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.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Taxidermy and Crapology

We have now left Llangollen and are slowly heading home.

The Corn Mill
First Mate was not impressed by the range of shops in Llangollen. There is no chemist, but a taxidermist; virtually no clothes shops, but endless antique, vintage and fudge shops. We were saved on the grocery front by Aldi, and on the eating out front by a Bruning and Price pub: The Corn Mill, which was top.
Last night we negotiated the narrow twisty canal exit from Llangollen and stopped (again) at The Sun Trevor for a brilliant meal. It is an interesting family run pub (pub dogs and babies everywhere), but the staff are friendly and whoever is in the kitchen cares about what they are doing.
Today we zipped across the aqueducts and through the tunnels, aided by a significant flow from the River Dee (interweb says that between 10 and 15 million gallons of water are delivered each day via the canal for the Cheshire water supply.)
Tonight we are tied up close to Ellesmere between the closed down Jack Mytton pub, and the "not doing food on a Sunday" Narrowboat Inn.

First Mate has whipped up a smoked salmon pasta. Wonderful.


Thursday, 12 July 2018

Drones and drones

The Pontcysylite aqueduct is certainly an experience, and our experience was generally not going anywhere very quickly.
A boat (a boat two boats ahead of us) thought it appropriate to keep stopping, jumping off, and taking photos, and when not doing that, his speed was something much less than my tickover.
Now this certainly prolonged the experience, but somehow it wasn't the way we had imagined it. As it might be seen as racist to criticise those on the slow boat by their nationality, no mention will made of that (or the corks on their hats).
I think that many travel experiences: the Simplon Tunnel, where all you see from the train is it going dark; those daft runways in the Caribbean - where the wheels of the planes skid across the foreheads sunbathers, and the passenger just experiences a normal landing, are best experienced as an observer, rather than a participant.
The Pontcysylite Aqueduct doesn't quite fit the above as it is spectacular both from the ground and from the top. It is, though impossible to experience both views at the same time.
Perhaps this is another reason why I should buy a drone? I will add this reason to the list which already includes "being able to find the dog when he has gone missing."
Last night we tied up outside The Sun Trevor. The food was good and service excellent. The England exit from the World Cup was kept from us by grouping all the soon to be disappointed people, and their drones, in a special room.
Today a short run into Llangollen.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Foreign Lands

Yesterday we cruised from England into Wales. Then today we cruised from England into Wales. We missed the the bit in the middle where we went back into England.
Last night we were moored right beside a gorgeous lake called something Mere. Beautiful, tranquil in the fading sunlight. We drank wine on its banks and Mr Jones resisted the urge to jump in after a squadron of noisy ducks. In truth, we had no real idea where we were.
I think we are properly here in Wales now because walking up the steep hill into Chirk for dinner at The Hand Hotel, there it was! Welcome to Wales written in Welsh. That convinced us along with the fuss "Jones the dog" has enjoyed from locals who presume anyone called Jones is Welsh.
Chirk is a pretty and sleepy little place where the canal winds around the sides of the valley connected by an impressive aqueduct, but sadly this aqueduct has little claim to any fame with its big brother (the Pontcysylite) a few miles down the canal. There is a nice little Spar shop that had no salad leaves but the full range of Magnums. Well, what are you going to do?
This Mediterranean style weather has its downsides. We are both covered in insect bites of Sicilian proportions. We have long since ditched the shorts but our legs continue to attract horse flies making us look like we've been paint balled.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Baking at The Brook

It seems unwise and unfair to complain about hot or sunny weather, especially when we wished for little else for most of the winter.
So let us just say that it is unfortunate that the hottest day of this trip was the day when we planned to tackle eight locks and three lift bridges.
Most of the locks were the six at Grindley Brook, and although canal traffic wasn't especially heavy, the slightly scary three chamber staircase inevitably caused some delays.

Novelty Teapot the spout
We tied up early evening in the middle of nowhere, far away from roads, railways, and pubs with teapots (First Mate is still suffering from PTSD - Post Teapot Stress Disorder).
Thirsty as we were, I avoided the teapot in the evening and made sure I only poured from wine bottles.


Saturday, 7 July 2018

Artex and Novelty Teapots

The Willeymoor Lock Tavern is experiencing a staffing crisis.
As I write this, Captain has been forced to go to the bar and buy peanuts. With an hour plus wait for food, it has given us ample time to appraise their unique collection of tea pots. Food may arrive at some point but the Rose wine has gone to our heads via our empty stomachs and the tea pots are beginning to become hallucinogenic.
Captain has just declared that he has lost the boat keys.  I must finish this blog entry while the routine full scale panic takes place. Oh here they are! Left on the deck whilst he tied his shoe laces. Luckily no one drove off in the boat.
A very hot day and night falls.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Llangollen attracts helpful cruisers

We have been moored at Swanley Bridge Marina which is at the end (the English end) of the Llangollen Canal. We are moving from here after the summer, and so it is today that we begin the obligatory cruise to Llangollen
We are as prepared as we can be: The boat is heavy in the water with wine, the freezer full of ice cream, and the dog (Mr. Jones) has various strange garments to keep him cool. We also have dog gates (fore and aft) which captain has spent the last few weeks whitling and fettling, to keep Mr.Jones both secure and cool.
Our first day of cruising was full of the expected and unexpected. Typical of boating in general. We expected to be hot as we progressed through five locks and a lift bridge, whiich we were. We didn't expect to be helped through every single one of them including the bridge. We have barely lifted a windlass. All these helplful strangers are on holiday in hire boats and many hung back in the lock to close the gates for us when you might have expected them to be on a mad dash to complete the nine counties ring. Quite the opposite. People couldn't have been more laid back.
We are moored up in the shade of the trees and about 100 yards from  The Dusty Miller in Wrenbury where we are booked in for dinner. After a nap and a shower, that is.
We aim to be in Llangollen in about a week's time.
Nice and slow. We are on schedule.


Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Double trouble

We left Chester yesterday morning having had four days mooching about the city and tumbling into Barton Rouge and The Old Harkers for dinner.
Our neighbours, Mr and Mrs Clayton, provide a much needed service of looking after our house whilst we go off cruising. We are blessed in this respect.  It was lovely to see them in Chester and have a walk through the park, onto the river washlands, up onto the city walls and back down the tow path. We finished up  with cocktails and a good dinner at the pub. The Harkers never fails to amaze me in that it seems able to consistently produce fresh and delicious food even on the busiest of public holidays.
We did 11 locks yesterday and in all of them went through with another craft. The first five were with experienced narrowboaters who made short work of it
The second half was with a young man, navigating the whole of the British waterways in a tiny motorcruiser. You have to admire his spirit. However being in a lock with a small plastic boat is difficult especially with a high risk of crushing his much loved craft. He tended to get out at the locks leaving it bobbing about and getting in the way. First mate was tasked with trying to keep PL2 alongside and keep tight hold of his boat at the same time. Great fun, especially when we met a boat coming down in the upper chamber of the Bunbury flight. It was like one of those puzzles where you move all the pieces round with one square free and then pour hundreds if tons of water down on the operation at the same time.

The new cross bed has been a great success. It is comfortable and roomy. We quickly found a system of making it and tidying it away in minutes.
We head home today on a straightforward bit of canal with only the four single Hurleston Locks to negotiate.  But you never know what adventures lie ahead. Bring it on.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Piping Aboard

The central heating is now fixed... but what a fault to find!

I won't bore the reader with the unquestionable genius involved in finding the fault, as that is well known, I will just keep, more or less, to the details of the fault.

The story begins seven years ago in a boat building yard.

"Just finish that plumbing in the bathroom," the boss shouted through the porthole, "then you can go home."

The young aprentice looked at the scribbled drawing and the fittings in a box. After ten minutes he shouted up.

"What's this cross on the drawing?"

"Oh yes," the boss answered, "That's the by pass valve."

The apprentice shrugged his shoulders having no idea what that meant.

"They used to baffle me when I was your age. The thing is if you pipe it up like you might expect, and then if you turn all your radiators off, there is no flow at all through the coil in the hot water tank, and so you get no hot water. The by pass valve allows a little flow past the radiators so that you get hot water.

"Right," said the apprentice rummaging through the box.

"And that reminds me," the boss said, "we haven't got one."

The apprentice stopped rummaging.

"They missed it off the delivery. But connect everything and leave room for it. That way I can check it all for leaks tomorrow."

Seven years later captain found the plumbing extended slightly beyond the towel radiator to accommodate a valve - but no valve there, just an effective short circuit of the radiators.

There had been a trickle through the radiators on a good day, and a Webasto that went to half load quite quickly as it saw very hot water on the return pipe.

But all piping hot now.


Friday afternoon, after being assisted by an independent volunteer lockie down the last five locks, we arrived in Chester and parked the boat outside Waitrose.

The surprise for us was that we completed the cruise (from Swanley Bridge) in two days, where we had allowed three. I'm still a bit unclear what went wrong there. We are not known for rushing ahead, and just the thought of five hour cruising days makes us cry.

Anyway we are here and the extra day will give captain time to grapple with the central heating which is misbehaving in a very strange way.

He believes he knows the solution, but dare not tell yet.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Men and Plans and Mice

A couple of days after our last blog (where we outlined our Easter plans to go to the River Weaver via the Anderton Boat lift) our route, across to Middlewich was well and truly scuppered.

A serious breach, that I expect will take 6 months or more to fix, drained the canal for a mile or so near Middlewich. The pictures are dramatic and one pinched from the BBC is shown here.

Our Easter plan B is to set off tomorrow for Chester and stay there for three nights.

The plan for moving the boat back to Macclesfield in September is still being formulated. Options are (a) The breach is fixed ... Hurrah! (b) Stay where we are. (c) Go to Ellesmere Port, then along the Manchester Ship Canal and back down via the River Weaver, Or (d) Go the long way around via Audlem, Autherley, Great Haywood, Harecastle.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Dream a Little Dream

This is our first blog of the year and I know you are all wondering, and worrying, why there has been no scribblings. I bet many of you have made up little stories as to what we have been up to.

Perhaps you imagined that the crew of Princess Lucy 2 had been coerced into joining some strange cult, and relocated to the banks of the Desaqadero River in Bolivia, where we perhaps spent the evenings soothing our souls by rubbing Brillo pads on each others cheeks.

Not so. The only Brillo pad rubbing has been on the dismantled stainless steel plug hole.

But the sink cleaning project has not taken three months. The big project that has kept captain both scratching, and knocking, his head has been the bed project.

First a bit of background. The original boat bed (as built) was a permanent small double (4 foot wide that is). Now the bed wasn't really 4 foot as the box the mattress sat in was 3' 11" and more significantly a further 4" of the mattress was effectively lost under the gunwale.

So we set about designing and building a cross-bed, where we now lie across the boat. This is achieved with two mattresses. The smaller one is two feet long and drops on to slide out slats that cross the corridor.

The bed is now finished and we have slept in it just once and we were much more comfy than before. We now have a five foot wide bed and much more room.

The improved comfort doesn't end there as previously there was nowhere to put a drink or anything. Now, that problem is solved with a decent sized side table each.

But there is a down side. With our new comfy bed and longer lie ins, we may need to reassess our typical daily cruising hours. At the moment we aim for three (hours that is) and that has been a struggle to achieve.

At Easter we are planning a cruise out to Middlewich and then down on the Anderton lift for a quick spin on the Weaver.

Well that is the plan. We might just spend the week in bed.