Monday, 4 March 2019

Time for dry pursuits?

It was a lovely weekend to potter up the canal to Christleton for dinner at the Ring O Bells. The sun came out and flooded the boat with light; I took lots of interior pictures to show Great Haywood Boat Sales when we go to see them in the summer. 

It is with heavy heart that we have made the decision to finish our boating adventures this summer. We have enjoyed being on the water for seven years. Those years have flown but it's time for a change.

So we are relishing our last few excursions before she passes on to another owner (hopefully by end of June). However, after last night's shenanigans, I will be leaving a comprehensive set of health and safety guidelines. 

My perspective on the watery midnight adventure is that there was undue care and attention by a Captain who was in his cups. However, we should avoid the blame culture of modern times, legitious even, and concentrate on what we have learned:

1. Drink less Rose wine.
2. Exit the cratch before Mr Jones and ascertain whether the coast is clear viz cats and dogs.
3. Under no circumstances let him jump off first on a fully extended lead. 

Hindsight is a wonderful thing especially when it encourages a new health and safety policy. The midnight dip was potentially much more dangerous than it first appears. Captain could so easily have knocked himself out - dragging himself and Jones under the water. I wouldn't have known anything was amiss. As it is, his screaming like a girl did reach my senses. (Although, rather worryingly no one else came to help and I didn't have the strength to pull him out). 

There followed a farce where I nearly ended up in the water too. I don't recommend trying to haul a waterlogged mammoth out of the freezing water. We once watched lifeboat crew on a training exercise to do just that and they were struggling. As it is I got away with a pulled shoulder muscle from lifting a soaking Mr Jones out with one hand. Even his 8.5 kg easily doubled with the water. He was shaking like a leaf when I finally fished him out. 

Our next trip will be an exciting one as the original Princess Lucy (now aged 8) has been promised a sleep over on the boat on our Easter trip to Chester. I will be watching her like a hawk given the dangers of those big double locks into Chester. And Jones will be wearing a canine life jacket at all times.

A Midnight Dip

With the benefit of hindsight, I would probably have done things differently: Possibly I should have despatched someone more sensible to take Mr. Jones for his bed-time wee-wee. First Mate perhaps? Possibly I might have taken less of the Porter?

It started well enough: hat, big boots, big heavy coat, dog on lead. We stepped out onto the jetty, and then it didn't go so well. Mr. Jones had found a cat somewhere near our bow, and gave chase. There was a big splash. He was in. At some point I tightened the extending lead and then I lost my footing, and I was in. I still had my end of the lead, but we were opposite sides of the bow.

There was now no noise from Mr. Jones, and weighed down with boots and coat I was struggling to get out. It was also deep, dark, and cold.

Luckily, through the fog of my specs, First Mate appeared and I suggested she took the lead and retrieved Jones. Meanwhile I managed to haul myself out using the bow rope and some (previously unknown) circus skills.

It was a damp end to the night, huddled around the fire in a bath towel, having antiseptic dabbed on my cuts - just like a naughty child.


Friday, 21 December 2018


Tonight we are enjoying an easy going dinner (Waitrose Tiramisu for dessert) on our mooring in Tattenhall Marina. We have had five nights in Chester, two with visits from family. We've traversed the Roman walls, gone into the magnificent quadrants of the Cathedral, played ball with Jones on the river Dee washlands.
Each visit we discover new places: this time, The Botanist, an impossibly trendy bar opposite the Cathedral where they have taken distressed wood, mirrors and metal to a new level of daftness. That said, its mulled wine proved very welcoming on a cold afternoon. The young staff also made a fuss of Jones with water bowls and treats.
Their friendliness more than made up for a humiliating ejection from Chai Station. This so called vegetarian street food outfit had encouraged us to have a meal there. When we popped in for a takeaway, the voluble owner assured us that we could tuck our small dog under the table. We booked and checked again if we could bring Jones. They said "fine". When we arrived in pouring rain for dinner, we were turned away. This somewhat dampened our spirits until we found ourselves in The Coach House with a bottle of rose and pie and chips. They probably did us a favour with Chai Station having a food hygiene score of just 1.
This year, we will be at home for Christmas but this trip has been fun and relaxing. After falling foul of the vicious Chester locks a few times, we've finally developed a method that preserves our crockery and glasses.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Chestnuts in Chester

We arrived in Chester yesterday afternoon, and we are one of just two boats up in the town centre.
The plan is to remain here for five nights, which should give us plenty of time to sample the mulled wines, hog roasts in the Christmas market, and anything else that takes our fancy.
Last night we enjoyed roast dinners at The Old Harkers Arms. A new rule was agreed though, and that is to NOT eat mince pies after 4pm. Tonight we head for Koconut Grove. 
Today was slightly interrupted by a small coal delivery from fuel boat Halsall. They are whizzing up the Shroppie and then back to Bollington via the soon to be reopened Middlewich Branch (hopefully).
There is no time to write more, as mince  pies need to be tackled before the curfew.
Hog at Christmas Markets


Saturday, 15 December 2018

Christmas in Christleton

With severe weather warnings of sleet and high winds forecast for Saturday, we arrived at Tattenhall Marina on Friday lunch time and unpacked swiftly. After a splash of diesel, we slipped out onto the tow path. We did this because it is pretty damn impossible to get out of the marina in a breeze, never mind severe winds.

We then spent Friday night opposite an industrial hangar hosting a rave party. The relentless beat eventually rocked us to sleep. We left this morning and made the two hour lock-free cruise to Christelton. We tied up at midday just before the biblical winds and rain arrived. Being just outside The Cheshire Cat, it would be rude not to pop in for refreshments. We are booked in with Mr Jones for dinner. Will the Christmas tree survive?  Here is a picture. Just in case it's the last we see of it.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Mellow Yellow

We are on a weekend breather to take in the final glorious autumnal colours. Red, gold and green - oh dear, I feel a Culture Club classic coming on. Anyway, back to the scene, which is sunny, with a gentle breeze wafting the fronds of a weeping willow. Moor hens and mallard ducks are circling aimlessly.  Its a typical canal vista and one that is hard to tire of.

Last night, we walked to the village centre and had dinner with Mr Jones in the Ring of Bells. There we met and chatted to two young men and their 9 month old black and tan rescue, Nora. Jones was dying to play with her but they had to be content with sniffing and a mutually admiring gaze. Given that Jones sometimes kicks off in pubs, this made for a relaxing dinner. We talked amiably about the joys and challenges of taking in a stray who you know nothing about.

We are moored nicely outside The Cheshire Cat where we will have dinner tonight before we head off back to the marina, then home, tomorrow. The canal is at its most beautiful scattered with multi tonal leaves. A canal on a dull day in winter can look like sludge but today everything sparkles with colour and light. 

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Chester Revisited

Our August cruise, which was mainly spent stationary, and sampling the delights of Chester, drew to an unforeseen early close. 

The end to our journey was not how we anticipated it to be when we untied after five nights in Chester. But on a whim, a whim largely driven by laziness, we abandoned our plans to return to our mooring at Swanley Bridge, and instead put in to Tattenhall Marina, where having found an agreeable mooring, we shall stay for the winter. 

Whilst we were in Chester, the summer subtly ended: There was a slight bitterness in the air, we found ourselves leaving restaurants in the dark, and for the first time in months, there was a fire in the stove. The reassuring constancy of the last few months had gone, and it was replaced with a reminder of what was to come. 

With this in mind, and a forecast of wetter conditions, the relatively small number of locks facing us over the coming few days seemed more daunting than it should have, and so it was that many were left unassailed. No more to Bunbury or Beeston for us, nor would we rise through Tilstone or Hurlestone. 

Perhaps five lazy days in Chester contributed to our decision. Either way, over time, a plan evolved to divert to where we are now: in Tattenhall. 

The stove is in, and as we sit here drinking good wine, we can reflect on the summer, but as that vision of summer fades, the routine of survival begins again. 

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Going with the Flow

The plan to get to Liverpool has been abandoned, at least for this year. We set aside just over two weeks to slip up to the top of the Shropshire Union, out onto the Manchester Ship Canal to Eastham locks, and then across the Mersey (with a Pilot). We were very excited by the prospect of cruising across such a historic estuary into Liverpool Marina via Brunswick Lock. We had planned to stay in Liverpool Marina for a night or two, and then Salthouse Dock was booked for a week. We were then to head to our new marina at Scarisbrick via the Leeds and Liverpool Canal link.

The plan fell apart due to a breach north of Liverpool. Now the breach was (and still is according to CRT) to be fixed by 24th of August, which would have been fine. However, CRT recently cancelled all passages in and out Liverpool to the end of August! This is too late for us, and although the left and right hands of CRT are a bit out of sync, it feels like the sensible idea is to leave it all for now.

So we have mooched down to Chester where we are tied up nicely in our favourite spot (apart from the rather noisy 'cohesion piling' going on across the canal), and where we plan to stay for four nights.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Murphy, Sod, Finagle and Jones

The boat is now back on its mooring at Swanley Bridge. We pushed on yesterday so that we only had a couple of locks to do this morning before swinging into the marina.

Yesterday, we had a steady run from Grindley Brook, impeded a bit as we followed a couple of single handers through most of the locks.

By late afternoon, we were tied up (next to fellow bloggers Amy Jo) for our last night on this trip. It was a very peaceful mooring with no roads or railways within earshot. Mr. Jones confirmed his approval, standing on his hind legs sniffing the air, cocking his head at unknown noises from wildlife, and off course he could also sense, lurking behind the hedges, the occasional monster.

This morning the canal was quiet, so after a leisurely breakfast Captain started to untie. And this is when it happened. In fact no matter what time of day you untie - it always happens: a boat came around the corner, travelling in the direction we would have been travelling in (had Captain untied just one minute earlier.)

"No worries" he muttered, "One boat won't make much difference." He tied up the boat again and the boat passed, but again, before Captain could untie, two more boats (the two single handers) came around the corner. Captain continued muttering, and muttered even more when a fourth boat went past.

This phenomenon is now to be know (for no good reason) as Jones' Law, which states "If it is quiet on the canal, and you think it is a good time to set off, then immediately you reach for any rope a small flotilla of narrowboats will pass in front of you."

Anyway we are all tied up nicely now, and no new maintenance jobs have cropped up. Next month's trip is to Liverpool. Although our route there is going to be interesting.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Black and White Bears

Last night was spent in Whitchurch. Well, near Whitchurch, as the canal is a good 25 minutes walk away up a hill. It needs to be worth such a slog.
There is a navigable arm beckoning in the direction of Whitchurch, but this ends after a short distance. This was restored in the 1990s, but the ambitious plans to extend it further along its old course towards the town, have never found the funds. It's a forlorn promise of what might have been.
The advance party (First Mate) was sent into town on a reconnaissance mission. The texts arriving back at the boat indicated that she was not impressed. She reported that two dog friendly pubs were
not doing food, places were closed and that there was only so much time she could linger in the musky odours of the charity shops. Then there were the three over heard conversations: one involving a stretch in prison; another at the chemists interrogating someone's prescription for Prosac and then the consolation of a grieving widower. All of these contributed to her feeling the presence of the  black dog of depression.
But I wonder whether Whitchurch ever held the charm to captivate First Mate? Perhaps if it still had a nice haberdashery, milliners or hosier, this would have kept her from the Devil's water a little longer. I headed up towards The White Bear where I found her with a drink and a free internet connection.
After a swift pint, we walked back finding a quite unexpected excellent dinner for all of us at The Black Bear.
Today we cleared the nonsense of the Grindley Brook locks, and The Horse and Jockey is where we go tonight.