Thursday, 21 September 2017

Down Fradley with lots of help

Today was scheduled to be rainy, but it held off for most of the morning and only really got going as we were mooring. Sheila set off a bit before eight as we were keen to get to Fradley in good time in view of traffic levels yesterday. It was quite pleasant first thing and we merrily chugged along to Woodend.

Here there were two boats waiting to go down and one coming up. Both boats in front of us were heading for the Huddlesford Gathering this weekend. At least both top paddles are working at Woodend these days so it only took half an hour for us to get through. On we went to Shade House where we had to queue again for a bit. In view of the expected traffic going to the Gathering, CRT had rostered a volockie at each lock and two on Junction.

It made life very easy for Elanor and I – Sheila had the harder task juggling the boat about waiting for each lock. As usual, the lockwheelers walked from Hunts to Common. Since the fields are all down to arable production round there, it was possible to give Sally a run off lead which she much appreciated. She’s been scampering about a lot in these last few days, clearly enjoying her holiday.

For the last couple of locks we were following fellow Mercia moorers Bill and Jo on Lady Victoria – rumour has it that we are being pursued by Wynne and the other Jo in their newly repainted Voyager coming back from Streethay.

One tale we were told by a boat coming up was that Coates the Butchers in Alrewas is closed for refurbishment. A brief discussion amongst the crew led to the decision that this was an excellent excuse for having fish and chips tonight…

The forecast is fine for tomorrow with not too much wind, so we plan to finish the trip by carrying on all the way to Mercia. I’ll try and do a final post after that, then take a break until we move Sanity Again to Shobnall next month for blacking.


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Hardworking day

It’s been a busy day and I’m pretty weary, so this blog is going to be in the form of highlights for once.

First off, a big hello to the hirer on Olivia Ginger. We’ve been leapfrogging with them today and he’s spoken to us a couple of times to say that he reads my maunderings on here. It’s always good to know that there are more of you out there, especially on a day like today when it was quite hard to start this post…

Secondly, where did all these boats come from? We’ve seen far more traffic today on this stretch of canal than we did on the Four Counties in the height of summer. It made navigation especially tricky through the various pinch points between Rugeley and Handsacre. We made it with only two bumps, one a panicky hirer in a very narrow place and one a privateer just now who a) doesn't know the length of his boat for mooring purposes and b) didn't have the courtesy to apologise after his bow had clouted ours a mighty bang (twice).

Thirdly, Sally has distinguished herself. Elanor and I took her for a walk this afternoon which was going really well until we were on the way back. Sal found a rat by the canalside which dived into the reed bed just there. So Sal dived after it and was with difficulty persuaded to come out. Note to passing boats – if you see an animal or human struggling in the water, even over in a reed bed, drop into neutral as you pass, huh? We got Sal out, marched her back to the boat and poured a bucket of water over her, but she still smells of eau de canal.

And in the last and most important place, we made £2,630 in the charity auction which has been split between the Anthony Nolan Trust and Bloodwise. With gift aid, that's over £3,000 in total.

Tomorrow, on to Alrewas.


Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Mistily to Great Haywood

We got going a bit before eight today as it’s around three hours from Burston to Great Haywood and we wanted to get there between ten and eleven, it being a popular mooring spot. Normally we’d just carry on round to Tixall and come back the next morning, but Sheila and Elanor had a cunning plan to visit Shugborough Hall, so didn't want the extra walk.

It was Sheila’s turn to steer. She started off in quite a thick mist with the tunnel and navigation lights on. Sandon Lock was not long in turning up – I worked us down whilst Elanor finished sorting out things down below. Gradually the mist lifted and the lights became unnecessary. Sheila was a bit concerned even so, as we were running another wash load and she’d hoped for fine weather to get it dry.

As it’s turned out, she needn't have worried. As we arrived at Haywood it all burnt off and it’s been a very pleasant afternoon, sunny with a bit of breeze. Arriving just after half ten, there were several spaces between the junction and the lock, so our timing had worked out just right. It was indeed very busy here during the morning, with boats appearing from all directions. Mostly, steerers show a bit of sense and there have been no contretemps, though the occasional hasty person seems to think that blowing your horn is an adequate substitute for waiting your turn.

No, sir, these are the English canals, not an Italian town centre…

The visit to Shugborough went off as planned, too. Sally and I stayed on anchor watch, getting in some inner eyelid inspection time as well as catching up with minor chores like the washing up and stowing the recycling.

We’ve just had a visit from Martin who’s moored Ice Breaker a couple of boats behind. He’s on his way back to London and will probably pass us tied at Handsacre tomorrow before he turns right at Fradley. It was good to have a last chance to catch up with him before next year.

Safe boating, Martin.

Tomorrow, as I say, we’ll put in another of our double days, not stopping at Brindley Bank or Taft Wharf but going on to Handsacre, calling at Tesco en route.

Location:Great Haywood

Monday, 18 September 2017

Burston out of Stone

There’s some hope that the weather is going to improve and indeed it’s been a little better today. Sod’s Law being what it is, I expect the really good stuff will start as soon as we are back in the marina…

We’ve had a pleasant day, ambling down from Stone to the towpath near Burston. The water tank was getting empty and more laundry urgently needed doing – it’s been so hard to get things dry in the damp weather that it’s not been possible to get as much done as we need to. So we worked down the first two locks, Stone Top and Newcastle Road and, after waiting a little for the boat in front to finish and move off, tied on the water point.

Elanor took the opportunity to pop into town to do some shopping whilst I sorted the hose and Sheila started the wash load. Elanor was back waiting for us at Yard Lock by the time we’d finished, so it all came together very well. On we went down Yard and Star Locks and along the urban/rural pound to Aston. Here we had to wait for a boat to come down and another, crewed by a single hander, to come up. This latter was called Sir T Fiable and its steerer was plainly determined to live up to his boat’s name, in the nicest possible way, of course.

It is good that the cut still offers a space for the eccentrics amongst us, adding to the gaiety of nations as it does.

We had a further pleasant run to here, negotiating the always tricky Bridge 86 as we went. It's been possible to have the whirligig out this afternoon, long enough to get the clothes largely dry though it’s clouded over a bit now. This section of the Four Counties is very busy today. It’s an ever-popular ring, of course, made even more so by the emergency stoppage on the Marple flight putting the Cheshire Ring out of commission for the moment.

It’s hoped to re-open lock 15 there next Saturday but the movement in the lock wall looks quite serious and I foresee a long stoppage over the winter to sort it, quite possibly involving rebuilding the whole side of the lock and possibly part of the invert as well.

Meanwhile, we’ve got another straightforward day tomorrow, down Sandon, Weston and Hoo Mill to tie in Great Haywood.


Sunday, 17 September 2017

To the top of Stone after a good evening

We visited the Plume of Feathers last night, partly out of curiosity to see what sort of a job Neil Morrissey had made of its renovation and partly to rendezvous with James, Elanor’s boyfriend. It was a very pleasant evening in all respects. The food is indeed as good as has been described and it is certainly dog friendly in the bar area. In addition, there is a good range of ales, including the Morrissey own brews.

This morning, we had what’s become our regular start for this run. I make some tea round about seven and Sheila and I drink it in bed, simultaneously snuggling with Sally and catching up on the news online. We then get washed and dressed and eat breakfast whilst Elanor is getting up. This enables whoever is due to steer to get started sometime just after eight, usually.

It’s a shortish run to the top of Meaford where we waited whilst a shareboat, Firefly, worked up. They had left the lock below ready for us, which was handy as one of the top paddles there is not working and the lock is presently very slow to fill. We were followed down by a privateer and crossed with a Black Prince hire boat above the bottom lock. All in all, it made for leisurely boating, not a problem when we were on such a short run as it gave a chance for the batteries to get reasonably charged.

There were several spaces above Stone Top although things have clearly been pretty busy over the weekend. Leaving Elanor and Sally on anchor watch, Sheila and I made a trip to Morrisons to top up the supplies of fruit and the like. We’ve had a quiet afternoon. The weather is occasionally sunny, occasionally wet and it’s distinctly cooler with a light northerly wind. I’ve lit the Squirrel again to keep us comfortable this evening.

Tomorrow, we’ll work down the first two locks and fill the tank on the water point just below before carrying on to a rural towpath mooring below Aston lock somewhere, probably near Burston.


Saturday, 16 September 2017

Down through Stoke

I said yesterday that today’s run was the usual one for this route for us, with the exception that we were starting from Westport Lake rather than Etruria, 45 minutes further on. Nonetheless, it’s still a fairly long run by our standards, around 3.5 hours and I set off just after eight. We reached Etruria top at nine and took 40 minutes to descend the Stoke locks, all of which were with us.

There’s then the steady run at a decent speed through the rest of Stoke and on to Trentham, slowing only for the occasional narrows or bridge hole and the moored boats alongside the place that advertises “Tacle and Bait, Airguns, Archery, Country and Western Line Dancing” and a 10 metre shooting gallery.

The cut was quite quiet with just a handful of boats coming the other way. By not long after eleven we were working down Trentham lock and on our way to a mooring at Barlaston. I noticed that the 48 hour mooring restriction totems have gone from the Wedgwood moorings, though whether that’s deliberate by CRT or not is another matter, of course.

We’ve had a quiet afternoon – Sally in particular is feeling very worn out after all this locking supervision.

Tomorrow, merrily on to the top of Stone, so just the Meaford four to work in a truly short day’s cruise.


Friday, 15 September 2017

Once more into the tunnel, dear friends

The plan for this cruise is to put in some long (for us) days at the start, so as to get back in ten days rather than our usual two weeks. Accordingly, we’ve come from Congleton to Westport Lake without stopping at Hall Green as we would normally. Admittedly, we’d usually go on to Etruria, but this is a better place for exercising Sally.

So we got away at half eight, Sheila steering as the rest of us got ourselves sorted out. It was a fine morning, though cold after a chilly night. Sheila was on fine form, making it through the tricky multiple bridges by the Queen’s Head without touching the sides of the bent towpath. At Hall Green, we found Andy Grindrod, former Braidbar fitter, watering his boat Northern Soul. He’s gone freelance now and is available over a wide area for fitting and maintenance work, the quality of which can be seen in various areas of Sanity Again. He’s on 07709 166240 if you're interested.

Sheila’s form continued for the turns in the flyover approach to Hardings Wood Junction and round the junction itself. We had to hang around at the tunnel for a bit as a small GRP cruiser had been sent in ahead of us. Being powered by a petrol outboard, the rules require it to be given a ten to fifteen minute start to ensure that the exhaust has been drawn away by the fans at the southern portal.

The three other boats then went in with us as tail-end Charlie. This was a bit of bad luck as the boat in front of us was Elk, smoking away like fury. To be fair, it is 72 years old, but poor Sheila emerged from the other end feeling kippered and slightly sick. The low section in the middle had been a severe trial – she’d had to drop to tickover as she just couldn't see where she was going. I think she’d rather have taken her chances with the petrol fumes.

Meanwhile, Elanor stayed out on the front, Sally keeping her company for some of the time whilst trying to persuade her to come below. It being midday, I did the washing up and then ate lunch. Forty minutes later, we were heading for Westport where we found plenty of room, though it’s now filled up pretty completely.

We’ve had a walk round the lake, accompanied by a frankly reluctant Sally who clearly felt that after all the stress of the tunnel she should be allowed to stay behind and sleep. Once she gave up on the protest, she fairly shot round in order to get home again as soon as possible. When we got back, we found Saunter Together tied not far in front of us, just the other side of the Candy Boat, indeed, and had a quick catch up with them before the rain came on.

Tomorrow, a more usual day, down Stoke and on to Barlaston.

Location:Westport Lake

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Onto the lower Macc

Thank you, Sally, for your kind words yesterday. There were indeed a lot of locks today, but they went quite quickly thanks to the locking team. We made an average sort of start since the first obstacle was the swing bridge at Fool’s Nook. We try not to work that before nine o’clock to avoid too much traffic disruption. In the event, a boat followed us through thus making it even more efficient.

Once on our way again, I made us mugs of coffee and Sheila got the washing machine going. This was all sorted by the time we reached the top of Bosley. Acacia, the boat that had followed us and then inevitably passed as I waited for the crew to rejoin, was on the water point, so we got our priority back. This was especially welcome as most of the locks were with us as we went down, Sheila lockwheeling ahead and Elanor and Sally closing up behind. It took us 1 hour 40 minutes, about the best we’ve done it.

It was now half eleven. In a bit, Elanor and I had lunch as we went along with Sheila on the helm. She waited for hers until we had moored on Congleton Aqueduct. There was (and still is) plenty of space here. I’d been concerned that it might have filled up with longer term moorers, but it looks as if the liveaboards have not yet settled onto unofficial winter spots despite the much cooler weather. It has at least been mostly fine today, though with a distinct breeze and occasional heavy showers. Braidbars Destiny and One Day were both at Lyme Green last night but haven't shown up here (yet).

Tomorrow, through Harecastle Tunnel and on to Westport Lake.

Location:Congleton Aqueduct

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Dog to dog blog: taking the AGPs home

Hi guys

It’s been a long time since I got to go boating with the AGPs (that’s the Aged GrandParents for you newbies), but I finally persuaded Mummy to take a break from her packed social life (not allowed to tell you about that, but he’s nice…) and have a week and a bit helping get the boat back from Poynton to the marina.

We have to do this – the AGPs just aren't as young as they were (who is?) and the week-long party laughingly called the Owners’ Weekend (seemingly Wednesday to Tuesday is a weekend now) just takes an awful lot out of them. So yesterday, Mum and I drove up to the boatyard from our great new place up on the ridge above Burton, getting there just after eight.

Didn't do much when we got there, but it’s been seriously busy today. Mum had her usual problem waking up when she’s not working, so I had to supervise moving the boat onto first the water point and then the shop mooring to get her all sorted for cruising. Then Mum drove off back to the marina, which was a bit worrying for me even though I knew she’d be back really, and the rest of us turned the boat round to head back to Macc.

I wasn't allowed to supervise this properly as they shut me in the cabin, but I got my own back by locking the door from the inside so that Granny couldn't get in, hee, hee, hee. She had to get off in the bridge hole and get back on at the stern. Grandpa then left her steering whilst he pottered about inside and I spent my time doing some serious Olympic Looking from the bow… and the stern… and the bow… and the stern.

Hard work, but I don't mind, except that after a bit it started to rain. I told Grandpa he should do something about that but he didn't seem to care. Humph. It stopped again after a bit so I settled for the stern. I started to feel a) bored and b) uncomfy, so when the boat slowed down in a bridge hole I hopped off for a pee and a dump and to stretch my legs.

What a kerfuffle! Granny jumps off after me, Grandpa takes over the steering and we all head along to the next bridge where I got back on. Granny seemed to think she needed to grab my collar to make sure I did that. What’s the matter, don't they trust me?

Finally we rocked up in Macc and tied to wait for Mummy to get back by train. This she did by mid-afternoon, having missed a connection in Derby and had to hang about for an hour in Derby station. We’ve now come on to Lyme Green where it’s nicer and more peaceful than the middle of town. I’m told I’ve got a lorra locks to work tomorrow, so all I can say is, it better not be raining…

Loads of licks

Your friend


Location:Lyme Green

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

A very good weekend

I notice that I didn't get round to doing a blog post until the Tuesday last year, either! It turned out to be another excellent weekend despite some of the worst weather I can recall for this time of year. We had several merry evenings in the Boar’s Head and then in the marquee. The charity auction raised nearly £2500, another record for us. As before, the proceeds will be donated to Anthony Nolan and Bloodwise, both charities supporting research into and patients and relatives suffering from blood cancers.

We saw a record number of folk interested in booking a build slot for a Braidbar. Furthermore, one couple actually booked a build slot on the day, the last one left in 2018. Anyone else will have to wait until 2019 now – there’s one slot starting at the end of January that year.

Sunday was pretty quiet, though we had a good Question Time with Peter and James on the platform. In addition, we discussed succession planning for the administration of the Owners’ Group. Instead of trying to find people to take over completely from Sheila and I, we are going to build a team to share the work, as a result of which we’ll be able to ease out over time. So not a cliff edge but a soft Bruxit… Several people have volunteered to help in this way.

Elanor and Sally are joining us tonight, driving up after work. Tomorrow, weather permitting, Elanor will drive back to Mercia and return to Macclesfield by train whilst the remaining three of us boat to Macc to rendezvous with her there. We plan to get back to Mercia by a week on Saturday.

I’ll see if Sal will do a dog-to-dog blog tomorrow, but can't promise, she may be too excited to type.

Location:Higher Poynton

Friday, 1 September 2017


It’s been a good week with progress on the jobs on Sanity Again. I’m glad I asked Peter Mason to sort repainting the engine bilge and felt a bit sorry for Austin. He’s been spending his time stripping back the old paint and rust with a mini-scabbler and a wire cup brush fitted to an angle grinder and when all else failed contorting himself whilst clutching sand paper. He then covered the whole area with Fertan, washed it off the next day and primed it. Today he put the first coat of Danboline on. It’s to have a second coat on Monday and the base of the stern bilge under the stern gland will be done with Comastic.

Peter has changed the weeping valves on the towel rail in the bathroom and we’ll have the stained wood of the pipe box replaced next week. Jonathon has fitted the new LED tunnel light which looks very smart. Other jobs to be done next week are fitting the bilge blower which hopefully will reduce the condensation problem and resetting the Webasto to run at a higher temperature, thus working it harder which is good for it.

Meanwhile, we’ve mostly been pottering apart from a trip down to Poynton on Tuesday to pick up the missing items from my prescription and do a bit of shopping in Waitrose. We’ll do another such sometime during the weekend.

John and Martina have arrived on Burnt Oak, the first arrivals ready for the Open Day and Owners’ Weekend next weekend. It’s on the second weekend of September rather than the first this year, giving a longer period from the August Bank Holiday but confusing one or two people. We’ve also had a chat with Barry and Annie from the Shouting End whilst we were on the water point at lunchtime today. Because I didn't want to run the engine or engage the prop whilst the Danboline was drying, we stern hauled Sanity Again to and from the water point to the mild bemusement of some folk sitting outside the Trading Post.

We’re now looking forward to a quiet weekend which will probably feature quite a bit of laundry, there not having been a chance to do it whilst people were working in the engine room.

Location:Higher Poynton