Thursday, 27 July 2017

Another two days in one

The plan for today was to set off in good time and boat through to the top of Audlem before it started raining at ten. If there were no moorings left there, we would slog on down the flight and carry on to the SUCS moorings at Coole Pilate. Accordingly, Sheila got us going just after half six (it was her day to steer anyway) and I ate breakfast whilst she took us through the various visitor moorings of Market Drayton. It meant that when I took over I had a brief bit of quicker boating before we got to the last stretch of offside moorings before Betton Wood.

It’s not the most atmospheric of the Shroppie cuttings but is supposed to be haunted by a shrieking ghost, though that may well be confusion with another Betton Wood which features in a Gothic poem. Sheila took the tiller back in good time for the Adderley flight. The weather continued pleasantly warm and calm as we worked down, meeting several boats coming up. Their crews reported that Audlem was already pretty crowded with boats ready for the Festival of Transport on Sunday and that the visitor moorings were now suspended through the village.

This led to a bit of a rethink about the plan as clearly the situation was not going to improve tomorrow. Accordingly, we decided to adopt plan B regardless of the situation at Audlem Top. Since I’d already worked five locks, Sheila said she’d do the first five at Audlem and we’d work our usual five and five about that we use for long flights.

We could have found room to tie either above the top lock or in our preferred spot two locks down, as it happened. On we went down – we’d not long changed over again at lock six when it started to rain in earnest, about 15 minutes early according to the Met Office. In fact, it fairly bucketed down for the next hour. Things went pretty smoothly, nonetheless, though there were indeed a lot of very trad type boats tied on the moorings below 12 and again below 13, mostly breasted up. The only real problem I had was tucking onto the water point by the Shroppie Fly to allow a boat to come up 13.

We crossed with boats at almost every one of the 15 locks in the flight but almost all were well mannered and no one attempted to turn a lock in front of us. It was just after eleven when we finally emerged from the bottom lock. The rain had already moderated a bit and it pretty well stopped altogether by the time we got to Coole Pilate. There’s plenty of room here and we’ve had a reasonably peaceful afternoon, though a strong wind has given the passing boats a bit of bother.

There have been a fair few more ex-working boats going up, at least one with a proper Bolinder engine. They are unmistakable because of the hit-and-miss regulator that gives the engine note a strikingly uneven beat – pomp-pomp-pom-pom-pom- -pomp-pomp and so on.

Tomorrow, we’ll carry on to Nantwich. We’re now four days ahead of ourselves so may take an extra day there, depending a bit on the weather forecast.

Location:Coole Pilate

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