Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Double trouble

We left Chester yesterday morning having had four days mooching about the city and tumbling into Barton Rouge and The Old Harkers for dinner.
Our neighbours, Mr and Mrs Clayton, provide a much needed service of looking after our house whilst we go off cruising. We are blessed in this respect.  It was lovely to see them in Chester and have a walk through the park, onto the river washlands, up onto the city walls and back down the tow path. We finished up  with cocktails and a good dinner at the pub. The Harkers never fails to amaze me in that it seems able to consistently produce fresh and delicious food even on the busiest of public holidays.
We did 11 locks yesterday and in all of them went through with another craft. The first five were with experienced narrowboaters who made short work of it
The second half was with a young man, navigating the whole of the British waterways in a tiny motorcruiser. You have to admire his spirit. However being in a lock with a small plastic boat is difficult especially with a high risk of crushing his much loved craft. He tended to get out at the locks leaving it bobbing about and getting in the way. First mate was tasked with trying to keep PL2 alongside and keep tight hold of his boat at the same time. Great fun, especially when we met a boat coming down in the upper chamber of the Bunbury flight. It was like one of those puzzles where you move all the pieces round with one square free and then pour hundreds if tons of water down on the operation at the same time.

The new cross bed has been a great success. It is comfortable and roomy. We quickly found a system of making it and tidying it away in minutes.
We head home today on a straightforward bit of canal with only the four single Hurleston Locks to negotiate.  But you never know what adventures lie ahead. Bring it on.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Piping Aboard

The central heating is now fixed... but what a fault to find!

I won't bore the reader with the unquestionable genius involved in finding the fault, as that is well known, I will just keep, more or less, to the details of the fault.

The story begins seven years ago in a boat building yard.

"Just finish that plumbing in the bathroom," the boss shouted through the porthole, "then you can go home."

The young aprentice looked at the scribbled drawing and the fittings in a box. After ten minutes he shouted up.

"What's this cross on the drawing?"

"Oh yes," the boss answered, "That's the by pass valve."

The apprentice shrugged his shoulders having no idea what that meant.

"They used to baffle me when I was your age. The thing is if you pipe it up like you might expect, and then if you turn all your radiators off, there is no flow at all through the coil in the hot water tank, and so you get no hot water. The by pass valve allows a little flow past the radiators so that you get hot water.

"Right," said the apprentice rummaging through the box.

"And that reminds me," the boss said, "we haven't got one."

The apprentice stopped rummaging.

"They missed it off the delivery. But connect everything and leave room for it. That way I can check it all for leaks tomorrow."

Seven years later captain found the plumbing extended slightly beyond the towel radiator to accommodate a valve - but no valve there, just an effective short circuit of the radiators.

There had been a trickle through the radiators on a good day, and a Webasto that went to half load quite quickly as it saw very hot water on the return pipe.

But all piping hot now.


Friday afternoon, after being assisted by an independent volunteer lockie down the last five locks, we arrived in Chester and parked the boat outside Waitrose.

The surprise for us was that we completed the cruise (from Swanley Bridge) in two days, where we had allowed three. I'm still a bit unclear what went wrong there. We are not known for rushing ahead, and just the thought of five hour cruising days makes us cry.

Anyway we are here and the extra day will give captain time to grapple with the central heating which is misbehaving in a very strange way.

He believes he knows the solution, but dare not tell yet.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Men and Plans and Mice

A couple of days after our last blog (where we outlined our Easter plans to go to the River Weaver via the Anderton Boat lift) our route, across to Middlewich was well and truly scuppered.

A serious breach, that I expect will take 6 months or more to fix, drained the canal for a mile or so near Middlewich. The pictures are dramatic and one pinched from the BBC is shown here.

Our Easter plan B is to set off tomorrow for Chester and stay there for three nights.

The plan for moving the boat back to Macclesfield in September is still being formulated. Options are (a) The breach is fixed ... Hurrah! (b) Stay where we are. (c) Go to Ellesmere Port, then along the Manchester Ship Canal and back down via the River Weaver, Or (d) Go the long way around via Audlem, Autherley, Great Haywood, Harecastle.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Dream a Little Dream

This is our first blog of the year and I know you are all wondering, and worrying, why there has been no scribblings. I bet many of you have made up little stories as to what we have been up to.

Perhaps you imagined that the crew of Princess Lucy 2 had been coerced into joining some strange cult, and relocated to the banks of the Desaqadero River in Bolivia, where we perhaps spent the evenings soothing our souls by rubbing Brillo pads on each others cheeks.

Not so. The only Brillo pad rubbing has been on the dismantled stainless steel plug hole.

But the sink cleaning project has not taken three months. The big project that has kept captain both scratching, and knocking, his head has been the bed project.

First a bit of background. The original boat bed (as built) was a permanent small double (4 foot wide that is). Now the bed wasn't really 4 foot as the box the mattress sat in was 3' 11" and more significantly a further 4" of the mattress was effectively lost under the gunwale.

So we set about designing and building a cross-bed, where we now lie across the boat. This is achieved with two mattresses. The smaller one is two feet long and drops on to slide out slats that cross the corridor.

The bed is now finished and we have slept in it just once and we were much more comfy than before. We now have a five foot wide bed and much more room.

The improved comfort doesn't end there as previously there was nowhere to put a drink or anything. Now, that problem is solved with a decent sized side table each.

But there is a down side. With our new comfy bed and longer lie ins, we may need to reassess our typical daily cruising hours. At the moment we aim for three (hours that is) and that has been a struggle to achieve.

At Easter we are planning a cruise out to Middlewich and then down on the Anderton lift for a quick spin on the Weaver.

Well that is the plan. We might just spend the week in bed.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Chester is a Christmas Belter

When we planned the Captain's Christmas birthday trip, it was because we had loved Chester when we brought our old boat, Princess Lucy, here a couple of years ago. But then, that visit took place in the summer and we had had a week of solid sunshine, balmy evenings drinking on the stern, shopping trips in shorts and tee shirts.

As the awful winter cruising weather and dark days kicked in, we wondered if it was a mistake to try to recapture the experience in another season. Getting here was horrible but would it be worth it?

Yes. We loved it all over again. Come rain or shine, Chester is one of the most attractive cities in Europe. It is blessed with a canal which snakes round its  ancient city walls and Cathedral on one side, and a dramatic tidal river and waterfront on the other. There are great shops in half timbered buidings, fantastic pubs and restaurants and a canal side Waitrose.  So what's not to love?

Today, after 4 nights, we reluctantly left and will be back.

We are now moored outside The Cheshire Cat having shared the 5 locks with South African boaters who left their native land and its 33C sunshine for a damp boating holiday in Cheshire.

Ahh well, at least we aren't the only ones with mad plans. 

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Mud, rain and Chester

After days of fighting the elements and days of struggling to find the motivation to fight the elements, we have arrived in Chester, with the bow right outside The Harkers Arms, where we are booked in tonight.

The stern is right outside Barton Rouge (Indian) so we may need to go off that way another night.

We are too weary to write any more.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Winter Sunshine over Hurleston

In spite of our pessimism about making any progress towards Chester today, we have cruised for 4 hours and done 6 locks in winter sunshine. it was still freezing but the sun lifted our spirits and cheered us on.

The Hurleston contractors had cleared up and cleared off by lunch (Friday pub time?) and we were through the 4 locks by 2.30. This might be naive but we expected everything to be ship shape in the lock chambers. Not so. After 3 weeks of repairs, the Hurleston locks are leaking badly, one of the gates was dragging along the ground, there was a tyre behind a gate, and a ground paddle out of action.
Then we were the first boat through the similarly repaired Bunbury double lock flight, and we nearly sank the boat. At the bottom of the lock the boat became stuck on something significant enough to tip us up. With First Mate, Jones and the boat all in peril, Captain sprang to the paddles thinking he could drop them quickly. Again, not so. They are the only paddles in the system that wind down just as slowly as they wind up. The boat tipped sideways so far that it eventually slid off the thing and launched itself into the middle of the broad lock.
We are seriously unimpressed with stoppages that seem to have made things worse and more dangerous than before. We survived but it was a scary moment.
Tonight we are safely moored just under Tilstone Lock and have just had a home made curry for dinner. All is well but we will have to see what traps have been laid in the newly maintained Beeston Locks.


The plan always was (and still is) to cruise to Chester and stay there for a few days around Captain’s birthday (the 19th).
Hurleston Locks
Unfortunately for us, Canal and River Trust decided to move the repairs of Hurleston locks from January to December ‘following customer feedback’. Clearly I should have left feedback saying that the January date was just fine.

The new dates mean the locks are not planned to be finished until the 15th (today) and we could really do with being through them today.

We visited the site yesterday and whereas the workmen were confident of being done in the afternoon, I am less so. There was still scaffolding in 2 locks and with 3 pounds to fill, and 4 boats in the queue already, 

I imagine we will be there for the night.

If it is open for Saturday, this will leave a heavy (heavy by our standards) couple of days to Chester. 

Oh well!

Friday, 17 November 2017

For Completeness

So did we cruise the 3 hours or so we planned last weekend, or did laziness win the battle? As I am not a fan of the 'time-wasting' jokes or ridiculously long gaps before the winner is announced I will come straight to the point .... and the winner was ..... Laziness.

We had booked a table at the Cotton Arms in Wrenbury, but we didn't cancel it. Instead we tackled the 9 minute drive in the car which was much simpler than all those locks and lift bridges. The boat stayed in the marina and had a lovely lazy weekend and the fire never went out.

We are saving our energies for the Christmas Chester trip where we have little room for flexibility, and will be cruising on our planned dates - whatever the weather. We also need CRT to put the Hurleston locks back together - preferably a day early! If not we will be doing a couple of very long (long for us that is) days to get to Chester.