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Friday 25th May 2012

Aqueduct Marina to Beeston Castle

After a rather warm night on the boat, (as the winter duvet was still on & arriving in the marina at 30mins past midnight I did not have the energy to find the summer one & change them over, so it was on top of the quilt & all windows open) we awoke to a beautiful clear warm Friday morning.

I was still cursing about Lochabers packing of the car on Thursday night resulting in the case of Guinness we had brought with us falling out when I opened the tailgate on arrival at the marina! Hissing cans of Guinness in a silent slumbering marina at midnight!

I emptied the rest of the bags from the car, it was really warm even at 7am, it was going to be a hot one! I popped some bacon in the oven & unpacked the bags. Lochaber decided to check the engine room just to make sure that we had no more exploding batteries before we set off instead he found a fan belt that needed replacing! This is a new boat with 174 running hours is it really time for a new fan belt? Anyway luckily we had spares so in half an hour a new one was fitted.

It was still really calm & getting warmer, so at 8.30am we decided to get going planning to stop around 11ish for a bite to eat & some” tweeting”.

The new marina entrance is making life so much easier getting in & out, so this trip we were off! Hang on, Lochaber is shouting frantically from the front of the boat “we have to go back, we have to go back!”  Why? ……Caley the mad Spaniel was NOT aboard, she has a very unfunny habit of sneaking off when you have your back turned for a split second. Oh great, that’s a good start this weekend, dropped Guinness, new fan belt, now the dogs gone awol!  We reversed back towards the marina, pulled in by the entrance & I MARCHED to where I knew she would be, yep there she was sitting by the car! I MARCHED back to the boat put the stupid animal on & we set off again.

Earlier I had just thrown some of the clothes on the bed to put away later, I started doing this whilst Lochaber had a turn on the tiller, the complete rail in the wardrobe decided to collapse dropping everything in the wardrobe to the floor, I shut the door & walked away, it was only 9.30am & we hadn’t even reached Barbridge yet!

It was quite busy at Barbridge alot of boats passing, for the first time we turned right at the junction, we had decided that due to missing the trip to Chester last time after the battery explosion we would do that trip this time instead.

Calveley was quite a busy spot on the way, cafe, water etc.

I had been worried about the double locks especially the staircase at Bunbury, only two locks together but quite daunting when it is the first time, as we pulled up behind another boat waiting for the locks I heard a load banging noise from the rudder area, a big tree branch! We got that out-of-the-way, now for the lock. The boat that was in the lock already had apparently grounded as the crew had not used the correct procedure with the paddles & had not got the water levels correct for moving from one lock to the next, eventually they got it sorted. As they had raised the water right back to the top & noticed a queue forming they opened one gate & we joined them hoping that with Lochabers help they would get it right this time.

We conquered our first double staircase! we accompanied them through the next lock at Tilstone too then went ahead to find a mooring, we wanted a relaxing weekend but after the events earlier we felt quite stressed so decided the sun was really hot & we needed some food & one of the remaining Guinness each. I made lunch & poured the Guinness whilst Lochaber went delving into the weed hatch to see if any more of the earlier tree debris had got entangled further, instead, on lifting the engine covers we were met by an overpowering smell of paint, paint? how can this be? On closer inspection the large tin of blue paint for our bodywork that had been left for us by the builder & always been stored here has had the bottom of the tin completely dissolved by the battery acid from the explosion even though all items in the engine room including the paint tins were washed down during the clean up. It was a 2.5litre tin & over half full, the paint had seeped out but luckily stayed on the upper shelf, however it is the type of paint that needs a hardener & of course that hadn’t leaked so the blue paint was still wet & would stay that way. The 5litre tin of blacking next to it was going through the same process although the bottom was still in tact but leaking, numerous swear words, hands full of black bags & wads of blue roll later we had it under control. I was so incensed I didn’t think about taking a photo but Lochaber looked like a “blue & white minstrel” by the time we had finished. He had gloves on to start with but due to the paint being so sticky & wet he couldn’t work with them on, some thirty minutes later, one knackered scrubbing-brush, half a bottle of Fairy Liquid his hands were very sore but clean!

The lunch was still waiting to be eaten & another Guinness each poured, I stepped off the side of the boat lunch in hand missed judged the corrugated style canal edge & oops, lunch in the air, leg in the water, dignity bruised!

How much more can we take today, all we wanted was a quiet weekend.

After remaking & eating lunch, we both felt so hot, bothered & stressed that we decided to have a siesta & carry on a bit further in the cool of the evening, about 20mins into my sleep…..bang!….Oh, Sorry about that! a passing boat trying to go between us & an oncoming boat rather than wait or slow down, hit us! Enough, I’m going back to sleep, can’t take anymore.

After a couple of hours rest & a nice cup we decided to do another hour to get a bit closer to Beeston Castle, the wind that had started around lunchtime had died down a bit so we headed off, it was quieter now so we did Beeston Stone Lock & Beeston Iron Lock on our own without any problems, quite happy getting the hang of these double locks now! all the mooring spaces had been taken so we headed on to Whartons lock & decided to stop after that one for the night. Went in with another smaller boat which had around 6 passengers so all paddles & gates were manned, all was going smoothly until our boat started to tilt to starboard……more &.more……something is wrong……things flying off worktops inside, cupboard doors flying open, I shouted up to those at the top “put water back in”……water back in quickly”…she was still tipping, a mad flurry of people above then suddenly she levelled out, I couldn’t see anything on the side of the lock that had snagged us, was it something in the bottom? we still have no idea as she stayed level on the second attempt.

Beeston Castle, nice reward for a rather tiring day.

This is just too much stress for one day, I’m mooring up for some supper & another Guinness. Lovely mozzarella & cherry tomato pizza in the oven, Guinness poured, a few tweets done……..Oh no! the pizza is burned!

Today 8 miles, 6.5hrs, 7 locks & a bucket load of stress!

Saturday 26th May 2012

Beeston Castle to Tattenhall Marina

Well, I am managing to sit & type this blog post a bit more calmly than yesterday!

After a good nights sleep with the winter duvet removed & the very light summer duvet on we awoke around 8am to a glorious day already started & warmed up without us. We decided to take a deep breath gather the thoughts on yesterday & have a relaxing day.

As I opened the side window the fabulous site of a young family of swans greeted me.

This was a better start, we had a good bacon sarnie & a cup of tea, did a few odd jobs, took Caley for a walk. It was quite breezy today but would have been too hot without it & the wind was behind us on the short run to Tattenhall Marina where there is a winding hole to turn.

As we started to leave the mooring at Beeston some canoeists appeared on the canal, battling a bit against the wind, especially the lady in the inflatable style canoe.

It was easy going with the wind behind us no locks on this short journey today, need a rest from locks after yesterday! We could see Beeston fading in the background. The Shroppie was quite busy today, must be the glorious weather.

We turned at Tattenhall & made our way back into the wind this time. It was only about lunch time but we said we wanted a relaxing day will be a longer day tomorrow with these double jeopardy locks again!

We got back to Beeston & stopped just before The Shady Oak pub on a quiet mooring & decided to go for some lunch. The pub garden was packed & right on canalside. The Black Sheep real ale was good, the cajun chicken in pitta bread with spicy fries was fabulous.

These two expensive toys were parked in the carpark, when they left the roar of the quads engine was impressive.

Suitably chilled today we made our way back to the boat for a few G & T’s  & some more canalside sun, plenty of passers by wanting to chat, one old fella telling us he had just been on holiday to Lochaber in Scotland! Moored just down from us is a Caraboat, Lochaber wants one!

 The family of swans we had seen earlier were on the way back to the nest after an outing, bless!

As I am sitting here typing the blog Lochaber is watching Eurovision, I have to say the evening bird song I can hear from the side window is far more beautiful than anything on the TV!

A picturesque end to a chilled out day, thank goodness.

Beeston Castle to Tattenhall, 1hr 20 mins, 2.5 miles, 0 locks, zero stress

Sunday 27th May 2012

I awoke around 7am feeling a lot more rested after a relaxing day yesterday.  We have decided to make our way south towards Barbridge today & leave our idyllic mooring just north of Bates Mill Bridge & the Shady oak Pub.  I was still a bit apprehensive about returning through the dreaded double locks, but when I pulled the blinds the sight that faced me put a smile on my face, what a perfect start to any day.

Egg rolls for a change today. a quick engine, fuel & battery check done we set off around 8am, it was far less windy today & therefore felt warmer.

We reached the dreaded Whartons Lock where we had tipped on the way north, but all was well locking up going south. She sighs with relief as we rise to the top.

We carried on at a leisurely pace towards Beeston Iron Lock, the gates, & sides are all made from iron panels, I don’t think it is as nice as the traditional locks.

Between BeestonIron Lock & Beeston Stone Lock is  a section of canal that is very close to the railway line, you can see the signal box  & just pass that is an area which looks like a stock/goods yard but we noticed it has alot of pill boxes……I think it may be something to do with a german Prisoner of war camp or transprtation of prisoners but i will try to do some more research & find out more detailed facts.

Beeston Stone Lock has a row of lock cottages alongside screened by some small trees, we noticed that one was for sale.

Rising up in Beeston Stone lock as a fibreglass boat waits to come in.  We headed onward to Tilstone  Lock. This is looking back northwards from Beeston Stone Lock.

The canal meanders along towards Tilstone lock, we noticed some very pretty looking side pond along this stretch.

It was very hot by now about 9.30am, but the canal was still fairly quiet, just how we like it, so we just cruised along very slowly enjoying the day.

We approached Tilstone lock, which was set in our favour, this morning had been kind to us either the locks were set in our favour or another boat was just coming out.

Tilstone Locks was set ready for the boat waiting to come in. One of the paddles is a bit sticky at this lock.

We carried on & decided to get Bunbury staircase locks out of the way before a lunchtime stop.

We arrived just north of bridge 104 at Calveley the mooring we almost empty & looked really peaceful, so we moored up for lunch…Reggae Reggae Spicy pasties & a cold Guinness….tasty!  Within half an hour three more boats arrived, you can see that’s D’riculous facing the camera second in the line. I walked across the bridge to the sanitary station to off load some rubbish. The view from the bridge looking north along The Shroppie was fabulous in the sunshine, happy holiday makers!

The other side of the bridge at Calveley was a different story & much busier.

As I wandered back after disposing of the rubbish, I decided that we could easily make it back to aqueduct tomorrow morning so we could stay here tonight, it was such a lovely spot.

By the time I got back Lochaber had come to the same conclusion & was pouring another Guinness.

Caley the spaniel has got a taste for it this weekend as well! So we let her have a few sips before sending her in for a swim, she had been very good after her initial disappearing act this weekend & not attempted to jump in at all, well maybe once but we tie her on whilst we are travelling now.

So that was us, we feasted on pork pies,  Chicken & pineapple freshly baked baguettes with chilli mayo enjoyed the sun, made friends with our neighbours from March in Cambridgeshire who had a recently repainted Black Prince boat that they are over the moon with. They have not renamed her yet & have travelled from the Middle Level & will be returning in September.

We managed to get some reflective mirror film on the front windows in the bedroom so we can have the sun streaming in at daybreak but without eyes peering in. I’ll let you know how it is when I wake up tomorrow.

Another beautiful sunset ends another lovely day on the Shroppie.

Bates Mill Bridge 109 to Calveley bridge 104 3.5 miles,  3.75hrs,  5 locks,

 

The next day the weather was glorious again & it was just a few hours back to the marina, through Barbridge an area we had got to know so well,

 

 passing Blue Meon on the way, I love this paintwork it is so clear & bright.

 

then on to, through & looking back at Minshull Lock,

It is 2012 the year of the Queens Diamond Jubilee & the London Olympic Games & the whole country seems to be celebrating despite the weather!

 

 

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Sunday 15th April 2012

Chuch Minshull viewpoint to Aqueduct Marina.

This is the last day of our very mixed Easter holiday week.  The weather has been mixed, rain, heavy rain, really heavy rain, ice balls, hail stones, sunshine but not much wind apart from after Lochaber had the chilli con carnie!  The wildlife has given us glimpses of baby ducklings, nesting swans, numerous seemingly unafraid herons & the highlight of the week our first sighting of a kingfisher!

It flew alongside the boat for a few hundred yards darting in & out of the canal bank, beautiful shimmering colours, finally it posed just for us! Here he/she is…..

Emotionally our week has given us some respite from work but has challenged our boating skills with the near failure of the 2nd drive plate & the loss of reverse gear on the home straight. I thought that a  narrowboaters life was supposed to be relaxed & unstressed! I think the stress was actually caused not so much by the mechanical components failures but by the fact that we thought last year this problem had been resolved. I will detail things a bit more on the page dealing specifically with the drive plate issues once the promised replacement gear box  has been fitted & everything is working correctly.

I’ve had a hearty boaters breakfast. The sun is shining, the wind is minimal, the canal is relatively still, it is 10am & I have one shot at getting this 57ft of steel with no reverse gear into her mooring BN3 at Aqueduct Marina, here we go…….

We pulled her around & in through the entrance, then a small amount of forward power so I had some steering, hold your breath & hope the wind doesn’t gust, so far so good, one of the lads from the marina was at the end of our jetty waiting for Lochaber to throw the rope once I had the bow close enough & turning, at times like this never listen to anyone who says you don’t need a Bow Thruster, it has been a life saver for us the past two days & I say that unashamedly!! Power is right off & we are gliding in bow turned just enough, throw that rope, shes’ in, now guys just stop her completely before the bow reaches the opposite jetty, Yes! we made it. Sighs of relief.

I need a few minutes to get my nerves sorted, the heron on one of the boats opposite our stern who had been watching the carry on certainly helped me calm down.

So, I hope you have enjoyed my first proper boating week blog & the journey we have shared with you.

Today 1.5miles 3 bridges, o locks, 30 minutes, 1 marina

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Saturday 14th April 2012

Middlewich to Church Minshull Viewpoint

After a somewhat dissapointing end to yesterday when reverse gear was completely lost coming under bridge 168 between Kings Lock & Wardle Lock at Middlewich, we awoke with a sense of trepidation. Although we only have a couple of miles with one lock to go to reach the safety of Aqueduct Marina, we have a considerable amount of bridges some without much of a view through to the other side to see oncoming traffic.

It was dull today but at least it was dry for now. We set off around 12 midday & Lochaber walked ahead for the first couple of bridges as they were close together to warn me of any oncoming boats. Although I was only cruising very slowly it still takes considerable time to come to a stop & a breeze was starting to build up so I couldn’t keep the forward speed as slow as I would have liked.

Approaching Stanthorne lock we passed a boat whose owner told us that another boat was coming through the lock in the same direction, I slowed down to the absolute minimum that I could & just basically let That’s D’riculous go with the flow of the canal until we saw the second boat emerge from the lock, they left the gates open as they spotted us so we just glided in very slowly & I threw a centre rope up just so that Lochaber could bring her to a total stop.

So far, so good! we carried on towards Church Minshull honking the horn loudly as we approached every bridge that we could not see through, only once did we meet another boat when it was too late & frantic hand jestures & more horn blasts got him to realise that he was the only one with the option of going backwards. No contact was made & apologies for all the noise & frantic jestures were accepted on a quick explanation as we passed!

In the midst of all our tense concentration we suddenly noticed a swan following an oncoming boat very closely in its wake, as our two boats passed he immediately turned around & positioned him/herself in our wake very close to the rudder, we had never seen this behaviour before, he was that close he was pecking at the rear fender almost as if he/she was trying to hang on to it. We realised that he/she was in fact catching a free ride, using our wake to pull him/her along, this carried on for around half a mile then he just backed off.

The swan had brightened our otherwise stressful short trip back to Church Minshull. Shortly we arrived at the veiwpoint which is one of our favorite stops before entering the Marina, as once back in the marina our trips seem over, but we weren’t going home until tomorrow afternoon, so reverse gear or not we still had another night aboard & we were not going to waste it in the marina. I checked the weather for Sunday & it was supposed to be bright & sunny with very little wind, this was what we needed as Aqueduct Marina is incredibly open & even a slight breeeze can pull boats to the far end of the marina & our particular mooring takes quite a tight trun to get in & with no revorse we will only have one shot at this tomorrow!

We enjoyed the veiw & watching a couple of guys messing around in thier flying machines, they had parachute type canopies but with small engines of some sort. we are told this is power paragliding!  A nice relaxing end to a stressful day!

Now the nerves need steadying with a few glasses of white & some good food, Gammon steak & all the trimmings should hit the mark!

Today 5 miles, 1 lock, 16 bridges, 2hrs 35 mins 

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Aqueduct Marina

Friday 17th February 2012

Well, we made it this weekend, arrived at Aqueduct marina around 2.30pm, after stopping at Uplands Marina in Northwich to pick up a very handy piece of steel work Nick Bancroft of NB Marine Services had made for us. As you can see from the inside pics of That’s D’riculous on the Buying a narrowboat page nothing really divides the kitchen area off from the main area of the boat, that seems fine but when in use we found that any splashes from the cooker top were settling on the woodburner! Not great, so Nick had a simple stainless steel angled plate made for us to stop this & it actually masks any cooking pots as well, we like it & think it was well worth having it made to measure.

The weather was overcast when we arrived but dry so we set about storing the logs & coal away, making up the fire & plugged in the new heated blanket to air the bed. Now, that blanket was money WELL spent the bed was toastie & completely aired by 10pm & seemed to hold much of that warmth all night. That all done we put sausages in the oven & opened the wine! So glad just to be afloat again!

Saturday 18th February 2012

Awoke to the boat rocking gently in the strengthening wind & rain tapping on the roof, tea & toast & back to bed with that great new blanket switched on & a catch up with fellow #boatsthattweet. Blue skies above the low clouds, maybe it will break soon.we had an unexpected visitor as a good boatie brunch was being made.

This Aqueduct Marina’s dog in residence Jack & he belongs to marina owner Robert Parton. I got a paw shake in return for half a sausage….bless!  A few more cups of tea downed the rain has stopped & the sun was out, time to take our other dog (Caley the Spaniel) for a walk. Half way along the towpath  the sky darkened & the hailstones rained down on us! a couple of all-weather boaters on the move, by the time we got back to the marina it had passed & the sun was out again, time for a piece of delicious cake & a cappuccino in The Galley coffee shop.

“A dogs life”, this boating lark!

View of the marina from The Galley Coffee shop

So, this is my first blog entry from the boat on the new laptop which will accompany us when we move aboard. I think it is as good as previous blogs from the home computer, but need more practice to find my way around this one & get competent without a mouse!

Sunday 19th February 2012

The weather was pretty awful most of Sunday, we had heard the hail stones during the night & awoke to a very icy walkway & brrrrrr it was cold, nothing for it but to make tea & toast & return to the all-encompassing warmth of the wonderful new blanket!! This is becoming a habit! A quick catch up with #boatsthattweet & the chance for me to tell you a little story.

Charlies’ Story

Charlie is Aqueducts’ resident swan, he was made known to us when we first arrived last year by Robert’s young son who was very sad because Charlie didn’t have a friend! Apparently Charlie was always on his own, he is  very friendly it’s almost as if he gets to know his boaters & always comes to greet you when you arrive even if it is, like us, sometimes 11.30pm & in the dark….Charlie still appears to say “hello”. Now, you might say, that could be any old swan, No! we know its Charlies cos’ he has a broken beak!

We wondered if it was because of Charlies broken beak he didn’t have a mate, but I don’t suppose swans are that vain really!

During the summer of 2011 Charlie appeared to have a lady friend but she had cygnets in tow & although he tolerated her he wasn’t keen on the young ones, however she stuck around, the youngsters have gone their own way & Charlie seems to be “all loved up” We are all so pleased this “swan song” has a happy ending!

The Marina was so still after the storm on Saturday night the water was like glass. It was beautiful & unusually peaceful.

Time for the usual coffee & scones in The Gally before we start the long trek back to Scotland.

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Friday 10th February 2012

Well I am one mad cookie…..did the met office get it wrong or what, we could have driven down to our nb, snow didn’t materialise as they said, temperatures didn’t drop as much as they said….GUTTED!” May go to Falkirk Wheel instead just to see some nb’s.

I bought an electric overblanket today for That’s D’riculous well for us really for when we go down during the cold winter months, because we are not on board continually she it very, very, very cold when we turn up at about 11pm on a Friday night & without waking the whole marina there is not much we can do to warm her or the bed up apart from pop the central heating on for a while but we are always well tired from the journey so sitting around too long isn’t an option. a hot water bottle doesn’t seem to have much effect in the bed either. The box says the blanket cost 1p per night to run (Hmm….) & even without a shoreline we should be ok with our 3kw inverter.

I have been thinking today about the sad story I have been reading on Tom & Jans blog site for nbWaiouru, the supposed boat builder concerned Ben Harp should have his head hung in shame for what he has done to these people. They wanted to leave New Zealand & come to retire here and continue after numerous trips exploring our canal system permanently. There is a link to their blog on the right hand side of this page, it is well worth a read. I wish them the very best of luck in moving things forward & eventually getting the boat sorted out.

The damaged nb Waiouru

Saturday 11th February 2012 

We have decided that because we hadn’t managed to get down to Aqueduct Marina to join in the 3rd anniversary celebrations that we would go to have a look at the Falkirk Wheel, nr Stirling. As boaters now we should have already been due to the fact that until we become liveaboard we are still based in Scotland. The weather was not as good as I would have liked but it was 4c & I think most of the boaters in England are still in sub zero temperatures. Although we did find ice on the Union canal although it looks as if it is cracked & broken it was actually really thick & solid. The ice was very clear rather than opaque as the english canal photos seem to show.

There were not many narrowboats moored in the basin, mainly the hire fleet tucked away for the winter.

The locks on the Union canal above the Falkirk Wheel are so new looking compared to some we have seen down south, they look to new & unused & the mechanism for operating the lock gates was new to us, has anybody seen this type of operation on the english canals? We are assuming that you use your BW key & turn a knob & “hey presto” job done rather than all that winding of stiff cogs with a windlass.

We noticed a nice Scottish touch for mooring at the top of the Wheel, the mooring cleats had a Celtic design on them!

There are lots more photos on the PAGE headed Scotland’s’ Canals (plus the skating swans!)

Thursday 16th February 2012

I haven’t posted much since last weekend as it has just been the monotonous daily grind, this year is going to be really hard waiting to start getting ready to liveaboard our nb.  A couple of people on Twitter have said “why wait?”, “why don’t you do it now?” well the reason is pictured below,  his name is Wally & he is a 9 1/2 year old Newfoundland. He has been my close companion for all that time & has been with me through some very rough & tough times. He was the inspiration for me to get back on my feet after breaking my leg & hip at the same time! No, I wasn’t drunk! surgeon said if I had been I probably wouldn’t have broken them just badly bruised myself! Anyway, this beautiful boy is in the autumn of his life & currently has an ulcerated corn on one of his large pads which apparently will never heal & is too big to be operated on as he would loose 40% of the pad & healing may not occur properly with 385kg pushing down on it .  If it was at all viable we would make the move & take him with us but the style of our nb makes it impossible for him to get in & out of the cabin easily, plus the fact he’s not keen on narrow spaces! So as much as his loss will be one of the hardest days of my life, I feel that knowing my life will completely change is the only way I will be able to get over it.  I have already asked our vet about having his ashes so at least he come on our travels with us!!

Wally is off the see his favorite friend Jeremy this weekend at the local Kennels as we really, really need to get down to the boat & chill out, the weather has broken, the ice is melting & we have nb withdrawal.

So my next blog post will be done for the first time from That’s D’riculous. See you then. 

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