Friday, 26 April 2013

Uses for a Lifebuoy

When we bought Lucy Belle, it came with a Lifebuoy (or is it a life ring?) tied on the roof just behind the tunnel light. "What use is it there," I was asked, "I mean, how would I get to it if I needed it?" This was a good question. Perhaps it was tied there as it was considered of little use, but then again, maybe the same person thought they ought to keep it? I don't know,

Now being a little short of space on our 45 foot boat, we are always delighted when we find a dual use for something. Now we haven't made a lot of progress in putting this thinking into practice, but we have used wine and coal as ballast, and we do have an idea for a bathroom door that also doubles up as a corridor door (although this idea is very much at the folded beer mat stage.)

So the Lifebuoy was moved to sit on top of the main door hatch. This means that in the event that we need to deploy it - we can actually reach it.

But more importantly it has become a safe and secure place from which items cannot fall into the cut. It has been use for sandwiches, buns, tea, coffee, phones, books, keys, gloves, hats ... just about anything really.

And here is a photograph taken last weekend when we briefly sat out under the stars. The lifebuoy was again used to keep our valuables safe and secure.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

The Work Begins

Lucy Belle (we will paint out the old name Florence one day - honest) has been on her home mooring (at Furness Vale) for a fortnight now. The initial beaching on a bank of silt seems to have improved. Things got better when the canal level went up almost 2 inches, but since then the canal has dropped again. However, a couple of trips out - coupled with liberal use of the propeller, has definitely improved the situation.

Her first trip out from Furness Vale was last Tuesday - just to The Navigation at Bugsworth. It was a reward for changing two of the engine mountings by lunchtime. With the invaluable help of a neighbour, Rod, the engine mountings, one of which our surveyor had identified as "weak," were removed and replaced. The engine was aligned nicely with the transmission, and by noon, we were on our way to Bugsworth. The engine mounting proved to be in rather worse condition than "weak" and the source of the annoying tapping noise that had been irritating us since we bought the boat, was revealed when the mounting was removed in two pieces. The other two engine mountings will be swapped in the next couple of weeks.

New deck boards have also been made - as there is a real danger that the existing crumbly ones might give Jemma a closer view of the gearbox than she might want! This weekend though we needed diesel, coal and a pump out, and we arranged to meet Brian and Anne Marie of Alton along the Peak Forest Canal. We tied this in with an overnight near the Strines (Strines near Marple) and popped down to The Sportsman and The Royal Oak. On Sunday morning we waited for Alton. It was worth it: what they have on that boat is amazing!

Now, at home we are big fans of the "home delivery". And living 20 minutes and £5.00 of diesel from the nearest supermarket - it makes a lot of sense (to both time and pocket). It struck me that Alton is just the same: they come to you. Why would I want to to carry bags of coal from goodness knows where, when Anne Marie can just throw them on our boat?

Next (apart from 2 more engine mountings) is a new bathroom. The sink arrived on Saturday, so all hands below deck!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Just when you think you're home and dry....

We woke to a diamond last day on Lucy Belle. We were tied up in open countryside. As with most of the Macclesfield canal it is fairly shallow and mooring tight alongside can be difficult. However Jemma's new plank had the opportunity to be used in anger. We even opened the side hatch for the first time and the back cabin was dappled with sunlight. The ducks were very polite even when tempted by Hovis biscuits.

The cruising went smoothly as did the 2 swing bridges and 2 lift bridges. As we approached our mooring, a casual remark about it being an easy one to moor at, was ill timed. 

We went on to struggle for an hour trying to bring her alongside the jetty. The boat was beached and feet away from the landing. It was a good job our neighbour, the appropriately named 'Muddy Water' wasn't around as we doused their boat with months of silt. Lucy Belle just churned it all up but wouldn't shift. It took brute force and rope to get her near. 

Lucy Belle at Furness Vale
I suppose this might be because no one has been on that mooring for 6 months now, and she remains about a foot away from the tyres. I am hoping 'nature' will sort it out, but any advice (that does not involve waders) would be appreciated.

Jem had really started to settle in to life afloat in the last 2 days especially with no locks. She looked quite proud as walked up and down the gang plank. And she clearly enjoyed the ever changing tow path sniffs.  But she was upset by all the revving up and shouting. When we finally got the boat near enough to get a gang plank down, she slipped into the water and had to be pulled out. 

The unpredictability of boating will continue to keep us on our toes and, hopefully, Jem on all four paws.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Pavlov's Duck

Some startling conclusions are making themselves known as I sit musing over a glass of vintage cava, the remains of tapas, admiring a blood-orange sun as it dips down over the surrounding hills: ducks know that narrowboats mean someone might feed them, if you spend most of the day sailing into a freezing wind then your face explodes when you warm up too quickly, that my broad muscular shoulders (useful as they are at moving 12 foot lock gates) probably mean that my family is descended from navvies, that I now have permanent hat hair and look exactly like my brother Keith, that Macclesfield has a very good Italian restaurant called Fino where you can lunch and get away from wearing fleece, that even here we spend way too much time looking at smart phones and tapping tiny keyboards, that in 15 days I have read nothing, written only 2 pages of journal and managed no drawing or painting, that all I have done is cruise, battle the elements, learned to steer, eat, drink and sleep like a log, that this simple agenda is satisfying especially aboard the cosy and comfortable Lucy Belle. I can only speak for myself, of course, Jem may have a different story. The Captain will have to come to his own conclusions.

God willing, tomorrow should bring more sailing headlong into gusting wind as we head for our home mooring in Furness Vale.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Flying up Bosley

The Captain was ordering his first beer in the splendid Sutton Hall bar, a manor house and former convent, when he occasioned a passing remark about his glowing phizzhog. The bar man asked if we'd been in another country. Only Cheshire, we replied.

A full day of sun and high winds made the ascent through the 12 locks of the Bosley flight quite interesting. In the end, we figured  that the only way to make any progress was to keep going at speed; one of us running between locks to avoid Lucy Belle being pinned against the bank by the high winds. It was quite a marathon.

The countryside changed as we moved closer towards Macclesfield with familiar high peaks and gentle farmland. We badly needed a tea stop and somewhere for Jem to stretch out after banging off the sides of the narrowest locks in the country.

We tied up in a tranquil, sunny spot at a lovely mooring just down from the Fool's Nook. The pub said it was "currenty closed due to flooding". Curious. This was our planned dinner stop  but it looked flyblown.

We pressed on to Sutton Lane where we are tied up for the night. We had yet more excitement with an electric swingbridge and a jammed manual swingbridge. Luckily, we met young adventurers on their way to Leeds. It took all 4 of us to get out of trouble. There always seems to be something unexpected to foul your plans on the water. But, all in all, it turned out to be gorgeous day and evening for us.

Not so good for Jemma who endured a solid 2.5 hours of lock mania and managed to fall down the steps into Lucy Belle's saloon.  Although shaken, she has since stirred, and is now stretched out in front of a roaring stove having her ears rubbed. So we are hoping she'll recover. Tomorrow we meander slowly homeward towards Furness Vale. We plan to have an easier day with visits to Macclesfield, Bollington and our last sleepover in High Green.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Robin Hood, Buglawton

Easy day. Through Congleton to Buglawton. Bosley flight tomorrow.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Hair raising Harecastle

Today brought fresh challenges. After a temporary sigh of relief that we hadn't been murdered in our bed by Stoke druggies. We had tied up in a beautiful but very remote urban landscape. All we had encountered outside our Festival Park mooring were some peace loving ducks and perfectly decent people cycling, jogging and walking their dogs (in truth we expected nothing else).

We met Chrissie and Chris outside the Middleport Pottery (Burleigh) after buying some black willow pattern pieces for Lucy Belle. A nice souvenir of our trip. They cruised with us as far as the Harecastle tunnel. Convinced this would be the last time they saw us, they waved bye bye as we disappeared into the 2 mile pitch black tunnel. Jemma crouched inside, similarly sure of our certain deaths.

"You made it?" Chrissie said when I phoned her. She sounded surprised and maybe just a little disappointed.

We are not easily scared or impressed but Brindley was both mad and a genius to concieve of this method of conveyance. We've passed through the Panama Canal and it is equivalent in skill and daring.

The one foot lock just outside Congleton seemed tame. Our neighbours from Littonslack were kind enough to bring wine and emergency tea bags. We had a lovely dinner with them in The Rising Sun in Scholars Green. We are promised a modest lie in tomorrow.