Sunday, 3 December 2017

New front stairs

The front stairs on the boat were very narrow and coming down them with a full coal bucket always seemed a bit precarious. Also did not seem like the best use of space.

So after a fair amount of planning and measuring, I made a new set. They are wider than the old ones and have storage built in. My toolbox fits under the top step beneath a lift off lid. There is a large drawer under the bottom step with plenty of room for hats, gloves, phone chargers etc.

They are made of 18mm marine plywood so very sturdy. Three coats of anique pine colour varnish and some non-slip tape to avoid slipping and the result is very pleasing.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Shropshire Union (2-4/11/2017) - Nantwich Basin to Hurleston (return)

Engine hours start: 333.9 end: 337.3 = 3.4 hour

Miles:4 Locks:0  Lock miles: 4

Andrew brief solo trip out after filling up with diesel.

Stayed two nights at Hurleston Junction visitor moorings.

Walked into Nantwich each day. The walk on Thursday was to attend the CRT User Forum at the Nantwich Football Club.

Also walked to Barbridge Inn on Friday evening.


Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Weaver Navigation & Chester (Tuesday 15/8/2017) - Barbridge to Nantwich Basin

Engine hours start: 332.7 end: 333.9= 1 hour

Miles:3.5 Locks:0  Lock miles 3.5

Beautiful sunny and breezy morning - easy cruise back to base.

Unpacked the boat and shifted some gear back from the car.

Headed home after a great holiday marred only by both having colds and Andrew getting a touch of conjunctivitis! 

Had some interesting discussions during the trip about features we want or don't want when we eventually buy a bigger boat for when we retire and can spend more time cruising. Will add to the list as we start looking at boats on offer at local brokerages...

Monday, 14 August 2017

Weaver Navigation & Chester (Monday 14/8/2017) - Chester (near Bridge 123c) to Barbridge

Engine hours start: 323.5 end: 332.7= 9 hours

Miles:15.5 Locks:10  Lock miles 25.5

Weather forecast to be very wet all day so we girded our loins with Goretex and got going: the rain stopped pretty much as soon as we popped onto the deck and stayed away all day!

The first few locks were set in our favour - we were the first boat moving since the restaurant boat the previous evening we think.

Approaching Wharton's Lock, we met our second boat of the holiday who were nervously contemplating their very first ever lock. As the locks on this stretch are all doubles, we teamed up with Dinky (Gordon and Mia) to give some help and tips. They were very grateful and feeling more confident by the time we got to Calveley where we paused to use the services. They were carrying on to Barbridge Inn.

Having weighed up whether we would push on all the way back to Nantwich, we opted to spend the final evening with a meal at the Barbridge. We moored behind Dinky right outside the pub. Top mooring!
American Board just about defeated Andrew!

Terrific meal and a nice chat with Gordon and Mia. Will no doubt see them again at some point on the cut!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Weaver Navigation & Chester (Sunday 13/8/2017) - Chester (near Bridge 123c)

Engine hours start: 322.5 end: 323.5 = 1 hours

Miles:0 Locks:0  Lock miles 0

No travel today but ran the engine for a while for some hot water.

Andrew went to Waitrose when it opened to get pastries for breakfast.

Later spent some time scraping old paint and rust and applying Fertan.

Alison went to evensong at Chester Cathedral - most enjoyable.

Evening meal was a chinese takeaway from the Slowboat. Not bad...

Fairly early night ready for a full day's locks and cruising tomorrow as we head back towards Nantwich.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Weaver Navigation & Chester (Saturday 12/8/2017) - Cheshire Cat, Christleton to Chester

Engine hours start: 320.5 end: 322.5= 2 hours

Miles:2.25 Locks:5  Lock miles 7.25

Moved from Cheshire Cat down to the upper part of the city by Bridge 123c - good spot we hope, not too close to tipping-out pub.
Nice mooring near Old Harkers Arms

Very pleasant lunchtime pint or two at the Old Harkers Arms. Excellent range of ales available. Part of the same group as the Badger at Church Minshull, the Dysart Arms in Bunbury and even the Pen Y Bryn near us above Colwyn Bay!

A colleague of Alison's dropped by in the evening to see the boat and take us to his favourite pub (Oddfellows Arms on Frodsham Street). Not a great hit with us unfortunately with no ales on offer and the worst pint of Guiness Andrew had ever tasted... Soon slipped away and returned to the Old Harkers Arms for another pint to take the taste away...

Friday, 11 August 2017

Weaver Navigation & Chester (Friday 11/8/2017) - Cheshire Cat, Christleton and trip to Chester & Winsford

Engine hours start: 320.5 end: 320.5 = 0 hours

Miles:0 Locks:0  Lock miles 0

Stayed at Cheshire Cat moorings. Lazy start including egg & bacon sarnies again! Walked into town via Chester rail station to collect our pre-booked tickets for the trip to Winsford.

Had a little mooch in town before returning to the station to get the train. The train from Chester to Crewe was fine but the connection was showed as "Delayed" and seemed to be getting later every time we looked at the board. With little spare time in the itinerary, we started considering alternatives. Andrew was reminded of the Michael Palin round-the-world programmes where they had to change their plans to cope with various crises!

Found that there was a direct bus from Crewe to Winford which actually stopped right outside the venue (rather than having to yomp across town) so that worked out well in the end. Arrived at Winsford Shopping Centre with about 10 minutes to spare. Just time to find the venue and a glass of wine before the show started!

The show itself was great - quite surreal / arty and well performed. Fascinating to see such well-known actors putting so much effort into a performance for about 40 people! Show was only about an hour then out to walk back to station.

Train back to Crewe was also delayed so we missed the first available connection back to Chester. Still managed to get an earlier connection than originally planned to go back to Chester about 23:45. No chippies open to tempt us but a pleasant canalside walk back to the boat - not as dark as feared.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Weaver Navigation & Chester (Thursday 10/8/2017) - Church Minshull to Cheshire Cat, Christleton

Engine hours start: 312.2 end: 320.5 = 8.3 hours

Miles:16 Locks:4  Lock miles 20

Fitful sun and cool breeze to start, hoping to have some fair weather at last. Have run out of socks for one thing!

Straight up Cholmondeston Lock - first time ever no queue - 6 boats waiting in the other direction though! Bought two extra mooring pins at Venetian Marina chandlery while passing.

Easy through Barbridge Junction and used services at Calveley. Increasingly sunny come lunchtime. Teamed up with Grumpy Git (who wasn't really) at Bunbury until Beeston Iron Lock.

Managed a text-book Bunbury Shuffle with Alison driving the boat and accomplishing a flawless wiggle! Andrew was in charge of the operation as neither of the other two boats involved had done it before so just asked to be told what to do!

Did some laundry on the move. Didn't dry very quickly as still a fairly cool breeze. But weather improved to become a nice afternoon as we went past Shady Oak and then onwards to moor outside the Cheshire Cat at Christleton about 16:30.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Weaver Navigation & Chester (Wednesday 9/8/2017) - Trent and Mersey Canel (Between Bridges 181 - 180a) to Church Minshull

Engine hours start: 306.8 end: 312.2 = 5.4 hours

Miles:10 Locks:5  Lock miles 15

Lovely quiet mooring - the adjacent railway line barely used. Heavy rain overnight clearing to sunny periods and warmer temperatures.

No major delay at Middlewich Locks: paused to see if Kings Lock Chandlery had some mooring pins with rings - no luck (will try Venetian later).

Encountered a boater who was was trying their first lock ever - at Big Lock of all places - despite having their boat for 3 years. Gave them some help and tuition; guess we all have to start somewhere!

Paused near Bridge 28 on the Middlewich Arm for shopping run to Tesco. Lunch back at boat then on our way again.

Another overheat and 2 litres of water added. Need to find out where it is going! There is a small dribble round the jubilee clips but they seem pretty tight....

Arrived 16:00 at our favourite moorings overlooking Church Minshull.

Alison finally got to visit the Badger in Church Minshull - Andrew had been once but a later joint visit got rained off... Fine pints of Badgers Best and Off the Rails (switching to Titanic when Off the Rails ran out...).

While enjoying our pints we noticed a lady at a nearby table addressing large envelopes and wondered what she was up to. Looked similar to when Alison sends out sheet music for various choral events.

Anyway, she is then approached by a gentleman asking her, in a Scottish accent, whether she wanted a drink. Turned out to be Sylvester McCoy (who we had narrowly missed seeing at the Red Lion, Winsford)!

Then a few minutes later, another chap arrived and we realised that it was Robert Picardo (Star Trek Voyager & Stargate Atlantis among others!). Andrew remembered reading on Twitter that he was doing some sort of show with Sylvester McCoy but had not realised that it was here and now.

They then sat down with the third person in the show (Richard Oliver) to run through a script!

Some quick Googling revealed that they were taking a show to Edinburgh Festival and about to do two preview nights at the weekend in a small community theatre venue in Winsford of all places!

So as we sat listening we researched public transport to see if we could get from Chester where we plan to be at the weekend to Winsford. Booked train tickets Chester to Winsford via Crewe and two tickets for the show. Got to love the internet and Paypal!

After their run through Andrew was brave enough to ask for a photo of the Two Doctors!

Totally random and surreal experience!!!!

Weaver Navigation & Chester (Tuesday 8/8/2017) - Vale Royal Moorings to Trent and Mersey Canel (Between Bridges 181 - 180a)

Engine hours start: 301.5 end: 306.8 = 5.3 hours

Miles:10 Locks:1 + Anderton Boat Lift Lock miles 11

Set off from Vale Royal Moorings around 10 at the head of a convoy of three boats.

Short wait on the floating pontoon for the lock to be ready.
Hunts Lock

Went into the lock 3 abreast. On this lock and Hunts Lock they are using the smaller lock rather than the large one in use at Saltersford and Dutton locks.

Left lock in reverse order so we were last in the convoy to Hunts Lock ending up snugly between the other boats.

Went straight through Northwich and tied up at the Anderton visitor moorings. Walked up to Stanley Arms for a drink before returning to the boat for lunch and to wait for our passage up the lift. 

Walking up through Anderton Nature Park for a drink at Stanley Arms
The phone lines in the area have been out for some time so Stanley Arms has no wifi, can't accept phone bookings or order supplies. What a thin veneer civilisation is!

The magnificent Anderton Boat Lift
Trouble-free solo trip back up the lift. Once back on the Trent & Mersey canal, made a short stop at the Anderton Services to empty the toilet then onwards to moor at a quiet spot between Bridges 181 and 180a. Railway very close but hopefully not too much traffic at night...

Alison yomped off to seek forage (damsons and blackberries). Andrew lit the fire as it is definitely not warm enough for August!)

Monday, 7 August 2017

Weaver Navigation & Chester (Monday 7/8/2017) - Winsford Bottom Flash Basin to Vale Royal Moorings

Engine hours start: 300.2 end: 301.5hr = 1.25 hours

Miles:3 Locks:0 Lock miles 3

Splendid egg, bacon and mushroom sandwichs to strengthen us for the walk up hill to Winsford Cross Shopping Centre. Not the most inspiring setting but able to stock up with groceries at Asda including the makings for crumble using the blackberries picked near Northwich!

(Winsford shopping centre also plays a crucial role in later excitements...)

A lazy morning back at the boat, cheese sandwich lunch then a slow move to Vale Royal moorings for the night. Really lovely spot.
Lovely peaceful spot at Vale Royal moorings

Tight squeeze near Winsford
On the way, took a picture of the near blockage from drooping willow and sent by Twitter to CRT. They are apparently already aware of it and local team dealing with it...

Alison went for a walk while Andrew had a siesta then both went for another walk round the lock after dinner.

Beautiful sunset.
Beautiful sunset at Vale Royal moorings

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Weaver Navigation & Chester (Sunday 6/8/2017) - Dutton Mile Moorings to Winsford Flash Basin

Engine hours start: 295.4 end: 300.6hr = 5.2 hours

Miles:11 Locks:3 Lock miles 14

A gentle trip up to Saltersford Lock where we took advantage of a short wait for the lock to top up the water tank. Held the lock then for three other boats so were up near the paddles. Feared turbulence but no problem at all. We were first out of the lock but then let everyone go past - being in no mood to hurry.

Northwich Town surprisingly busy already so we made use of the services then phoned up Hunts Lock. Told not to hurry as they needed to get ready so put our nose into an epic blackberry bush and Alison picked 2lbs in as many minutes.

Worth noting that all the lockkeepers on the River Weaver Navigation have been great - cheerful, polite, helpful and very keen to promote the Navigation.

Went up to the end of the navigation at Winford Bottom Flash where we were surprised to find a nice little basin - completely devoid of boats! Recognised it as having driven past it many times on the way to Middlewich thinking it was just the river! Tied up hoping that the road noise would not be too bad (it was fine).

At 17:30 walked back to the Red Lion pub, just catching the end of lunch service - lucky as there is no food service Sunday evenings! Reasonable, good value food and good choice of ales. Main attraction is the music - live sessions all night and clearly similar all week. Great local atmosphere.

Later on Facebook spotted that we had just missed Sylvester McCoy who had apparently visited earlier in the day! (This is significant for reasons that will become clearer in later blog entries!!!).

Heavy rain overnight.


Saturday, 5 August 2017

Weaver Navigation & Chester (Saturday 5/8/2017) - Sutton Swing Bridge to Dutton Mile Moorings

Engine hours start: 293.1 end: 295.4hr = 2.3 hours

Miles:6 Locks:1  Lock miles 7

Sutton Bridge moorings
Shopping in Frodsham in the morning. Managed to get stamps so can send postcards. Frodsham a pleasant and prosperous - plenty of pubs - no Wetherspoons (which we had been looking for for coffee...)

Lots of skiffs on the water from Runcorn Rowing Club.

Sunny periods much more prolonged but still a chill wind when sun hidden.

Noticed the engine running very hot mid voyage - helm squawked and crew ran with a large bottle of water - crisis averted...

Passed a very shiny widebeam on approach to Dutton Lock; the lockkeeper was somewhat scathing about the skipper's ability...

Had a prolonged passage up the lock as something was fouling one of the bottom gates so they had to re-empty the lock and open / close the gate to clear it. Each lock cycle uses 500,000 gallons apparently so it took 1 million gallons to raise us up 8 feet!

Heading towards the Acton Bridge moorings, they looked quite full and also very close to busy road bridge. So we did a U-turn (no need for winding holes on the Weaver Navigation!) and moored at the Dutton Mile moorings which are lovely and quiet but still in sight of and just a gentle stroll from the Leigh Arms!
Dutton Mile mooring

Had a couple of pints at the pub while we wrote our postcards.

Quiet evening and night on these lovely moorings.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Weaver Navigation & Chester (Friday 4/8/2017) - Anderton Boat Lift to Sutton Mooring

Engine hours start: 286.5 end: 293.1hr = 6.6 hours

Miles:18 Locks:2 + Anderton Boat Lift! Lock miles 20

Up early to take up position on the holding moorings for our 10:00 booking on the Anderton Boat Lift. We will be going down the lift with two other boats - Trivial Pursuit (who we met yesterday and John Dee - driven by Roy, an engineer and boater for 50 years).

Fantastic experience though 10:25 by the time we were out which meant they were already running 15 mins late after the first run of the day. 

After ominous clouds at the start, the day grew increasingly sunny but a strong wind the whole time.

Extraordinary feeling to be on such a wide waterway. We were at Saltersford Locks almost before we realised it and were kindly told by the lockkeeper that we should have telephoned ahead so the lock could be made ready. And such a lock! You could literally fit 16 of us in there!

Powered up to the far end of the Navigation, turning just before the low swing bridge at the Weston Point Docks and came back upstream (but faster due to the wind at our backs) 4.5 miles to moor at Sutton Swing Bridge moorings on the outskirts of Frodsham.
View through a gap to the Manchester Ship Canal

Saw three other boats plus a skiff on the move today!

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Weaver Navigation & Chester (Thurs 3/8/2017) - Middlewich Big Lock to Anderton

Engine hours start: 283.1 end: 286.5hr = 3.4 hours
Miles:9 Locks:0 Lock miles 9

Back to overcast with occasional showers and fleeting bright periods - mild though. Lazy start today watching as the keenies all tried to go up Big Lock at once :-)

In contrast, we slipped quietly out of Middlewich - good towpath to Croxton Flash (now poled off so boats unable to enter).

Passed Bramble Cuttings 48 hour mooring beyond Bridge 176 - looks like a charming spot for BBQ and overnight stop.

Spotted some almost ripe damsons between bridges 179-180a - made note to stop on way back.

Moored at Lion Salt Works 12:30. Really interesting visit and an example of an industry relying on cheap labour and technology unchanged since Roman times - completely left behind by others investing in vacuum technology. Bought some postcards but no stamps...

After visit, wandered along another mile or so to moor opposite Anderton Marina. Made use of nearby services block for Elsan and showers.

Checked out the holding moorings by the boat lift ready for tomorrow.

Splendid steak dinner at Stanley Arms.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Weaver Navigation & Chester (Weds 2/8/2017) - Nantwich Basin to Middlewich Big Lock

Engine hours start: 275.2 end: 283.1hr = 8 hours
Miles:15.5 Locks:8 Lock miles 23.5

This was the start of our two-week summer cruise. Last one was the 4 Counties Ring in 2015; last year we went to France.

This year, rather than doing another ring where you have to maintain a schedule in order to be back in time, we planned to explore the local area. Specifically we wanted to take the Anderton Boat Lift down to the River Weaver Navigation during the first week then head to Chester in the second week, perhaps as far as Ellesmere Port and the Waterways Museum.

We travelled to the boat on Tuesday evening after work and got settled on board. Had a little sort out of the various storage lockers and shifted some stuff into the car boot to leave more room on board.

On Wednesday, there were heavy showers at first but mild so very humid to start. Rain cleared but overcast and cool wind.

Constant flow of traffic in both directions and queue at Cholmondeston Lock so Alison left Andrew in hands of two other crews and popped into the Venetian Marina chandlery to get two longer mooring lines needed for locks on Weaver. Got back just as Andrew exiting the lock. Very smooth operation!

Alison foraged blackberries, damsons and cooking apples along the way. 

Some waiting at locks and tiptoing past moorings made for a slow day on the whole but once at Middlewich the sun really started to burn through.

Moored up immediately beyond Big Lock on the offside very close to the pub!
Top mooring - Yes, that is a pub in the background!
Slightly energetic currents due to boats powering away from the lock to deployed a spring which worked a treat.
Spring line made big difference to stable mooring

Excellent meal at the Big Lock pub. Odd to see it as normal rather than jam-packed as at festival time. Rain back just as we left the pub.