of their holiday before they head back to NZ - a few days in Ireland. I know they would have liked to stay on but were also looking forward to the drive down the coast at Galway.
After some public hugging (Mike tried a handshake with David but that wasn't going to be all ...) they are off, dammit!

What we are looking forward to in our cruise next year, is meeting up with them and becoming a convoy for a couple of days or meeting as ships passing in the night (but doing it during the day) and having a boaters' meeting over a meal and a drink or three.

Getting to the rendezvous above Audlem

We left Market Drayton on Wednesday at 5am, yes 5am - intention was to beat the rain which was forecast to start on a canal near us at around 7am. We knew we could leave later if the forecast was correct and the weather cleared, but not for us the late leaving! Well, the honour of the convoy was at stake - Mick, Julia and John were leaving Braunston at 5.30am, and we could not let them down by being slug-abeds.

Anyway, the sunrise was an amazingly vibrant red - the photo doesn't do it justice. There is an explanation which David could give re reds and lenses etc, but I am not at this point privy to it, so you'll have to make it up for yourself.

Sunrise through the trees at Market Drayton. David scoffs at the Red sky in the morning, shepherds' warning saying, but the old folks are not wrong ...

So off we went, as silently as we could with a 4 cylinder diesel engine in tickover. Elsan and rubbish emptied at the services (important to have an almost empty pee dunny when guests arrive and no rubbish lurking - not to mention the empty wine bottles that were rapidly accumulated yesterday when we ditched the home-made elderflower cordial that was happily fermenting in the locker - we did consider leaving it to convert to wine of its own accord, but decided David's Crabbie's alcoholic ginger beer was more deserving of locker space - yes, that is David's new tipple, and as Asda had it on special, we had to get lots.) Don't anyone ever tell me I don't take care of that man!)

Anyway, much as David tells me it'll only be a 5 minute job to do the services things, it is always a good 20 minutes - by the time he's tied up (even one rope takes time), then got the pee portion of the portable dunny, taken it away, emptied and rinsed it and brought it back, then collected the rubbish off the seat at the stern and taken that away and come back, and pushed off again (I'd undone the rope), 20 minutes plus have been taken up of rain-free cruising time. I am leading to something here, so bear with me.

So on we trundled at a gentle pace - it was so peaceful being up and moving at that time. There are several stretches where tickover was required - lots of permanent moorings on the offside, and I'd have to say they looked to be attractive. One had a sign that moorings were available and I should have taken a photo to get the number. I wonder if they do temporary moorings - on the way back, I will call the number and ask.

Our arrival at the top Adderley Lock coincided with the arrival of the rain - at least 30 minutes before schedule! At first the precipitation was gentle, but it increased in stamina as we proceeded. It was never pounding down, but it was definitely a soaking rain and David's hat did a good job of keeping my glasses from needing windscreen wipers!

David biked between the locks and, yes Julia, he was careful! He even did the out and back setting one ahead and coming back to open the one I was in. He does love his folding bike, so thank you, Neill and Neil!

I hovered in the bridge hole before the top Audlem Lock and David went ahead to see if there was mooring there, so we could scout ahead to below the second lock.
I am lurking in the bridge hole, and it may look bright behind me, but trust me, it was persisting down. David's hat was drenched. And even though I look grumpy, I was pretty happy, just a bit chilly.

I've made this photo big so you can see the rain on the surface of the canal. The pram cover is drenched, the rooftop allotment was thoroughly watered, but unfortunately the boat didn't seem to get any cleaner and nor did the ropes!
 Strangely, there were no more photos taken that day - I think it was something to do with the phones and camera not being waterproof ...

We finally moored up after the second lock in the Audlem Flight at 8.30am. David was soaked to the skin but my Kathmandu jacket had kept me dry - my shorts and legs were soaked though. We soon warmed up with the Webasto making the boat toasty (thanks, Ed). And after a quick visit from Tim and the grandsons on their way to the water park at Stoke on Trent, we had brekkie that seemed quite late, but actually was not (10am).

After a blobby afternoon, we headed off for an early dinner at The Lord Combermere pub in Audlem - the reviews were excellent and I looked forward to some gastropub food. Their chardonnnay was listed as being from Italy,it was fine and the food was very very nice. Definitely on our 'let's go again, list.

Then back to the boat and wait for Helen and Mike the next day. Yay, at last!