Friday, 4 August 2017

Wetter than expected

For once, cunning observation of the weather forecast let us down. When I checked it again this morning, it was showing rain at eight o’clock, which said duly materialised, so we’d have been better off moving yesterday. Ah well, can’t win them all. We made an early start anyway, so the wet period came between Beeston and Tilstone locks. Sheila had suited up for it and I survived by wearing a light waterproof jacket and popping out to work the locks.

We were on our own up them all, so it was pretty slow going. The drill was for me to open both bottom gates – the by-washes are something fierce below the locks and that made it much easier for Sheila to have the larger target to aim for as the boat was shoved around by the flow. Once in, I took the extended centreline from her, passed it round a bollard and back down.

Then I closed the bottom gates and cautiously drew the same side paddle, just three rotations at first, check that the boat is being held against the lock wall by the combination of the water flow bouncing off the opposite side and tension on the centreline, then another two or three turns, check again and finally draw the full paddle. In between, I kept checking that the bow fender was not snagging on the wall of the cill. Finally, it was possible to draw the offside paddle, again cautiously.

Working this way, we made it up Wharton’s (that’s in a truly awful condition, leaks all over the place), Beeston Iron, Beeston Stone and Tilstone. I had help from Peter the volockie at the Bunbury staircase. He was a pleasant and chatty type, though inclined to order me around and do things his way, which I know is not what he was trained to do. Nonetheless, we got up the staircase OK, the last broad locks we’ll work this year. No doubt dealing with all the novice hirers from the Anglo-Welsh yard at the foot of the staircase makes him a touch emphatic…

A boat was just leaving the visitor moorings here at Calveley as we arrived a bit before half ten, having taken a whisker over three hours for the run. We had a leisurely coffee and then went to explore the new shop that’s been opened, along with a cafe, at the cheese factory. They had a great stock of cheeses and a variety of other stuff. It’s a bit like a farm shop, a moderate range of groceries but rather expensive. It makes a useful topping up location on a stretch otherwise short of shops.

We got a couple of nice cheeses and what proved to be a very tasty granary loaf. It took us a while to get back to the boat. First off, we met blog readers Paul and Mary on Katy, just tying on the shop mooring, and had a right old natter with them. Then we saw Finisterre, Braidbar number 63, with her Kiwi owners, filling up on the water point and had to have a rabbit with them too, naturally. Finally, who should we see across the cut but John and Pat heading for Drum Solo II, Braidbar 156, and had a briefer shouted conversation with them.

We’ve had a quiet afternoon after all this excitement. Tomorrow looks a bit wet again, but we’ll just have to suit up and get on with it. We’ll nip through onto the water point first thing and eat breakfast whilst filling up, then head off round to the Middlewich Arm.


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