Sunday, 15 September 2013

A Great Uncle Receives Very Important Visitors

Some visitors to Princess Lucy are very special indeed. Some time ago, the captain received a polite request from James and Harriett White, great nephew and great niece, to visit the boat. A day was arranged right at the fag-end of the summer holidays. Oh how the Captain worried about these V.I.P. twins and whether everything would be ship shape for their arrival. The itinerary was planned, a short cruise to the historic Bugsworth Basin and preparations for the twins were made. Up to the last minute, the Captain paced the floor, racked by persistent doubts: would they be bored? Would they be underwhelmed by this little boat? Would the Peak Forest Canal hold enough to entertain such important little ones?

Well, as it happened the sun shone and the twins were an absolute joy to have aboard. James even managed to steer the boat - without being able to see over the top of her. Quite a feat. They found peeping the horn and feeding the ducks a right laugh.

They marvelled at everything including the labyrinthine basin at Bugsworth.

Such is the joy of being a child. Everything is potentially fascinating when you are open to new adventures. They, or possibly their mum, Shelley, brought a picnic and they were absolutely no trouble at all. In fact they were the opposite. They proved to be a 'great' niece and nephew in every sense of the word. A complete success, and of course this was much to the relief of their GREAT Uncle!

Friday, 13 September 2013

I don't do floors

The planned trip to Sutton Lane along the lock-free Upper Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals was aborted due to bad weather. There was also some uncertainty as to whether our new rescue dog, Rocky the greyhound, would need more time to settle into our house routine before tackling life aboard. The weather had the final say but we had thought maybe a little spin to Bugsworth Basin or Whaley would provide some familiarisation and lifeboat training. But even this was abandoned due to quite heavy rain that had not been forecast by the Met Office.

Fair weather sailors we may be, and in the end an afternoon snooze (grown-ups and doggies) and the fitting of the DAB radio was all we could manage. Except there is no DAB coverage at our mooring in Furness Vale! We were at least able to play our music downloads through the speaker system which runs throughout the boat.

We just couldn't keep Rocky off the fixed seating and a website for greyhounds suggests that they just 'don't do sleeping on floors.' Funny because Jem was just the same when we got her. After the first night, we found her trying to sleep on a hard backed dining chair instead of the fluffy dog bed we had provided. Now, of course, she is too elderly to jump up on sofas like the young Rock star but we keep reminding her that, at his age, she was just as annoying. 

After a visit to the vets for micro-chipping which was also abandoned due to Rocky's extreme reaction, we've all just about had enough for one day. So we will now settle down with a fire and a glass of something chilled to watch Harry H. Corbett in the 1964 canal-based film called The Bargee. It is only thanks to someone tweeting that Brian of Alton (coalboat) bears more than a passing resemblance to this famous Steptoe and Son actor, that we discovered the film. 

Monday, 9 September 2013

Rocky Rescued

Hi, this is Jemma the dog here. For once I can get on the laptop to write on my own blog! Understand that there may be the odd spelling mistake which can be credited to my poor education and fat paws.

Today we went to collect the gorgeous Rocky from 'Just For Dogs' near Brailsford, Derbyshire. This is a rescue centre run by a dedicated team of people who clearly are all about getting their dogs re-homed rather than turning decent people away because they don't happen to have a side gate to their garden (this is a true story by the way!) Just for Dogs are wonderful with those homeless hounds who are on 'death row'. As I was myself awaiting execution at Green Lane Kennels Tutbury, way back in 1999 when I was adopted, this is a most miserable state of affairs that I know about. 

Rocky is a handsome fellow. At 2 years old he is a typically laid back whippet/greyhound. I have had to put him in his place a couple of times for getting over familiar! No one of my age appreciates being humped. He needs to show respect for the dignity of an elderly lady like me - but all the signs are good. Although do we look a bit like little and large, I think we may become good friends. 

There is a rumour of a possible weekend on Narrowboat Princess Lucy. This will depend on how Rocky settles into the house first and whether we can live in a really small space together at such an early stage of our relationship. It could be interesting as we could easily fall over each other (or all fall in the canal), or better still, tip the Captain overboard. 

But Rocky is an elegant, dainty footed, narrow dog, and therefore should be suited to a narrowboat. 

If we do go away, I'll no doubt blog about it here.

(More pictures below)

Monday, 2 September 2013

Shirkers, Staly-Vegas and the addition of lace

Staly-Vegas, all at peace in the sunshine
Our plans to spend a couple of days in Manchester changed a little when our "lock crew," especially recruited for the 18 Ashton canal locks into Manchester, cried off. Maybe it was the advice to be ready for all weathers, hard work, to be prepared for grease marks on clothes and strictly no high heels, that finally scared them off. In the end, we all bottled it. Especially Jemma who had been pacing up and down for a solid 4 hours down the Marple flight. 

So having dropped down the 16 locks from Marple, we reached Dukinfield junction, but instead of heading West to Manchester, we thought we might go East, on the Huddersfield Canal. Ever the adventurers, we had no idea what lay ahead. 

The first lock on the Huddersfield was protected with anti-vandal straps and this was really the first time we had used, in anger, the (Midland Chandlers) handcuff keys. All went well on the bottom gates, but on the top gate paddle straps, the outside diameter of the key was greater than the hole it had to go in! Ten minutes furious filing and swearing sorted it and we were on our way arriving in Stalybridge late that afternoon.

Only a boating trip would include somewhere like Stalybridge in the travel itinerary, and we knew nothing about the place. Our ignorance intact, we set off that evening on the Manchester train to meet our very glamorous "shirker lock crew" friends. It was a mere 14 minutes by train into the impressive Victoria Station.On the way back around ten, we wondered why everyone seemed to heading out of Manchester on our train. When they all got off with us, the penny dropped.
Portuguese Lace Door Curtain bought in Bridport

On the platform at Stalybridge a girl told us, “Did ya know they call it Staleh-Vegas? Ya guaranteed a good night here.”

Staly-Vegas is a strange place. It is an old mill town that having been very prosperous during the industrial revolution is now struggling with its identity. Apparently the plan was to develop a kind of 'cafe culture' in the town but clearly that didn't work out given the number of cans that litter the tow path. The prettiest thing by far is the canal which around 2000, was restored through the town centre where it had been culverted. (In fact we met a council worker who had been responsible for much of the culverting a few locks further up.) We hadn’t planned to go much further, but it took all of one day to travel up from Stalybridge to the water point and then beyond lock 12 to wind (having failed so closely at the entrance to Scout tunnel).

More vintage lace recently added
The rest of Stalybridge is unremarkable excepting that it has a shop advertising "tripe and sandwiches". Now there's a vegetarian nightmare. More than half of the town centre shops are boarded up, and as we were advised there is a vibrant night-life, with the noise and mess that goes with it.We did enjoy a boogie on deck to Michael Jackson. Well it would have been rude not to.

On our way up for water, in the pound between locks 9 and 10, we passed a boat heading West. Our first mate took the boat into lock 10. But the Captain of the boat we had passed remained at the previous lock. “A boat was sunk in that lock, lock 9, last week. If she gets into trouble, I can flush some water down from here.” Now it took us a while to fathom what he was rattling on about. But, yes, two boats in the last couple of years have sunk in lock 9.

Marple Crew
It seems that the bottom gates leak badly, the top gates are fairly OK. So if the pound is already low, there is a fair chance of running aground as you enter (or leave) the lock. If this is the case, with the bottom gates leaking badly, there is then only a few minutes before the water will stop entering the lock, and the lock will then drain. The boat is not so much sunk, as dry docked at about 20 degrees! There are some links here HERE to the previous events, (note: these are not for the faint hearted).

We met our (entirely cheerful and reliable) Marple crew at Marple bottom lock, and after a quick spin back over Marple Aqueduct and through Hyde Tunnel, we huffed and puffed our way up the locks. At lock 12, the Captain’s little finger was mangled between the balance beam and the windlass. Captain did a little dance in sort of clockwise circles, his right hand between his legs. He chanted words that must have been Anglo-Saxon, but did he complain at all over the next 2 days about his bruised and throbbing finger? 

It is good to do locks ... occasionally. It makes you appreciate the Macclesfield Canal and the UPPER Peak Forest. After rocking it in Staly-Vegas and avoiding the potential horrors of lock 9, Furness Vale is going to seem very pedestrian.