Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Mercia Me

On the 27th we stumbled in blinding rain into Willington. We tied up there for 2 nights - right outside The Dragon pub.

On the second day (people who work say this was a bank holiday) the Captain, with the help of family, and a 2 hour plus bus journey, fetched the car down from Furness Vale.

His reward was a splendid meal in the popular Dragon. We left the boat at 7.44 for our 7.45 table and we were on time. This is an award winning establishment and was full to the rafters with good reason.

On the following day (not a bank holiday) Mercia Marina offices reopened. We left The Dragon with shopping from the well stocked Co op and cruised into Mercia in full sunshine.

This feels like being in a small town of boats or camping at Glastonbury. When all you can see is water and various craft, it is weird.  Anyway there are over 600 boats including a number of wide beams and dutch barges. We like it and it's in complete contrast to the sleepy hillside marina that is Furness Vale.

In less than 24 hours we have been visited by family, Chrissie and Chris, then today Leigh, Ali and Lucy. We are much nearer to our nearest and dearest for this reason will probably give up Furness Vale and stay around here.

One thing is for certain. We don't stand a chance in the best decorated boat competition. We are moored on one of the many piers with not one but two Eiffel Towers.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

The Lingering Threat of a Mince Pie

We are still feeling bloated from all the delicious food and drink provided by our generous Christmas hosts, Elaine and David. But who cares if we now have to wear harem pants? It was hugely enjoyable and the Christmas lunch of Indian takeaway dishes of all our favourite things was a genius idea.
We left Alrewas on Boxing day but not before exploring the iron bridges which span the marshes of the River Trent. We paddled across a field back into the prettiest part of the villiage, soft and mellow, with its old cotton mill and 13th century church.
Christmas Day. Jonesey's friend Roly
It was a lovely mild, fresh and breezy cruise into Burton. We tied up on Shobnall Fields which turned out to be good moorings. The old Shobnall rec has been transformed into a tidy park for Jonesy to play ball in, complete with running tracks and tennis courts. We laid on a  Boxing day buffet for Dawn and Craig and it was all very civilised being set in the remnants of a Victorian arboretum. This part of town does have a reputation and one of our party has been mugged on this tow path. So it goes beyond rumour.
When we went to bed, there had been talk of us being hacked to death in our bed for the sake of a ten quid hit.  However, the reality was that we spent a peaceful night and were not even troubled by noise from the A38. Captain left the boat keys on the roof all night so that we and the boat might have easily been pirated. We weren't. The dual carriageway is horrible. Planners allowed the builders to carve up what was the civic gift of a leafy space for the town's brewery workers. Some trees survive but there used to be a bandstand where the road is and long gone is the paddling pool that was a focal point on sunny days.
We were both born here and spent most of our adult lives pretty much in this place. So it was very evocative to bring Princess Lucy back to our home. First mate walked the streets for an hour this morning and every step released a memory of  childhood,  teenage years and being a young mum delivering Leigh to his first school in Grange Street. Some of the streets are looking even more shabby than when we lived in Wellington Street. Wendy's Wool Shop is now a Sari emporium but the area survives, just about, thanks to its Asian entrepreneurs.
We are told that there is a big drug problem on Waterloo Street but the biggest nuisance seem to be the need for black and blue wheelie bins which have to live permanently on the pavement.
We have left Burton now and are moored outside The Dragon in Willington. In contrast, this holds no significance whatsoever.
Refective mood over.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015


We have to retract our damning of Rugeley. This morning the sun shone brightly on this decent little town. It is hardly the citizens' fault that they were shafted by Thatcher and had their pits closed.
In the huge canal side Tesco, the people were smiley and good natured. They didn't look poor, not judging by their trollies as they went about their Christmas shop. We didn't see any obvious heroin users as we did in Staybridge.
But it was hectic with longish queues as is normal for a couple of days before the holidays. We have been in similar situations in Burton's Tesco where if you accidentally make eye  contact there is a palpable threat of violence.  Not so in Rugeley. We've never encountered such polite and patient shoppers.
The meal was also very good in Terrazza although we puzzled over the waitor's insistence that all meals are 'cooked to order.'  Is there any other possibility in a restaurant? Only kebab and chip shops have food cooked in advance of their customers requests.
We left Rugeley feeling much more disposed to the place although Jim was quite right - even the charity shops were terrible. And it comes to something when they have to close down Poundland (closing on January 9th).
We are now moored in Fradley. It is pitch black and The Swan looks inviting but we are meant to be having an alcohol free healthy night with dinner on board.
* Please note that the above views are not necessarily those of the Captain. Surely a cheeky one in the Swan would be alright? And if the beer tastes bad, we could wash it down later with some Princess Lucy wine.
Blogging will no doubt be suspended for a few festive days, but we WILL be back.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Ranking Rugeley

We awoke this morning in the middle of nowhere. There was a towpath and some fields - you may have been there. The weather was predicted to be very heavy rain after lunch, so we cracked on to Rugely, and tied up as the heavens opened.
Mr Pearson in his canal guide says of Rugeley, "It is difficult to escape the impression that life here is lived on the cheap." First Mate visited both Boots, Poundland and ambled around the town in the rain. On her return she said, "That was a load of wank." So not a lot of favourable comments thus far.
What it is good for, is Supermarkets close to the canal. Tesco and Morrisons are in fact separated only by the canal, and it will be (on the 23rd) our last chance for food shopping before Christmas.
Tonight we will give Rugeley a second chance eating out at "Terazza." It is number two for the area on Trip Advisor.  However it may well turn out to be like coming second in the beauty competition where the pig came first.
We are possibly being inconsistent, after singing the praises of an equally run down Stoke, However, our views may be unduly coloured by the incessant rain, and paddling through copious mud on the tow path.
First mate says it will all look better after she has straightened her hair and had a glass of fizz.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Captain's Reflections 0n Unexpected Pleasures

Our friend Melinda sent me a birthday card with the image of  a very young girl. She was spray painting  'Fuck off Banksy' on a wall.

Then something occurred to me yesterday and this insight is unlikely to be found in libraries alongside books of Plato and Aristotle. No, this is a much simpler thought. The thing is, there is and has been for a while now a general "improvement" in canal infrastructure. Take Gas St Basin, Liverpool, Stalybridge town centre, many modern marinas, and so on. They are attractive to both boaters and visitors, but - and this is my point - are these developments ripping the soul and history out of the network?
We came through Stoke the other day - somewhere mostly unaffectred by "improvement" and we loved it. It was fascinating with all its layers of history visible: rusty bits and decaying concrete from the last 100 years; from before that there were older blue bricked branches sometimes leading somewhere, sometimes nowhere.
Some of the nicest town centres are now those unaffected by visits from Mr Arndale and Mr Westfield. I hope the canals will not be totally shafted by similar developments. Congleton, for example, may lack an M&S but it retains its essential character with its Georgian town houses. Who cares if it's colononised by pound shops. Stone, where we are happily moored for the night, is also a very attractive and historic town which is still is  interesting. Bland and corporate it isn't.
Time for another Absinth.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Captain's Cocktail Party

It's the Captain's birthday and rather generously, friends, Karen and Paul, arrived in Etruria last night laden with gifts. This included a bottle of champagne. Well it would be rude not to.
We had a walk round Etruria this morning and then set off down the Stoke flight. We stayed dry and yet again there wasn't another moving boat. So it was all very laid back. It was a pleasure to happen on the legend that is 'Rob the Lock'. He wasn't able to assist is on this occasion because he was off, in his Santa hat, to do Christmas shopping. Good to see his friendly face none the less.
Right, we now have a mad scramble to get into our cocktail dresses for this evening's celebrations. Chrissie and Chris will be joining us for dinner at The Plume of Feathers in Barlaston. We just happen to be moored right outside. Perfect.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Stoked up in Stoke

Princess Lucy at Harecastle Tunnel
The very clement December weather, with temperatures well into the teens has caused major confusion on Princess Lucy. We expect, especially in December, to light the stove quite early and enjoy warming the mince pies on the top of it. Well, we did light the stove last night, but it was quickly unbearable. Just as well captain had clean y-fronts.
We were advised not to tie up near the tunnel entrance overnight. "You'll probably be stoned," the lone boater told us the day before. But we woke this morning quite unaffected.
Princess Lucy was the only boat booked to go through the Harecastle Tunnel today - in fact we have not met another moving boat in the last three days.
It is Friday afternoon and we are now tied up at Etruria and our concerns as to whether the bottom Stoke lock, taken out of service some weeks ago, would be repaired in time for our passage tommorow, were ill founded: it is done.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Sunset over Lock 12

Today we expected to battle tempests on our cruise from Macclesfield down the Bosley flight. It is December after all, but the reality was rather different.  The weather was benign and we even saw the sun. Typical of the British climate, it felt like Spring. It was a hassle free trip, with an overflowing canal and full pounds, locks filled and drained quickly and this speeded our progress. 

We were the only moving boat on that stretch of canal today, and those who didn't venture out missed a treat. As we meandered out of lock 12 and on to our Dane aqueduct mooring, we cruised into a glorious sunset.

It feels like we are hundreds of miles from the Christmas shoppers that we saw jostling in Macclesfield yesterday.

All is peaceful and it's pasta and Prosecco time on board Princess Lucy.

Monday, 14 December 2015

The Fire is so Delightful...

It is the end of day 2 of this trip, and we are an hour ahead of schedule and tied up in one if our favourite spots close to the gigantic AstroZenica plant in Macclesfield. This always makes us think of James Bond. You can easily imagine some underground rocket making enterprise beneath its vast and sprawling edifice. There is the occasional sighting of a white-coated person moving from building to building. What do they make here? Who knows?
One hour ahead translates to nothing really, as our Harecastle Tunnel passage is booked for Friday morning at 8.30. So there is no gain, save an extra hour in bed... maybe.
Last night we ate at Murillo's in Marple, tonight first-mate is rustling up a mushroom risotto. It is all about settling in to the trip now and working round the precious few hours of daylight. We need to be moored up by 4 at the latest.

Jonesy's evening walk is on an unlit tow path. But we knew all this and planned to eat dinner earlier, go to bed earlier, and get up by first light. However, we are very bad at doing the sensible thing. So the likelihood is that we'll that we will fail in all of these.
The weather has been kind today (unlike yesterday) and looks reasonable for the next few days.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Oh the weather outside is frightful ...

As with many of our ideas, they are often formed at a distance from the proposed outcome. Cruising for three whole weeks around Christmas had its appeal at the planning stage when the weather was warmer, the winds calmer and the nights longer. The imagined scene was of cruising on bright, crisp mornings, rising from the cabin to a light frosting of snow.  And cosy evenings, mulled wine in hand, toasting crumpets on a log fire. Then there were the long, fresh, breezy walks with Mr Jones to the nearest pub. It all added up to something that looked like a Christmas TV advert.

Oh dear. How reality bites. For weeks now, we have experienced freak storms, gales, continual rain and the plan is now looking, even by our standards, rather foolhardy. Especially with large parts of the North suffering from major floods. What is the chance of us getting onto the Trent? We face being marooned in the middle of nowhere.  But the alternative was infinitely more scary. Staying in, safely tucked up watching 'Homes Under the Hammer, or the Christmas Special of 'Flog It.' Only time will tell if we have made the right decision.

Last weekend we ventured out in 25mph winds with 50mph gusts. We only went a couple of miles to Whaley Bridge for a cheeky overnight curry where we met friends Tracey and Mark. It all worked well, and we also found time to decorate the boat, including a real Christmas tree that withstood its first battering. We even had a bit of a dance around the saloon after a couple of sherries.

The boat is stashed with wine, logs, presents and chocolate. Brian (of Alton) has topped up our diesel and filled the coal bunkers. We are all set for a Sunday afternoon start but not without trepidation.

The route is from Furness Vale to Marple on the Peak Forest Canal, to Stoke on the Macclesfield Canal, to Burton on Trent on the Trent and Mersey (briefly crossing he Trent) and finally into Mercia Marina for two or three months after Christmas. God willing.

We might live to regret invoking that song in our title - 'Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.'

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Hey Fiddley Dee a Fettling Life for Me

Summer may be over but we make regular visits to Princess Lucy to keep her warm and aired. We had a glorious autumnal weekend cruise to Marple and drank in the colours of of next millennial's oil.

We are now busy with projects to improve the interior of Princess Lucy. She's 15 years old and, like dog years, this takes her firmly outside of the first flush of youth. There is no kind way of putting it. She is old. Having got over our envy of new boats, when we realised our quickly they can deteriorate, we decided to give her some love. Shiny new boats can only get worse: Princess Lucy can only get better. So the rewards are clear.

The inside windows are looking glamourous, now trimmed with newly carved bottom corner pieces (16 of them). They are longer, wider, and cover stubborn water stains so that the windows look almost new.

Apart from the paint job, the things that make a boat look old  are mossy window frames and water stained curtains. The interior ash cladding still looks good but the windows needed some work.

In terms of updating the interior, we have replaced the fixed seating cushion covers and will make matching saloon curtains. Armed with 14 metres of fabric from John Lewis and our brilliant (£45) Ikea sewing machine, we have made a start and today we tried out the cushions (or rather Jonesy did). We wanted a fresh, modern and vaguely nautical feel. They are basically loose throws fixed with a number of ties at the back so that they can be easily removed and washed.

The cotton fabric is reminiscent of sail cloth and feels nicer than the nylon horrors that we inherited. We are all about the tactile and the texture of things.  We managed a wee snooze on the new covers purely to test the comfort and slippage. It went well apart from  Jonesy taking up 75% of the space as usual.

The next stage is to renew the inside rear hatch timber which is very badly water damaged. Captain also set about this yesterday, discovering that 1/4" faced ply is simply glued and pinned to 3/4" ply, which is presumably glued to the hatch. The 3/4" ply can stay, and so the job should be fairly straightforward.

We can't wait for our next weekend away on the boat.  Our friend Tracey Tragen will join us from Manchester to help dress Princess Lucy for Christmas.

Since we will be spending best part of 3 weeks taking her down to Alrewas,  Burton on Trent and then Willington, all our decorations will be on the boat this year: Our house will have nothing.

We have to have everything ready for  departure on December 13th, jobs completed, cupboards restocked, wine cellar replenished, decorations and Christmas presents on board.

Nothing can go wrong... well ... so long as we make it to Harecastle Tunnel on one of the few days it is open before Christmas; and so long as the Canal and River Trust get the Stoke flight open again for December 18th; and so long as the Trent is not in flood between Wychnor and Alrewas; and so long as ... well you get the drift!

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Oxalic Acid

Now there's a dreary sounding blog title, and it will indeed be backed up by a fairly dreary blog. So if you would prefer a blog about golden autumn leaves falling patiently and unnoticed in the evening and touching before they collapse into the blackened canal, then you would be better off googling Keats or Blake or someone more interesting.

For those of you left, we will begin at the beginning.

Now NB Princess Lucy is around 15 years old and some of the inner ash window trims have suffered a little with water damage. This is only through condensation, but over time those nasty black marks have grown and they don't look pretty.

First, I tried sanding them out, but the marks were too deep. Plan B was to renew all the trim. I made one window trim (the smallest) which took a good day and made plans to do the rest. At one a week it would be done well before Christmas.

Before you could say Screwfix a new plan evolved. Enter Jim Cook (of Chertsey fame - and many other boats). He suggested Oxalic Acid. What?

Well, according to You Tube, Canal World, and other popular sites that have the answer to everything (I didn't check mumsnet), oxalic acid will indeed remove water marks from wood! So armed with a kilogram of the (fairly nasty) stuff, I set about the second window.

The results are shown below. It is not going to pass as brand new, but I think it will do, and hopefully as I progress through the boat there will be the usual learning curve and those windows more on display (saloon and galley), will look better still.

Hopefully which picture is before, and which is after, is obvious!

The new (clear) varnish has left the wood a little lighter than before, but a weakish mixture of some coloured varnish I use for making pine look like ash should help here.  (It is a 50/50 mix of beech and medium oak varnishes).

Tomorrow, we will try the trims on the boat and First-Mate will raise her hand into the air, and the thumb will either go up - for Jim's Acid Method, hereafter called "JAM", or thumb down - for a winter chained in the garage, planing, and choking on sawdust.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Back Home

On Friday we were moored alongside the beautiful Dane Aqueduct in readiness for Bosley. Jonesy was quite poorly having hoovered up all the remnants of Congleton's fast food outlets the day before. He'd been sick in the night and just ate grass, looking sorry for himself.

So we were apprehensive about climbing the flight, although it passed relatively easily and as you look back down, the countryside is stunning as it slips away from you. 

We made good time in getting up the 12 locks, aided by a fair few boats coming down. We did it all in under two hours. Jones had cheered up by the time we got to the top, and after a lunch stop we pushed on to The Gurnett Aqueduct, another favourite place, and had dinner at Sutton Hall.

Saturday we cruised, lock and bridge free, into Marple. We left Jonesy barking to go for our last dinner at Marple Spice. He'd had a great run round the park and we knew he was knackered. When we got back he came to greet us from the direction of our cabin, and although you never actually catch him on the bed, the warm patch on Captain's tee shirt, laid out as bait, confirmed where he'd been sleeping. We let this go pretending we hadn't detected the transgression. He knows he is not allowed on the bed but it's his minor protest for being left.

The other surprise from this long trip is that despite having 8 static days, and average hours per (moving) day as low as 3 hrs 20mins, we still seem to have had very little spare time. The idea of reading lots of books is a joke. Not a page has been turned. We did finished re-watching the epic Jewel in the Crown, which is a richer experience every time.

Today is Sunday, and assuming the relatively short run from Marple to Furness Vale goes OK (it did), we will be home after 31 nights away. This is the longest holiday we have ever done, and the, perhaps surprising, news is that neither of us has killed the other. We are still speaking and still have things to say which is quite remarkable. Going home feels like the end of the summer even though it's not quite over.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Rode Heath to rain soaked Red Bull

Yesterday we left Rode Heath in full sunshine just before noon. We knew the afternoon weather forecast was heavy rain, so we set off  to tackle the 13 locks. The rain was not so bad, except for the last two locks in the Red Bull flight, where we did get soaked. Our spirits took a dive when we saw the queue to go up and rain made everything difficult, slippery and especially dangerous.

After Red Bull, the rain cleared, and it was then a gentle hour's cruising to Scholar Green and to dinner at the friendly Rising Sun.

Today was less ambitious, with no locks and under three hours cruise to the bottom of the Bosley flight which we will tackle tomorrow. We stopped off and walked into Congleton to explore somewhere we have only passed through before.

It's an interesting town with some attractive old buildings. The Weatherspoons is in a particularly historic and impressive former hotel/bank. The ladies toilets still boasts an open fireplace which probably hasn't been lit for many years. The town is lined with charity and bargain basement outlets. Symptomatic of many former trading towns, Congleton has retained its High Street character, but has failed to keep any proper shops. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy that pushes its residents out to shop in the bigger cities and malls.

We are cruising now towards The Dane Aqueduct having rescued Jonesy. He was trusted off lead on the stern for 5 minutes and in this time managed to jump ship in a bridge hole to have a go at another dog. Captain abandoned the tiller and scooped him up in a flash. Jonesy is in bad books now.

Captain's spreadsheet shows we have completed 106 locks on this trip so far. No wonder we are all wasting away! Tonight we will debate, again, whether we should have a night off the alcohol. I think the discussion would be better had over a drink. Captain's argument is that we need the calories.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Night Manoeuvres and a Sun Streaked Wheelock

It's been good to have a busy and sociable few days as we begin to make our way back home. As usual we are taking our time with stopovers at Middlewich and Wheelock to meet friends. We moored next to a busy road in Middlewich. However, this had the dual advantage of being away from the chaos of the hire boats, many for the first time negotiating a difficult junction and locks

Rod and Sue, our neighbours were kind enough to bring post and essential supplies like Bellini and truffles. Much appreciated. After cocktails, we dined at The Kings Lock pub. Rated highly on Trip Advisor and rated even more highly by us. It has a small menu but everything tasted fantastic. Captain sat staring out of the window at the lock, wondering if that day's (and his first) dropped windlass might jump back out of the lock. It didn't.

Following some reckless night boating by the Captain and Rod, we were later able to move the boat and reverse into our assigned drop off point for the next morning's Ocado delivery (Kings Lock Chippy).

The next day we got to Wheelock and enjoyed a day sitting round in the sunshine with old friends David and Elaine who came to find us for lunch. They brought us some impressive home grown vegetables and tomatoes. So we will avoid scurvy after all. Man cannot live on chocolate alone.

Jonesy got the chance to run and play with Roly and he really enjoyed that too. Roly is such a character and puts Jones, the whippersnapper, in his place. It's funny to see Jones meet his match. He might out run him but he is never going to outsmart Roly.

The sun is beginning to dip behind the trees. It's a gorgeous evening and time for a stroll to the locks and then a snifter before dinner.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

What Goes Around

When I was small, we had our groceries delivered each week. This was in addition to separate deliveries for meat, milk and bread. The deliveries were from the neighbouring village of Tutbury from Parrick's the grocers there.

On a Friday evening, Mr Parrick and his assistant (whose name I cannot remember - but we will call her Miss Roberts) arrived on our road. Mr Parrick, appropriately - I now realise, visited our wealthier neighbours, whilst we had Miss Roberts. Miss Roberts took down the grocery order from my mum, although the most exciting bit, well for me, was being allowed something from her sweet basket.

On the Saturday, Mr McGiven arrived with the groceries. I must have asked why he smelt funny, as I wouldn't have known then what stale beer smelt like. I remember him sitting at our table, smoking his pipe and saucering his tea, whilst my mum checked off the order.

Ocado delivery in Middlewich
It seems we have now come full circle. For the last nine years, we have been using Ocado for our grocery deliveries, and we wonder why we ever had to suffer with actual supermarket shopping, especially the time it wasted.

On our boat, we are very slowly becoming more confident with the Ocado delivery, but this week using our mobile data connections proved very frustrating. We wasted hours watching blank screens. 

Where was Miss Roberts when we needed her?

Of course we now realise we should have done the entire order in a pub. The penny dropped last night on our return trip to The Badger at Church Minshull, with its open WiFi.

We ate again in the slighty gloomy Tap Room. This time Jonesy was uninterested in the stuffed badger. 

There were just a handful of people in the only 'dog friendly' room. A couple at the bar; two boating lads who couldn't afford a map book and had only a vague idea where they were and where they were going. And in the corner, on his own, an older man with an unlit pipe. Could it be Mr McGiven with his pint of mild?

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Barbridge Revisited

Last night, after 5 days of Chester, we aimed for countryside. We doubled up with another boat in the five Chester locks and chatted pleasantly as they filled. We ended up somewhere near Tarporley - well, that was where the weather app tuned into.

By now it was way after 8pm and we saw the sun setting on Beeston Castle. With the inside boat temperature approaching 30C, putting the oven on to cook salmon seemed unreasonable. We suddenly remembered we had bought a folding barbeque but never expected to actually use it. In absolute peace and quiet, we cooked and ate dinner on deck. The sun dipped into the canal and the evening cooled dramatically.

Today, we both woke after 9.30, but still managed to complete another mammoth 3 hour stint. We have no idea where we are, but there are ducks and we are past Barbridge Junction (towards Middlewich). It's all vaguely familiar as we are now retracing our pathway back up towards the Macclesfield canal and to home. - eventually. 

We'll have a quiet night inside tonight. It's rainy, gloomy and feels very unlike last night's dragonfly-filled balm.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The Leaving of Chester

On Friday evening we arrived in Chester and have been here for 5 nights, staying longer than planned. It hit us that this is part of the dual privilege of owning our our boat and the luxury of a month long trip with flexibility. 

We have had visits from family and friends and the weather has been hot and sunny. Amanda popped over for dinner from the Wirral on Saturday and we happened to be moored outsid her favourite pizza restaurant. Dawn and Craig came and stayed over in the nearby Premier Inn. We did plan to leave on Tuesday, but as we have a relatively easy run to Middlewich, where we need to be on Saturday, we stayed an extra day.

A another first (for us), whilst in Chester, has been a grocery delivery from Ocado. Although we are surrounded by supermarkets, first-mate decided she needed some bed linen only available from Ocado. We picked the nearest business (on Steam Mill Street) and put notes on the order explaining exactly where we were. It worked like a dream. Now, brimming with confidence, we are to go for attempt two next weekend in Middlewich. If it all goes wrong, Kings Lock Chippy will get our delivery.

The other night we bumped into fellow bloggers "AmyJo", who were tied up a couple of hundred yards behind us. They are about to tackle the Manchester Ship Canal, so we chatted about that, and paint, and other boaty things.

By comparison we are realitively inexperienced at going places other than our usual route. We have loved being in a beautiful city like Chester and just ambling into the shops. We had a gorgeous walk round the city walls. We actually feel like tourists - but ones with our own hotel. 

We really do have to go today. Jones' opportunities for scavenging street food are over for the time being but we'll be back.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Bunbury to Barton Rouge

Yesterday the Captain's sister and her husband paid us a visit in Bunbury, and as they often do they brought stunning weather. We sat on deck at the bottom of Tilstone Lock and after pre-dinner cocktails, dined out at the impressive Dysart Arms. This is a converted flagstoned farmhouse in the cinematic Cheshire village of Bunbury. We had booked for 4 adults and one terrier.
But Mr Jones wasn't just tolerated, he was provided with his own bowl of water and three doggie biscuits on a napkin. It was the best service he's had anywhere. He has requested that we go back on our return leg.
This morning began again with clear blue sky and we mooched to, and past, Beeston Castle in one of the prettiest stretches of canal we have seen.
The plan was to stop for the night near, at, or in, The Cheshire Cat, but, conscious of the preparations to be made in advance of our weekend guests, we pushed on down the last 5 locks into Chester.
Weary but triumphant, we tied up outside the Barton Rouge Indian restaurant. The aromas were enticing. We chatted to friendly waiters and chefs larking about outside, who laughingly offered to deliver. So we cracked up and ordered a take-away (or take-out, or carry-out, depending on where you live). This was a first for Princess Lucy because we don't do takeaways preferring to either cook or eat out. However, it seemed to be rude not to. The food was good and it was a very easy option given how tired we are.
The restaurant kitchen's extractor fan is directly facing our boat, so we may need to adjust our position. Or we could just drink it all in.

* We did move - but not until the fifth night! For some reason, the relatively empty Chester visitor moorings had gone from nearly empty to nearly full, but we found another spot. I then saw a boat that was clearly looking for somewhere to tie up and suggested they could go where we had come from. I did shout warning him about the kitchen extractor fan. A passer by assumed I was being racist - and commented "Ah - you don't want to live next to them then!" I was speechless, and still am. But I must admit to being restaurantextractorfan-ist.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Uses for a Lifebelt (Part 2)

Back in 2013, we blogged about uses for a lifebelt. At the time we were using our lifebelt to keep glasses of wine secure. The gist of the blog was that when space is tight, which on a 45' narrowboat it certainly is, then it is helpful if items can perform multiple functions.
The latest use for the lifebelt, and we have plagiarised here - a skill the Captain has always valued - is as a bed for Jonesy. The picture shows clearly the arrangement as copied from another boat with a similar sized terrier. Jonesy just needs the confidence to use it without falling off the side.
Last night we ate at The Badger pub in Church Minshull. The food was superb, and the only problem was the stuffed badger on the mantle-piece.  It looked fiercesome, as if it was ready to bite. Another first for little Jonesy who started to growl in his most threatening voice. 'Back off Badge,' he said.
Conflict management was required and to resolve the issue, Captain held him up so he could see it was dead and not a threat. After much sniffing of the coat which moved like the real coat it actually was, Jonesy was unsure, but offered Mr Badger a tentative kiss. Unrecipricated, Jonesy slunk back under the table. The walk back through a wild wood got him very excited. He was hoping to meet the live version, but to no avail.
All in all, the crew had a lovely evening, ending in drinking wine and watching episode 5 of The Affair, set in the glorious Hamptons. It stars Dominic West and Ruth Wilson, Brits who have to affect American accents. Their numerous illicit encounters involve a blatant disregard for matters of personal hygiene. This is mildly irritating as is Wilson's pouting which is reminscent of a carp taking its final gasp.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Different Strokes

On Sunday afternoon, we tied up for lunch just beyond the deafening M6. It was the only place really, else we would have been pitched into the next series of locks.
As we untied after lunch, the unmistakable bow of Chertsey thundered around the corner and quickly caught and overtook us.
To aid their progress they also had assistance from the enterprising "Rob the Lock" and the 26 locks from Kidsgrove must have been completed in record time.
We ambled into Wheelock, a good half hour or more after them. Rocky and Jonesy were reacquainted , and we dined outside together at the canalside Italian. It was a warm evening, and the food and carafes of wine felt almost continental.
The next time we saw Chertsey's monstrous bow was through bleary eyes. Peeping through our cabin curtains at the deathly hour of 7am the monster boat was on the move. Even though all available crew were drinking quite late, Chertsey's version of Whacky Races began another day. Why? We kept asking ourselves but it wouldn't do for us all to be the same. We've perfected a lazy lifestyle on board. Sarah and Jim are supreme warriers battling through an insane number of locks each day on their punishing schedule.
On Monday afternoon we tootled into Middlewich, and were serviced by Martin on the very tidy Fuel Boat Halsall. Top bloke. Top service.
Martin on Halsall
The idea was to stay in Middlewich for 2 nights, but the town centre seems closed and forlorn.  There are no shops to excite First Mate, who was hoping for new pyjamas. The town seemed made up of beauty parlours and funeral parlours. So we concluded that Middlewich must have the best groomed bodies dead or alive.

We will now move to the next village and find its pub.

Saturday, 1 August 2015


The 1967 Bond film, You Only Live Twice, begins with an unknown orbiting space ship closing in on its much smaller nemesis. It's jaws open and the smaller, and slower American ship is swallowed whole.

For the last few days we have been chased by something similar. This is the bigger (almost twice our length) and faster (around 3 times the hours we do each day) Chertsey, a 1937 71'6" Woolwich. 

Current predictions show contact in less than 24 hours, possibly around Wheelock. We are scared, very scared.
Seriously, we look forward to Chertsey catching up with us. We could all use more Rocky love. And, of course, it will be nice to see more of Jim and Sarah.

Today, moored in Rode Heath, we were honoured by a visit from Leigh, Alison and Princess Lucy.The weather did its best to spoil the afternoon, but we are made of sterner stuff. Not quite daft enough to proceed with the BBQ, we had lunch inside. 

However, in some cheeky heavy showers we descended the Thurlwood locks. Princess Lucy had the good sense to stay inside and keep Jonesy entertained.

It's always refreshing to have little Lucy's perspective on our boat. She exclaims that 'the best thing ever' is our battery powered colour changing moon candles. Cheers Luc.

Friday, 31 July 2015

The Answer is Blowin in the Wind

This is the first time we have attempted to go away for longer than two weeks. Our trip should last a month. We are reasonably organised and self sufficient but must face the problem of what to do about laundry. As a liveaboard confirmed, the issue isn't the washing, it's the drying.
Well today, we had the chance to put our eco-powered clothes dryer to the test. Using only sun and wind and some rigging in the side hatch, the washing dried. But then people have used this method forever. It's just arranging things on a small boat that presents the challenge. It worked well and dried a Candy load.
The only snag was, that we dare not leave the hatch open in deep locks with ancient walls that often leak. And as we did 13 locks today, the drying time was limited.
We are now tied up at Rode Heath ready to meet Leigh , Ali, and Lucy tomorrow. It's been a sunny day, we are pleasantly knackered and have had a good dinner aboard. The big dilemma of this evening is whether to try a night without wine. Surely there must be laws forbidding such nonsense? As the sun sets over the canalside reed beds and the moorhens cease their headstands, it seems wrong.
Something else that is wrong is that we have inadvertently tied up opposite a winding hole which is the canal equivalent of parking on a slip road. Captain has ventured out to see if we can move Princess Lucy to a more agreeable spot. It's almost dark and we are now moving backwards but for how long?
*Captain's note.
(1) Tied up nicely now opposite the Broughton Arms.
(2) When side hatch is open - also beware of CaRT strimmer men!
(3) Wine is poured. (I checked the rule book)

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Easy Day For Lazy Bones

Today was an easy day. Woke up at nearly 10 with just 3 hours cruising ahead of us. We travelled from the River Dane aqueduct down to Hall Green. No locks, no bridges. Oh, and sunshine!
We got a little over excited seeing a sliver of blue sky. The side hatch was thrown open and the Candy washed washing, which was now able to be hung in the breeze and the sun, dried much quicker.
We have just eaten out, accompanied by Mr Jones, at the unremarkable (that is an understatement) Bleeding Wolf Hotel. Fish pie never looked or tasted like that before. We sat shivering in the conservatory by an open door. It is quite cool by now so we put the cork back in the wine, stuffed the bottle in Mr Jones blankie, came back to Princess Lucy and lit the fire. Shortly we' ll be opening windows and hatches, but for now it's fine.
Tomorrow we will start down the Cheshire locks The first 9 of them is the plan, as is to tackle Kidsgrove  Tescos to buy lunch for Leigh, Ali and Lucy's visit on Saturday.
We are now debating whether to open the chocolate mints. It's just a pretence though.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Twelve Locks Down

Today, we fought with the voices that proposed we stayed put in our bed all day. But we are made of stonger stuff, and when the fight was over, we set off from Sutton Lane, pretty much first thing, at 12.30pm.
For a change, the electric swing bridge at Oakgrove behaved, and then after lunch we dug deep for more strength, and after moving all our plants to the bow, for better visibility of locks, we set about descending the 12 Bosley locks.
The flight was serene, flower filled and beautiful as usual. When we were in Sutton Hall for dinner last night, a collection on the bar reminded us that Bosley, the village, was only recently the scene of a major industrial disaster. The details of which are reminiscent of Dickensian mill fires. Difficult to  contemplate such a tragedy in the 21st century.
Mr Jones had never seen a lock before, and as we passed through the locks, we experimented with him (a) tied up near the lock (b) tied up on deck (c) in the boat with hatch open and doors shut. None of the options was especially succesful, but maybe (a) just came out as the least worst.
We are now tied up in late evening sun at the bottom of the locks and on the river Dane aqueduct.
As usual, all three of us are knackered. But only Jonesy is allowed to flake. We have fresh pea and mushroom risotto to cook for dinner, showers, and a fire to clean out before we can put our feet up.
Only then can we revel in the special type of fatigue you get when you've been out all day in the country air and sunshine.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Who has been sleeping in my bed?

Our trip to Chester has now begun, although we started by cruising in the wrong direction.
This was so that we could spend two nights in Bugsworth Basin to celebrate Sarah's birthday (this is Sarah of Sarah & Jim and their boat Chertsey.)
It was also an opportunity to catch up with our ex-rescue, Rocky the greyhound, who last September we re-homed with Jim.
This might be a good point to explain about all the dogs in this story.
Our first boat dog was wise old Jemma, who started this blog. She passed away in March 2014. The September before that, we had rescued Rocky, but he proved to be too fond of chasing sheep, and we live in the Peak Disrict where they are everywhere.
After twelve months of dodging the farmer's gun, we rehomed Rocky with Jim in Newhaven. We missed Rocky and Jemma terribly. So in February this year, having been without a dog far too long we rescued Jonesy. He is a terrier, who is settling in,  finding his paws, and being unpredictable.
So, Jonesy and Rocky had never met, but it all went fairly well - to start with.
Now trying to explain to Jonesy that his boat (Princess Lucy) was once Rocky's boat, didn't really work, and poor Jonesy must have been horrified when Rocky just curled up in Jonesy's bed. Having them both on our boat was perhaps a step too far?
The second night though, following a tiring run around Bugsworth Basin, (the dogs that is, not us) we tried again, and this time they relaxed a little more and slept on the sofa.
This morning, in pouring rain, Princess Lucy set off in the right direction. As we passed through Marple, the rain eased and we tied up in countryside at High Lane shortly after.
4 hours cruising , filled up with water, pumped out, food shopping. All partied out and knackered.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Nowhere Fast

Princess Lucy is now ready for her summer holiday. She has been fettled and serviced and hugged. Her stern gland has been repacked and greased (with a sponge and a rusty spanner). Chairs and a folding barbecue have been stowed. And tomorrow she will have a little wash.

Now last summer's trip taught us one lesson: and that was that you do not want to be lugging heavy shopping (wine, beer, water, milk) any distance at all. We fell foul of this on the Caldon Canal where there are few villages, and what shops we found were unremarkable and distant.

So given that the robust folding shopping trolley is yet to be invented, we are left with just a few other options (all of which will be employed). They are:

(a) Supermarket grocery deliveries. I have already identified one likely spot and set up a delivery address on our Ocado account. I am a bit nervous about this in case we don't get to where we need to be to meet the van, but we will see.

(b) Supermarkets bordering the canal. On this trip we have the relatively new Waitrose at Chester, Tesco at Whaley Bridge and the reasonably close Tesco at Kidsgrove.

(c) Now this option is one where I have excelled, and that is finding every hidey-hole on the boat that there is, and in it you stash said water, beer, wine and (longlife) milk. We now have 40 bottles of wine and similar numbers of bottled water and milk (most of the beer that will be drunk is in the pub.)

This year's trip is to be from Furness Vale to Chester - and back, and following recent experiences and the associated learning curve, we are aiming for little more than 3 hours cruising per day.

Given that this is our holiday (and we need a lie in each day,) given that we have a dog to walk (and he likes a lie in too,) given that we are inherently lazy (maybe afternoon naps most days?) and given that we have friends and family visiting (that might mean cleaning a bit,) then 3 hours a day is pushing it really.

So we set off on Friday, although this is to be via Bugsworth Basin and two nights of parties.

I can feel the pressure!

P.S.  I realise there could be robbers reading this who may want to steal our wine cellar. Be warned the dog never rests!

[Blog title courtesy of The Smiths.]

["with a sponge and a rusty spanner" courtesy of The Smiths, from the track: The Queen is Dead.]

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Ripples followed by Bugsworth Basin

We were very lazy last weekend and couldn't muster the energy to cruise down to Marple which is no distance at all. Instead, we thought it time for a little low stress visit to Whaley Bridge.

We wanted to try leaving Mr Jones on the boat for a couple of hours which we did for the first time on Friday night. We easily got a table at Zayka and can't understand why it is suddenly an empty restaurant when it used to be fulled booked. The food was better than ever and so beautifully presented.

Jones barked a lot as we left but when we got back, judging by the time it took him to get to the doors, he must have been fast asleep in the front cabin in his bed. So this went well given how noisy that tow path is. It must surely be the busiest tow path and is always full of people, and screaming teenagers who seem to traffic between Tesco and the town.

The next morning, after a really good night's sleep, we took Mr Jones down to the sunny river bank where Rocky had played on his pallet.

Rocky loved this shallow fast flowing bit of river and so did Mr Jones who likes to bark at anything that ripples unpredictably. For example, when the boat is in reverse gear Jonesy is most unhappy and barks fiercely at the water, but inexplicably he is fine in the forward gear.

After a trip to Tesco for barbecue food, we moved Princess Lucy to Bugsworth Basin, just to see how easy it is to moor up there and how many people are around. We found a quiet mooring which was on the other side of the A6 but there is nowhere in the basin that you can avoid the constant traffic noise. That said, we enjoyed our barbecue and wombling round the basin. The next time we will be here, it will be to meet up with Sarah and Jim.

We are looking forward to seeing them and Rocky but fear that the greyhound/terrier combo will inevitably spell trouble.