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.


Ian and Irene Jameison said...

Ah, now Marilyn....That little old steam boat is actually a historic converted horse drawn boat. She carried coke for FMC until 1928. Then she was a gravel boat on the Trent right up to 1936. Now owned by Jim and Annie (good friends of ours) who take it to historic shows. You can find out a bit more about her at Xxxx

Marilyn McDonald said...

Thanks, Irene, Have just looked it up on canal forum. Very interesting!