Wednesday 17 July 2019

Great Haywood to the Isle of Skye

Cley, Norfolk
We have mentioned this and apologised before, but we need to mention it and apologise again. We frequently fail to blog at the end of our trips. The start and most of the journey is fairly well documented, but the final chapter is nearly always missing. And although there are no excuses, there are explanations: It is the busyness at the end of the trip, and on the last occassion, it was busier than ever as we met up with family and collected our vehicle from the previous marina.

But we did arrive at Great Haywood (on the 10th June) where we put the boat on sale with Great Haywood Boat Sales. Captain had been studying the monthly sales (percentage sold of the boats on offer) for various brokers, and Great Haywood came out at the top of his list.

Glen Coe
The boat is now gone to to a happy and excited Bill and Kate who will be taking her down to the River Avon.You could say that first mate has sold her first painting since they wanted the pictures leaving on board. They are all prints in order to preserve the originals so this flattering request was easy to accommodate.

We are trying our hand at the motorhome thing. We have used our experience of boating and done a skills transfer thing about living smart. The fundamental differences seem to be, getting used to a cassette toilet having had a large holding tank (not a problem) and sussing out the joys of campsites (which are completely new). There are so many options here. Small sites with only 5 pitches called certified locations; large sites with a mix of vehicles and tents which bring kids to play bat and ball at 7 in the morning; adult only sites which suggest the company of intolerant old gits who only want to be with people who look like them. That said, we have had good experiences in campsites on the North Norfolk coast and in Wigton, Cumbria - famous for being the birth place of Melvyn Bragg. In truth, the campsites are just places to take on water and empty the cassette. We are totally uninterested in the showers or laundry facilities. Wild camping is a misnoma since it just means finding a scenic overnight parking spot but it works better for us.
Loch Carron

This our first big road trip to the Highlands of Scotland and it's been grand so far. We have wild camped in the peace of Glen Coe and stayed at a small marina campsite in the historic harbour town of Maryport and are now in a cottage on the shores of Loch Carron.

We have taken our motorhome out for days to Skye and Ullapool. It all seems to work. This blog may continue about another mode of transport but the spirit of adventure will continue.

Wednesday 5 June 2019

Goldilocks on the Shropshire Union

Tonight we reached the end (the southern end that is) of The Shropshire Union. We are tied up close to the stop lock which connects it to the Staffs and Worcester, and has, according to my Pearson's guide book, a drop of six inches. 

The journey on the Shroppy has been good.  Since we got into the narrow locks, there has been a Goldilocks number of boats about. Not too few - which gives us all the work to do, and not too many - which leads to queues and frustration. Just a perfect number so that in many locks we only had half of the work to do.

We are very close to Wolverhampton. We am familiar with the Black Country vernacular and thought it safe to engage a row of fishermen in some Wolvo banter. Not so. What ever they said was impenetrable. This led us to that most awful of fall back positions - grinning like idiot children. Even their gestures were ambiguous - were they waving us on or asking us to stop? 

After a diplomatic exchange, it turns out they were asking us to cruise nearer the tow path so that we would avoid disturbing their catch on the far side of the canal. This might be us being thick but why don't they get a shorter rod and sit on the other bank? 

One of the other mysteries is that we are tied up in a leafy spot which conceals a massive sewerage plant. This really smells but not in a way you'd expect. Why does it perfume the air with the scent of of  clean laundry? 

Monday 3 June 2019

Ta Ta to Tattenhall

This cruise will be our last on our own boat and is therefore tinged with sadness. I was dreading it but made mind to treat it as a holiday instead of a trip to the brokerage mooring. It goes up for sale pretty much from the moment we cruise into Great Haywood Marina. They have all the details and are just waiting for the actual boat. 

Until then, she is ours to enjoy. And we have had a grand few days on The Shropshire Union which in early June is fringed with wild flowers and lacey cow parsley. The weather has been weird with sudden violent downpours and hot winds. 

Today has been gorgeous sunshine and we decided to press on from Audlem through 16 locks and are now tied up in Market Drayton. We've had good dinners in The Barbridge Inn and The Lord Combermere. Tonight we plan to walk up into town for dinner at The Red Lion, a Joules pub, we liked on a previous journey. 

There bow lacks its customary flowers as they might mess up the paintwork. Captain is obsessively polishing at every available moment. The newly blacked hull has taken a few scrapes and scratches down to lockwheleing, high winds and vicious by-washes. 

I have hardly done any cooking and Captain's blog about LPG has had little relevance to this trip so far. We have had to take sandwiches up top as there have been no stopping opportunities in the lock schedule. Then, imagine our delight when at the final.lock of the day, we found a lockside stall with an honestly box. We helped ourselves to scones, jam and clotted cream all freshly bagged up. It had our names on it. Not literally, of course but it felt like when you see a mirage of water in a desert and I thought Panda's Pantry said Pandy's Pantry (my childhood nickname).

Town Gas

It is baffling to me why the LPG cookers both on our current boat, our previous. boat, and our motorhome take much longer to cook anything than a conventional cooker. Typically we wind the gas up an extra notch and give whatever it is an extra 5 or 10 minutes.

Now I had presumed that it must be the difference between methane and propane, yet when I research this (research being Wikipedia - where else?) I find that LPG has a higher calorific value and burns at a higher temperature, but there shouldn't be any difference: "It would be difficult, if not impossible, to tell the difference between cooking with natural gas and LPG." 

Maybe it is down to the cookers?

Perhaps I should worry about more important matters. 

PS. First Mate is working up to a much more interesting blog, which I imagine might contain detail on our cruise so far, and probably include valuable information on the charity shops of Audlem.

Tuesday 23 April 2019

Beautiful Easter Boating

We have had nine glorious days basking in spring sunshine with temperatures in the mid twenties. We really didn't expect this good fortune for our last trip into Chester. Family helped us down the five locks into Chester and the real Princess Lucy was with us for a sleep over and found it all very exciting. 

Neighbours joined us on Sunday night for dinner at Artichoke. In the morning we all enjoyed a remarkably easy passage down the staircase locks and into the basin for lunch aboard. The drop of the chambers is over 33 feet and the gates are imposing. It was reassuring to have the volunteer lockies managing the water flow. 

They told us we'd be swapping places in the locks with six boats coming up. These were old working boats coming back from the 'Easter Gathering' at Ellesmere Port. Two of these were fuel boats Halsall and Bargus, boats that are actually still working. 

The deep cutting and bridges which lead to the staircase are like something from The Corinthian Canal. 

We left Chester today and breasted up through the five locks with a lovely boat called Marcellus who moors at Alvecote and who knew Chertsey: Sarah and Jim's boat. It is a relatively small world in the cut and you can get a glimpse into what it must have been like for the working boatmen and women who must have greeted everyone by name.

Sunday 21 April 2019

In Again!

The last two posts concentrated on the Captain's recent midnight dip in the canal - and just to make it a tidy run of three posts, he has been at it again!

This time though was by choice. Before we set off on our Easter jaunt to Chester, we spent a night in the marina. After Jones's tea-time walk, captain thought it wise to check the electricity meter on the jetty, and he bobbed down to look. This was the moment when his phone slipped out of his pocket, and into the deep.

Now since the last tumble we have found all sorts of useful safety aids on the jetty: ladders, lifebelts, fire extinguishers, and so on. 

Chrisleton water point on the way to Chester
Armed wih this new knowledge, captain slipped on some old painting clothes and positioned a ladder near where the phone might be. The marina, we now know, is about 4 feet deep,  and after padding around in bare feet for 10 minutes or so in 4 or 5 inches of muddy silt, nothing had been found. Captain was getting cold and starting to shake, but at the very moment he declared he was giving up, he stumbled across the phone. 

The phone was ruined, but the Sim and memory cards were OK. Then it took a couple of days to fetch a new phone and get it up and running. Hence the lack of blogging.

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