Friday, 29 April 2016

Windy Wedgwood and unexpected pleasures

As planned, we ate in the Toby Carvery last night. Possibly because it was a slow night, it was a touch disappointing. Service was fine, the Pedigree was in good nick, but the veg were very tired. They'd clearly been sat under the hot lamps too long.

Anyhow, it was perfectly edible and, of course, reasonably priced.

This morning, having seen the forecast for wind and rain later, we got away just after seven and an hour later were in the bottom lock of the Stoke flight. I steered briskly along the long pound, past the Dolphin yard transplanted from Louisiana, past the Waste Incinerator and the Britannium Stadium, through Trentham to the last lock of the day.

The wind did indeed rise as we went, so we moored on the Wedgwood visitor moorings just in time before it became impossible. No rain had arrived yet, so, having drunk a cup of coffee apiece, we walked into Barlaston to buy meat at the butchers.

It fairly tipped it down in the middle of the day and was just easing off when a sodden Peter and Melanie turned up on Inkling.

We kidnapped their dogs:

In due course, Peter and Melanie came to find them, drank a cup of tea with us and stayed for a right natter. We're each eating on our own boats then joining them on Inkling for a glass of wine and some intellectual exercise. Well, Rummikub, any way...


Thursday, 28 April 2016

Through the tunnel to Etruria

Things went pretty much to plan today. We got away just after half seven, Sheila steering and the weather unseasonably cold. Indeed, there had been a light fall of snow in the night and it was still lying about as we set off. I had to be cautious crossing the gates of the stop lock with the snow lying on the foot boards. It's hard to believe that it's the first of May on Sunday.

It took an hour to the tunnel where we were alone, though followed by a boat that had worked up the locks on the T & M. There were no boats coming through from the South, so as soon as we'd had the abbreviated safety chat (since we'd been through already this year) we were clear to go. Sheila made a quick passage of it by our standards, just 39 minutes according to the tunnel keeper at the other end.

I made myself a coffee and started the washing machine while we were underground. The quick run along the summit pound got us to Etruria before half ten. We'd originally planned to shop at Sainsbury's this afternoon, but since there was plenty of time before lunch and the weather was due to deteriorate later, we went straightaway.

It's a little bit of a walk up hill to the store but no big deal, certainly not by Macclesfield standards. We got what we wanted and were back at the boat with quarter of an hour to spare before lunch. I relit the stove, which had had to be extinguished for the tunnel, and we stowed the goodies. Soup and sandwiches restored us physically and we've been taking it easy this afternoon.

Sheila has hung out the washing to dry and I had a shower, rejoicing in being able to warm the stern of the boat with the Webasto. The weather has indeed deteriorated markedly, raining cats and dogs and blowing with it. Hopefully it will have calmed down a bit by morning but it looks as though walking to the pub will be a soggy experience.

Ah well, all the more excuse for a roast dinner, winter grub for wintry weather. Tomorrow, down the Stoke locks, probably in the rain, to tie at Barlaston once more.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

A short run to Hall Green

You can tie closer to Harecastle than Hall Green, but there's not much point unless you need to shop at the Kidsgrove Tesco. With just a couple of hours cruising to do, we set off just after half eight. Although I had steered yesterday, I did so again today, so that Sheila will do her turn through the tunnel tomorrow. It's good of her to offer as the southbound run is more tedious than the opposite direction owing to the lack of a daylit end to aim for (the doors across the south end aren't opened until the boat is nearly there).

It was a straightforward run today in pleasant spring sunshine, albeit cold. There wasn't much traffic, just the odd hire boat, including Chas Hardern's Thorin, which was being steered by a very short, much bearded guy with bushy eyebrows and a round woolly helmet pulled well down over his ears. I couldn't see his axe, but I expect he'd left it in the cabin...

There were a couple of boats sharing the water point and a pair of liveaboards at the nearer end of the visitor moorings, but otherwise no one else around when we got to Hall Green. We tied close to the water point. After lunch, we ran the hose plus the extension hose to the tap and filled the tank right up. It may well last us until we get back to the marina, since Sheila will only be doing essential laundry on the way.

After some post prandial eyelid inspection, I filled the stern greaser which was well down. The weather having picked up a bit following the lunchtime snow, we went for a bit of a walk. We found a footpath across the fields on the far side of the railway, then another almost doubling back which took us to the bridge at Scholar Green. It's a pleasant area for a stroll, must remember it for another time and perhaps more reliable weather.

Tomorrow, we'll aim to get to the north portal of the tunnel at around half eight, the most probable time to get the first southbound convoy.


Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Back down Bosley

At two hours, it took us a bit longer to come back down Bosley than we did going up, although all the locks were with us this time. Setting off just before eight, I managed to open the Dales Moss swing bridge with a bit less hassle than before, though it was still very stiff and reluctant. The serious downside of stopping at Lyme Green going south is that, unless you set off very early, you arrive at the Fools Nook swing bridge, the electrically operated one, in the middle of the rush hour.

I held up a total of about ten cars this time, though didn't have any trouble from them. It helped that the bridge swings a good bit quicker than it used to and that Sheila slotted Sanity Again through in quick time.

An Anglo Welsh we crossed with warned us that the pound between locks 2 and 3 had been very low last night when they came up. It being my turn to steer today, Sheila went ahead and found that, although the long pound between 1 and 2 was ok, the next one down was so low that the boat waiting to come up, Minuet, was stuck in 3. Her lockwheeler was running water down through 2. By the time that they had refilled the lower pound to their satisfaction, it was hard keeping Sanity Again afloat above the lock.

It was frankly a bit irritating that the CRT staff who were around did not see it as their job to sort the levels out.

Finally, we managed to cross and get SA into 2. Skye was waiting below 3 and there was now ample water to proceed. Indeed, because all the locks were now with us, every weir was overflowing with the water we were bringing down. We didn't see another boat until we were coming out of 10, when I saw a guy running water through 11. He explained that the sheer bulk of water between 10 and 11 was defeating the side weir and threatening to flood the towpath. His own boat had come out of 12 and was up against the bottom gates of 11, quite unnecessarily, as he wasn't single handing and could easily have waited in 12 until 11 was ready.

As it was, some novice hirers turned 12 and came up, so now we had three boats between the locks. Fortunately, Sheila was well on form and managed to leave 11 and swing round past the other two into 12 without touching either boat or even the wing walls of either lock.

The weather continuing to be chilly with a threat of snow, we had mugs of soup as we progressed to Congleton Aqueduct, arriving at half twelve. It's now blowing and raining on and off, so we're very pleased to be tucked up snugly in the boat with the Squirrel warming us all up. I've checked under the engine boards one more time and dipped the fuel tank, which is half full.

We pass Heritage Boats tomorrow, our last chance to get fuel before the tunnel. We'll probably stop at Hall Green for the night, so that an average start should get us to Harecastle in time for the first southbound convoy.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Off we go again

It hardly needs saying, but we had another excellent night in the Boar's Head last night with Ian and Sharon. Turning up at half six, we had no trouble getting a table, but the pies were beginning to run short. There was only one portion of steak and kidney, and no cheese and onion at all. Since they are baked fresh each day, it's the price you pay.

We ended the evening on Bunnies Warren. Thanks, Ian and Sharon, it was great.

The Webasto continues to behave itself, so at nine this morning we nipped into the yard, had a chat with Peter and said our goodbyes once more. Peter will arrange for a replacement timer to be posted to us; in the meantime, we'll go on using the basic one which came as standard with the installation kit. After swapping them over, when we get back to Mercia, I'll hang on to the basic one as a backup.

Boating in rather grim conditions, damp and chilly, we've come on to Lyme Green. Sheila ran a washload as we went and after lunch we walked up to the Coöp for a few bits and pieces.

Tomorrow, the plan is to go down Bosley and on to Congleton Aqueduct. We'll make a more leisurely trip of it going back; we expect to get back to Mercia a week on Saturday.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Poynton again

The good news is that the Webasto fired up like a good 'un this morning, so we had a warm bedroom and hot water to wash in. We've still come back to the Deeps, tying right by the winding hole by half ten. This means that we can have an evening in the pub with Ian and Sharon tonight.

They turned up not long after lunch and have been in for a cup of tea and a goss already ;)

The weather held off raining whilst we were boating, though it was dull and cold, and it chucked it down for a bit in the middle of the day. It seems to have dried up for the moment – the forecast's not good for tomorrow, with rain and wind both, so we may well sit tight until Tuesday.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

There and back again

All seemed well with the Webasto controller last night and it looked fine at half six this morning. But it wouldn't start the heater... It said it was, but nothing happened. So we decided to head back to Poynton in the hopes of getting it fixed on Monday. The nearest winding hole was at Bridge 33, the far side of Hurdsfield, but when we got there, although there was plenty of length, we couldn't get the bow far enough onto the mud to get round. In fact, we got well stuck for a bit but finally extricated ourselves.

We went on to where the Peak Forest hire base used to be and were able, with a little trouble, to wind there. Then we plodded back to Riley Green. Meantime, I had texted and phoned Peter with the bad news and cancelled our rendezvous with Ian and Sharon.

After consulting the expert, Steve Wedgwood at Kings Lock chandlery, Peter gave us a call and said he'd come out to us today. No wonder we love Braidbar and the Masons. He got here around half two, in the middle of a very busy day for himself, and spent time checking out the basics of fuel, water and power before swapping the controller for a basic one. The heater promptly started. Which it also did when he put the first one back...

(Scratches head.)

Anyway, he's left us with the basic one, which we'll see how it does over the rest of the weekend. We're going back to Poynton tomorrow anyway, where hopefully we'll be able to have our evening with Ian and Sharon.

Don't miss tomorrow's exciting instalment!