Thursday, 22 February 2018

The Northgate Shuffle. 21st February

Chester Basin to Duttons Bridge 112
Chester students are far quieter than those in Nottingham, we hardly heard a sound from them all night. The down side however of mooring on that side of the basin is the bright lights along the towpath, Tilly is a right b**ger at opening the curtains for a nose at 3am! But on the up side it was very easy for the man from Sainsburys to find us this morning. The back steps are almost hovering with the extras that get stored under them!
P1240062smThe bins were sorted ready to be disposed of at the top of the staircase and we made use of the nearby elsan to empty our yellow water tank. We were then ready for the off.
P1240067smSwinging under the bridges at the bottom of the staircase we could see that the bottom chamber wasn’t empty, well there had been a Carefree Cruising Boat head up earlier in the morning. Then we could see a red boiler suit near the top, it had to be Brian from NB Harnser. I walked up and introduced myself. They were sharing the top chamber with another boat, but we were welcome to enter the bottom one and then we’d do a shuffle.
P1240068smBy the time the bottom chamber was empty both descending boats were in the middle one, water cascading over the gates. As soon as I’d looped our centre rope around a bollard and closed the gate Brian did the honours and started to lift the paddle to lower their boats and raise Oleanna. The other day when we’d walk up the middle chamber had been as empty as it could get and we’d been puzzled as to where the water came into it from the chamber above. We’d looked along both sides but could see anything. Mick did a bit of hunting on the internet and discovered that the water actually enters the locks below the cil, so centrally below the next set of gates, not from the sides. This made for an easy transit up the staircase.
P1240071smP1240079smP1240081smOnce the two chambers were level Brian moved NB Harnser into the bottom chamber alongside Oleanna, the chap on the other boat moved over to create a space for Mick to move forward into. As soon as Oleanna was out of the way Harnser was pushed over to take her place and the other boat could then move in along side. Gates closed, shuffle completed, we could all carry on up and down the staircase. I still had to fill the top lock as I’d been too busy chatting to Brian to do it earlier, so they reached the bottom before I’d even started to fill the middle. Waves all round as they disappeared under the railway bridge.
P1240107smHoole Lane Lock is the first out of the city. The two times we’ve come up these locks before to The Cheshire Cat we haven’t been able to control the boat and poor NB Winding Down got biffed around quite a bit, even dropping paddles didn’t help. Today we are four years more experienced, but this didn’t help!
We passed the centre rope round a bollard, tried the same side ground paddle, no! Other side paddle, no! A bit of one then the other, no! Sitting closer to the top gates, no! Sitting further away, no! Other than just letting a trickle of water thorough and it taking forever, is there any way of working these locks with one boat and not biffing around?
P1240111smOnce up Christleton Lock we pulled in and filled with water. We took the opportunity to have a late lunch too. The first of the cheeses came out, Cenarth Brie and Ribblesdale Blue Goat. Both very nice especially the goats cheese, shame it was the most expensive.
P1240121smP1240124smOriginally we’d planned to stop at the Cheshire Cat again but instead we decided to push on a bit further today. The next pound is over eight miles long, so steady going. Tilly was making quite a fuss inside, shouting at us I don’t shout! So I offered that she could join us for a bit. This means her wearing a harness and being attached to a lead, I don’t trust her not to jump off or get into trouble. Putting the harness on is quite easy and once out on the roof on a short reign she had a good nosy around. Sitting on the wood above the morse control seemed to be a favourite today. Metal can be so cold on one’s derriere. She stayed with us for a good twenty minutes, she normally only lasts five. That is because I am far more experienced now, it’s just when someone steals the sky that I get worried. She finally made up her mind to return indoors as we approached Golden Nook Moorings, the mile of boats.
P1240145smAs we passed NB Blackbird we wondered when we might see her again, our paths aren’t likely to cross this summer. One more boat in the line today. We carried on to bridge 113 where there are moorings, but decided to go past the entrance to Tattenhall Marina and pull in. Well we would have if we could have, but the bottom was too close to the top on numerous attempts. First spot that we could pull in at was through the next bridge. Tilly had been shouting at the bathroom window so I quickly recited the rules and even though it was half an hour before sun down she was allowed out.
The day she moved in
A year later, well setlled
Two years later, she rules our lives.
Today marks the second anniversary of when Tilly came to live with us. She has grown up and is very accustomed to living on a boat now, I often wonder what she’d make of living in a house.
DSCF7114sm8 locks, 3 a staircase, 1 shuffle, 8.67 miles, 1 blogging boat, 1 ex-blogging boat, 2nd water point working, 4 croggies, 5 annoying locks, 2 cheeses, 20 minutes they just stand around whilst the outside changes itself! 118 boats, 1 mooring too close to a chilled medication farm, 2 years of not needing a hot water bottle, 2 years of purrs, 2 years of being shouted at, 2 years of life with Tilly.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

The Other Chester’s Not Much Better! 20th February

Tilly Trees to Chester Basin

P1240020smP1240024smThe sun was back out this morning but accompanied by a strong wind. I suspect normally we’d have stayed put until it calmed down, but we had quite a list of things we wanted to get done back in Chester. So after breakfast  we pushed off and made our way back to Chester basin.

P1240038smThis time we pulled up on the other side in front of the student accommodation. I hoped off and went searching for a postcode. The buildings here are shown on Google as a building site so searching for a postcode on the internet last night had been guesswork. Luckily the student block had it’s address written on it and the flats on the other side of Wharf View shouted out their numbers. Why a postcode? Well we wanted to get a grocery delivery. Yes we could  stop in town on our way through and stock up at Tescos, but this way our wine cellar restock will come right to the boats stern on a trolley.

P1240046smOnce the food shopping was sorted we walked down to the retail park. Mick hunted for some cooker extractor hood filter and a 10mm drill bit, whilst I looked for cheap reading glasses, yarn and cushion pads. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to find everything I wanted so I carried on into the city to Abakhan to see if they could help.

With everything ticked off the list there was one place left to visit in Chester. At the end of last year Jennie from NB Tentatrice mentioned the Chester Cheese Shop. We have passed it so many times over the last few weeks and been exceptionally good. I used to eat cheese just about every lunch time until my doctor told me to cut back, so cheese is now rationed. I’d decided that if I went into the shop just before we left Chester that would be the safest bet, only being able to have one visit not several.

P1240053smIt was worth waiting for and maybe Mick should have been with me! Before I got there I’d decided that three cheese would be enough, well three was only going to be a tease, so I settled for four, not bad considering there’s getting on for two hundred in the shop. The lady let me take my time in making my choices. Because there was such a choice I decided that I wasn’t allowed to buy anything that we’ve had before. A couple of little samples meant that I wasn’t going to return to the boat with something I didn’t like. Not a cheap purchase, but treats don’t have to be. We’ll try to eek them out and make them last.

P1240048smBack at Oleanna the sun was working wonders on our solar panel, just a shame the batteries we currently have don’t have the capacity to last without us running the engine early evening. So looking forward to the days when we won’t have to listen to Oleanna ticking over anymore.

P1240060smIt didn’t take me long to realise they’d moved the outside away from my trees to that Chester place again! This other Chester at least has a small tree and a sideways tree, but they are quite a distance from the boat so hard to reach without someone coming by. They really must try harder, I don’t want to go to another Chester again Thank you!

P1240055smDSCF7114sm0 locks, 1.95 miles, 1 blowy morning, 2 more pairs glasses £1 each, 4 balls of wool, 47 buttons, 3 cushion pads, 5 drill bits, 1 big shop on it’s way, 1 blue goats, 1 welsh thick brie, 1 strong cheddar, 1 orange blue.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

TREES!!! 19th February

Ellesmere Port Basin to Knolls Bridge Visitor Mooring

P1230966smTime to make our departure, so after picking up some milk from the petrol station we were ready to head off. With radio in hand I headed off to set the bottom lock, it’s quite a walk round from the lower basin. As the levels were about to equalise I radioed to Mick who pushed off, no hanging around hoping to avoid gusts of wind today.

P1230972smP1230969smI set the lock filling and walked up to the chamber above. The museum like to keep the locks full, people are less likely to hurt themselves falling into a full lock chamber than an empty one, so I wound down the top paddle before emptying it. As Oleanna rose in the bottom lock I opened up a bottom gate paddle on the top lock. The level rose and the bottom lock was full to the brim plus a little bit more. One of the paddles on the top lock is actually locked off so that the amount of flooding is limited until all the levels equal out.

Pulling in straight away to top up with water we also disposed of our rubbish. Then we were on our way. Tilly had become resigned to sleeping away the day, which made getting through the back doors with mugs of tea far easier than normal. Under all the bridges, the piles of scrap metal had been cleared from the other day but replaced with new bent metal objects. We passed the Cheshire Oaks moorings, no inclination to stop.

P1230979smP1230988smAt the end of the line of off side moorings the Alsatian with the wonky ears appeared and barked us past. Do dogs ever get accustomed to things like boats passing? Do they ever realise that barking at us is just pointless? Or are they wanting us to pick them up and cruise away with them? No.

P1240001smTrees and bushes along the towpath are starting to sprout their buds. Catkins and Pussy Willow bringing them back to life for the spring. We’ll soon be seeing Blackthorn blossom taking over the hedgerows, blocking off the views but giving us a prettier one.

P1240012smP1240013smWe decided to push on past the Zoo moorings and carry on that bit further to where there is an abundance of trees all ready to be climbed!

P1240017smP1240018smWoweeee!!! Apart from there being too many walkers here is great, well worth waiting for. Tilly sprang from tree to tree like a squirrel, much better than at the zoo moorings.

From Yesterdays post I’ve come across a few more articles about Joe and Rose Skinner, also about their nephew Jack who helped to save the Oxford Canal. There is plenty more out there about Joe and Rose including ‘The Last Number Ones’ a compilation of articles about the pair which comes with a recording of them.

Here are a few links for those interested.

Friendship remembered, Canal Junction

My Visit to Rose and Jack Skinner

Jack Skinner Obituary

DSCF7121sm2 locks, 1 right, 6.59 miles, 1 set of lights off at last! 1 full water tank, 1 empty bin, 2 dead ducks, 32 poohs, 1 wonky eared dog, 1 ecstatic cat, 15 trees conquered, 3 friends, 2 boaters sending thoughts to Frank, when are you and Steve coming to visit?

Monday, 19 February 2018

Mob Handed Or Too Many? 18th February

Ellesmere Port Basin

P1230824smP1230834smSunday morning, a cooked breakfast with a difference. We’d spotted in Sainsburys some mushroom saugsages, Shroomdogs, and thought we’d give them a try. They were nice, low in fat (although you have to pan fry them), but we’d rather have proper sausages or if being good turkey ones, but they were nice for a change.


I got to have a bit of an explore, not that there is much on this island. Somehow she thought I was up to no good, no idea what made her think that!

Once I’d seared the outside of a joint of Silverside and sat it on top of some onions and carrots in the cast iron pot, given it a tipple of red wine, I sat it on the stove top to slowly cook whilst we had a look at the rest of the museum.

A narrowboat sat in the top lock ready to do a lock demonstration, smoke could be seen rising from one of the cottage chimneys and a couple of ladies were walking round in period dress. There was certainly more activity going on today than yesterday, the volunteers were out in numbers.

P1230840smP1230841smWe took time to look around the boats moored outside. The amount of space you get in a Leeds Liverpool short boat is vast, if we ever upgraded to a fat boat I’d want one of these.

P1230874smA group of volunteers were getting ready to move George, another short boat, out from under cover. George is one of the last horse drawn short boats, therefore has no engine so was going to have to be poled and pulled out from her position. Ropes were being attached to a pontoon bridge which connects the Island Warehouse to the Toll House. We decided to take a seat and watch what was going on.

P1230884smP1230887smContainers under the pontoon needed to be pumped out so that it could be floated out of the way, this was going to take time so we watched the lock demo for a bit. However having already done 721 locks with Oleanna there was nothing said that we didn’t know already.

P1230852smThe narrow locks were built with problems. The top chamber is getting on for 8/9 feet deep the second one maybe only 5 feet. This means that there is an excess of water and the bottom lock and pound above were prone to flooding, added to this that the bottom lock is around 8 inches lower than the pound above it most probably flooded every time it was used. A channel was added linking the intermediary pound to the one between the broad locks. This meant that the water had a much larger area to level itself out. As we came down the locks I’d noticed water coming in from the broad side and the bottom narrow lock did look like it was going to flood the towpath and surrounding area, it didn’t due to the underwater channel.

P1230889smP1230895smOnce the bridge was moveable  it was pulled across and tied up to the side, then it was George’s turn to move. Ropes were flung across to waiting volunteers and a lady poled her from the stern. From where we were it was very obvious that the gap left was far too narrow to get such a broad boat through, but they carried on, realising the bridge would need to move some more. Juggling boats here must have been such a nightmare when there were still the sunken boats about, today it was hard enough.

P1230897smP1230905smWe moved up onto a bridge and from our higher position we could see that more space was needed, but we refrained from calling out directions and left it to the volunteers. Eventually after nudging boats about they got George clear and to the top of the locks where they would need to turn her. There were already too many people helping so we decided we’d be better off inside the museum and left them to it.

George will be going out onto the Ship Canal on Wednesday, from where she will be taken onto the River Weaver and taken to Northwich where she will be getting a fresh coat of blacking on her wooden hull.

P1230955smThe upper floor of the Island Warehouse is filled with even more interesting things.

NB Friendship is the centre piece and she deserves to be.

P1230866smBuilt by Sephtons at Hawksbury Junction for Joe and Rose Skinner in 1924 she was a horse drawn narrowboat. She cost £300 and the Skinners paid an initial £140 the remaineder being gradually paid off by weekly 10 shilling instalments. NB Friendship became their home for over 50 years. Joe purchased Dolly their Mule from the US army at the end of WW1, she was a faithful worker giving 40 years of service. She fell into the Oxford Canal and then developed pneumonia which sadly led to her being put down. Without Dolly it wasn’t the same and with motor boats everywhere it was hard to compete, so they decided to retire at the end of 1959. Even though they had a house at Hawksbury Junction they continued to live on board NB Friendship using the house to store Joe’s scrap and occasionally cook Sunday dinner.

P1230868smThey would go to boat rallies and in 1973 they did their last long trip to Northampton, Joe was now in his 80’s. Joe died following a stroke in 1975 followed a year later by Rose. They had been married 56 years. Friendship was left to Rose’s niece, by 1978 enough money had been raised to bring the boat to Ellesmere Port. Much work was needed, but it was decided that it would be best to store her on dry land and retain the original boat as much as possible. To get her to her location in the museum she had to be cut in half and craned onto the first floor, rolled into position on scaffolding bars where she was put back together.

P1230922smP1230934smP1230948smOn this floor there is so much, you can rock an ice breaker, I managed to clear 5.3m of ice. You can look around a wooden cruiser, virtual tours of several other boats, watch footage of the Telford Warehouse burning to the ground in 1975. Listen to a navvie having a break, look at wooden patterns that were used for casting lock pieces, 1:24 scale models of hulls and try counting the number of granny squares it took to cover Rainbow.

P1230859smP1230953smA good information packed afternoon and we feel that we most definitely got our moneys worth. We could even have returned for some more as we found ourselves skipping over parts. Another £4 to moor another night and some chilled medication to walk back to Oleanna with. Tomorrow when we leave the museum will be closed, so no gongoozlers to help push gates.

P1230961smOur pot roast beef was delicious, we’ll defiantly  be doing that again.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 more night, 1 moor hen, 4 shroomdogs, 48 hours of lights, 8+ to move a bridge and boat, 2 more voices not needed, 94 years old, 1 special boat, 5.3m, £300, 5 boaty craft stalls, 283 squares, 1 super tasty joint of beef, 1 hearth rug finished.