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Sunday, 20 May 2018

Security issues addressed and Thank goodness I'm not a duck!


After having to "break in" using Eddie's skeleton key the other day... and subsequently discovering HOW easy that was, I set to and got a couple of Shutter locks to prevent the hatch being moved AT ALL.

As we had a few days off before our next guests came on board... AND we were in a relatively private place in the layby (I really don't know how else to describe where we were at the time)I set to to fit one of them.

WHAT a pig of a job - NOT made easier by the fact the "locking bolt) was 13/14mm and my biggest drill bit is 12mm - I only got that to make a big enough hole ofr the solar cables to come in through the front of the boat.

It was to be a "team event" as you can see...

Having press-ganged encouraged Andy to help, we lifted off the hatch (something before my carpel tunnels were done I'd have been able to unaided) and set to fitting the shutter lock.

I was having a hell of job trying to get the 8mm in the right place when it dawned on me to stick a bit of tape on the hatch and then use a sharpie (other marker pens are available) to colour in around the "holes" and then press it into position.  

Worked a treat.  I had to drill BIGGER holes on the under side to get the countersunk bolts in AND allow access to the allen key underneath to tighten them up.

I also had to bugger about wiggling the too small drill bit preserve with enlarging the 12mm centre hole to 14mm in order for the bolt to go through.

Anyway - once it was done, we lifted it back on and you can see how it works now.  Prevents the hatch sliding either way so it can't be lifted off unless the bolt has been unlocked. 

Now I need to fit another lock - probably a yale type, to keep the back doors together and what with the padlocks, that might deter any person of nefarious intent from trying to break in.  Fingers crossed.

Once that job was complete, we sat by the side of the boat and watched the sun go down - only to be joined by a lovely "duck couple"... they were very inquisitive - up until a point when "Mr Duck" decided it was time for some loving with "Mrs Duck"...

Well I WRITE loving.... it's FAR from loving!  It's funny, but as a kid you never spotted what went on with the ducks... you'd just come across a nest full of eggs and a short while later, see a load of adorable ducklings swimming around with their mother.

AS an adult however, you can't help but witness a truly awful duck gangbang mating ritual - that on occasions must come close to being a snuff movie.  It's horrible.

It set us thinking - having kept chickens, we KNOW that hens lay "about" 1 egg every 26 hours (give or take) whether they've been "loved" or not... can ducks do the same?  Does one viscous attack = one fertilized egg? ... of course I tried asking google as we walked back to town to buy some stove blacking but the reception was poor so I never got an answer.

Suffice to say, IF there was/is such a thing as re-incarnation, I know for sure I do NOT want to come back as a duck.

Writing of walking back into town, When we rounded the corner near the Windmill in Parbold we spotted a fly boat just setting off.

For a large old boat, she looked surprisingly easy to handle and the old couple on board seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.

We're going to head back to Parbold for the "duck race" this weekend - it'll probably be very busy so fingers crossed we can get moored back in the same spot as our previous visit.

Until next time...

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Tarleton to Burscough on the Rufford Arm...and 2 extra trips created on the Liverpool Link...

Sorry I've not updated this for a few days - we've been busy saying hello (and goodbye) to Brian and Marilyn who joined us in Tarleton for a 2 night taster... they weren't sure if boating was for them so rather than jump in for a week, asked if we'd let them stay for a couple of nights instead.

It worked out rather well and whilst they were camera shy, they did muck in and treat us (AND the boat) as old friends... just what we were hoping for.

ANYWAY - to update.

After a lovely few days in Tarleton (it really IS a nice town with the best diy store you could ever want) we left on a cold and VERY windy day for our trip back up the Rufford arm .

Wendy and Eddie came with us to share the locks/swing bridges and whilst the wind did it's best to twang both boats into trees at every opportunity, the skippers managed to avoid any major incidents.

Ahem - that's not to say one of us (*whistles innocently*) didn't pull a wide-beams pins out as we went past it in the strong winds...

The lock landings on this stretch are practically non-existent... certainly not much use for narrow-boats.

If you look to the left, there is also what looks like a "squared off" concrete support block that's been built "just under the water's surface" - that you can catch the front of your boat on VERY easily!

As me how we know this!!!

No major harm done.

We tied up just outside Burscough for a few days and utilised the Tesco store (a short walk to the right over the bridge) AND another first for us, was tying along side a fuel boat and filling the tank.

They couldn't have been more helpful and friendly... we even left some leaflets with them as they mentioned they often get enquiries about boat trips etc. so who knows, perhaps we might pick up some guests as a result at some point in the future. 

 It was 80p a litre for domestic and I was amazed JUST how much the webasto had gotten through of late.  

SOME ginger idiot optimistic skipper, decided that it might be an idea to try and turn the boat just under the bridge - RATHER than risk passing through the recently faulty 2 swing bridges to the "proper" winding hole...well it LOOKED wide enough at the start of the manoeuvre... SUFFICE to say, it wasn't and a load of pole-ing followed, along with a few expletives from the crew that I can't even spell!

An hour (and the aforementioned swing bridges) later we were back in the same place pointing the direction of desired travel.  Eddie and Wendy had waited for us to catch up - they'd bought diesel whilst we were filling with water.

We went through Parbold and up Appley NEW lock- before reversing down the cutting to the (now disused) old lock.  A lovely lay-by (for want of a better word) in full sun for the solar panels where 3-4 boats can enjoy a few days away from boats speeding past - like they all seem to do around here...

AS the sun was out, the bbq came out again too.

It's a smashing place to moor up here... sssh... don't tell too many people as we intend to come back again next time we're in the area .

The only "down side" to being here is the phone and internet signal is rubbish NOR is there a TV signal.    Oh well.. you can't have everything.

This morning, we've been through Appley Bridge to the nearest water point to top up the tank - early doors though so as not to lose our space behind the other boats here.  It did mean an interesting turn and few hundred yards reverse around moored boats to get back in but the wind was light so for a change, nothing went wrong - in fact, I even made it look like I've done it before!

We're going to organise another Asda delivery for heavy items... to include a new bbq because the orginal one appears to have been crushed by something anchor related...


Thanks so much for all the well wishes re. my dad.  The many offers of help have been greatly (and humbly) appreciated.

He's still in hospital but he's definitely on the mend (albeit slowly) and once some support/care package can be arranged for them both at home, they will consider releasing him to mothers care.

Luckily, he's got siblings, grandchildren and local nephews/nieces all of whom are rallying round like troupers - even my brother is "doing something" to help out...  and whilst it's felt very frustrating being so far away without transport (other than a 3-4 hour train journey with 3 changes), it's good to know they have support... ALL of which is also greatly appreciated.

Ooo - before I go, as we've not had any bookings for our journey from Wakefield to Manchester (via the Rochdale canal) we've altered things and created 2 extra shorter trips to include the Liverpool Link at the end of July.   10 a and 10b (in and out)

It transpires that 2 other boaters we know from the Thunderboat forum are ALSO going to be in the docks... booked into the next pontoon to us ... SO it looks like a ready made party on arrival.

Until next time...

Sunday, 13 May 2018

1265 hour service time & impromptu first BBQ of the season.

Whilst we've been spending  a few days in Tarleton, I noticed the engine hours approaching a 400 hour service flag (its oil,oil filter and gearbox every 200 and every 400 add in a fuel and air filter....)

BEING Mr. Organised, I'd already got everything required in stock somewhere on the boat... it was JUST a case if finding it!

Once I'd used my mind map *read opened every cupboard,drawer* I remembered where I'd put them and set to in the engine bay.

THIS time taking more care and thus NOT knocking over the oil drained from the gearbox.

I'm getting faster at this now and doing the fluids and filters took me less than an hour - AND I remembered to take a sharpie marker pen to the appropriate sized sockets for the gearbox drain and filler plug... to speed it up further next time.

We're TRYING now to utilize the webasto of a morning for hot water and let the solar panels do all the charging when we're not moving - it seems to be working ok... so long as we're moored in the sun.

Since we've been moored near Wendy and Eddie (I always want to call them weddy and endy for some reason) we've enjoyed a few (too many) games of Rummikub and have shared evening meals with them and as the sun was shining, we set to and had our first BBQ of the year.

The wind direction was not very consistent and we ALL ended up suffering mild smoke inhalation as a result.

AS usual  can sometimes happen when I'm hungry, I started cooking a bit too early and nearly put the thing out... resulting in Eddie being instructed  offering to get their gas BBQ out to "finish" off any meat that might kill us...  it ended well with one exception - we'd retired to their boat to play rummikub (YET again) and rather than locking up fully, I'd just put the quick lock on... ONLY to discover my keys were in the ignition and Andy's were in his pocket... INSIDE the boat!!!

There was only one thing for it - I borrowed Eddies "master key" and broke in.

Suffice to say - BETTER security arrangements have been made and I'll update on them in due course.

MEANWHILE - Father continues to improve in hospital and whilst my folks are under no illusion things are going to be easy, mother was certainly up beat and very positive about looking after him when she eventually gets him home.... WITH whatever help they need from external support services they require.

Until next time...

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Rufford Arm to Tarleton...

After a long night moored next to the not working swing bridge, hearing it "thump thump" every few mins are cars drover over it, we weren't in the best of spirits...  By 10.30 when there was STILL no sign of any repairs taking place, I got on the phone to CRT.

They (as in the collective) didn't have any information on it other than "a stop notice was issued last night at 8pm"...  WE KNEW THAT!!!    - Anyway, I was transferred to the Wigan office where what has to be the "best person for the job" tried to placate me.  She really was good.  I can be a bit obstinate  passionate about trying to get a problem resolved.  She promised to phone me back as soon as she had any information but all the "system" showed was contractors were due back on site at some point later in the day.

11.45 (anyone would think I'm time obsessed) came and one of the previous night's chaps returned... NOT the rude one .  I went over to offer him a cup of tea and explain we'd only wanted to go through, turn round and then come back as we were trying to get up to Tarleton in time for a mini break we've been requested to do this coming Saturday.  THIS chap explained to me what they'd done and if we gave him 10 mins to get another chap to come along from the next swing bridge - you remember, the one running (or not as the case is) on batteries, he'd operate it manually to let everyone through.

When his colleague (now the grumpy one from last night) arrived, I thiknk he'd either gotten the message OR someone from the office had  had a word with him - he came over to explain what was happening and that we sshould get through.    By about 12,the bridge was open, the back log of boats passed through as us turning a few hundred yards the other side.

We had to stop and operate the now repaired *read  - REBOOTED* bridge, ourselves on return and the chap (still bank side) shouted they'd operate the next bridge (which was still broken) when we arrived....

Did they? - well, if 6 chaps in orange hi vis vests having tea/coffee in their vans counts as operating it then yes...  the reality was another 2 hours sitting there with  5 other boats "waiting"... 

Eventually the bridge began to open and UNLIKE last night when we'd waited for official permission to go through, ALL of us made a dash for it - us leading the way in a "come on chaps, tally ho" kind of way...whatever the etiquette for deciding who goes through first is, I'd decided that as I could untie and leap aboard fastest, we WOULD be through and on our way!

It was a pleasant enough journey back to Burscough where we topped up the water tank again but the rain had set in for the day so when we made the turn on to the Rufford arm (very well done even if I do say so myself) we were soaked to the skin.   On arrival at the lock landing, we had to breast along side another boat who was preparing go down the lock.

IT transpired, his girlfriend was totally new to boating and a little nervous.... as such, he'd originally planned to single hand with assistance if you follow.  Us turning up, had just made his afternoon a lot easier.

We agreed it might be best to tie our boats up and whilst he and Andy worked the locks, I'd bring both boats through.  Having never done it before, I was a little nervous but was MUCH happier than I would have been had HE have been doing the skippering.   It took a little more thought given they were 60' to our 57' but it was easy enough and a side from the noise his engine was making, it worked well...

I'd have reached over and turned it off but I wasn't sure if he was running something like a washer/dryer etc.

We did a few locks like this tied up everything went smoothly - we had to untie when a couple of bottom gates wouldn't fully open and after that we took it in turns to arrive first and set the locks etc.

It's actually quite a nice arm - on a dry day it'd have been even nicer.  Rufford Hall looked quite welcoming too but in the rain, we just carried on by.

On Reaching Tarleton, we spotted our friends on their boat moored and tied up 1 boat behind...  

OF course now the debate about having a pram and cratch cover has been re-opened... hmmf!

Trying to dodge more discussion on the subject, we went to say hello,  then a quick shower and walk up to the village/town for tea in the pub - they stopped serving at 8 so we had to get a wiggle on.  

On return to the boats, Rummikub came out (again)  - (I'm sure Andy's on commission) - (or should be) and AS usual, he massacred us all!

Luckily, we managed to numb the pain with a drink or 8!

In other news, after 8 days in Icu following his op, my dad's now been moved to a private room on a different ward.  That's a good sign and mum is keeping me updated as much as she can remember.  

It's going to be a long and slow recovery but (can't remember if I've said this already) she's arranging for "help" to come in at the house in some form or other.  I'v mooted the idea that if they wanted to, they might sell up, cash in and both go into a wardened scheme like one of their friends has done.  From the sounds of things, she's not ready for that yet so they'll try the "help" thing first.

Meanwhile, we're spending a few more days here in Tarleton whilst we wait for our next guests to join on Saturday  - a 2 night taster for a local couple .

Until next time...

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Appleby Bridge to Parbold and then "STOP"

Sorry for the absence - we've been touching up the boat and I've been spending  a lot of time on the phone  to the hospital and mother.

Father wise, he's still in ICU and has some kind of infection but had another scan last night and the surgeons said they can begin to eat again now and see how things go - it'll have been 8 days since he had any food.  When I speak with the care team each morning, they fill me in on the bits mother forgets... old age isn't kind is it? - STILL, he's in the best place and from what the rest of the family tell me,  is receiving excellent care with each patient in icu having a nurse at their side 24/7.  WHEN he begins to get stubborn, we'll KNOW he's on the mend proper.

So - we left the country mooring and set off towards Appley Bridge where phone signals were better.  On arrival, we tied up a few hundred yards past the pub and turning point.   It's a lovely place.  Busy with dog walkers but unline Wigan, 99.9 % of them actually pick up the poop and bin it - SOME even coming down from the road to the bin to deposit it!

On reaching the lock ahead, we encountered a bit of a traffic jam - the boat at the front being unable to open the top gate - sighting a leaking bottom paddle as the cause.

Andy is good at organising stupid people getting to the bottom of a problem so went on ahead to get things moving again... before long, the bottom paddle was properly closed and the top gate able to open...

When it came to our turn, we paired up with a grp that had pulled in behind us... we needed to stop at the water point at the bottom of the lock anyway so it was lucky that no one else had done so.  NEXT time we're here, we'll pull up along side in the now disused big lock landing and drag a hose over the bridge rather than going down/up the lock to the tap if you follow.

Itls lovely around here - such a contrast from some of the areas we've passed through to get here.

There's even a floating Tea-room.

Once at Appley Bridge, we went looking for a shop for bread.  There are 2 here - Cost Cutter (which REALLY is an oxy moron) and a SPAR... BOTH of them involve a walk up a steep hill  - in our case, in scorching heat. Still, at least returning was easier.

Given we still have a few days before we pick up the next guests (back in Wigan) we've been doing those jobs you put off - such as cleaning out back lockers & repainting the seats above them.  

Having walked up the hill twice, we decided to check out on-line deliveries and whilst here, used the post code of the cottages the other side of the bridge.  A time slot the following afternoon of between 2 and 4pm was perfect.  SO we moved a few hundred yards and about 1pm got a phone call to say he'd arrive about 3pm.  True enough - bang on 3 - he turned up and delivered through the side hatch.  SO much easier than lugging things back to the boat.  

Shortly after we set off towards Parbold where we moored on the visitor moorings for the night - they're only 24 hours but I have a feeling people ignore the sign-age.  Still, no skin off our nose.

The people of Parbold have certainly embraced the canal with lovely gardens and a well used tow-path... also for the most part, clear of doggy do.

On leaving the town, we headed off towards the Rufford Branch (which goes up to the Ribble link) .  
There is much more boating traffic around here than we're used to.  All nice to see even IF most of them are going too fast passed moor boats for our liking - and it's the oldies that are worst!  NOT even hire-boaters either....

We'd planned to get water here but when we arrived at the (well hidden) water point, some fool in a grp had left his boat tied up on the point and gone off for a walk!  - I did grumble a bit but squeezed in between him and another boat and had to dig out the "long hose"...

Once full, we continued on our way to Burscough and deposited rubbish in the (also quite well hidden) refuse point near the Jack and Gin pub.  Nice place with lots of people enjoying the canal and weather.  

Our plan HAD been to chug on, turn and then come back there for the night before exploring the Rufford arm this morning and meeting up with friends in Tarleton at the top.

Hmmf - 1st a swing bridge with flat batteries had us "stop" for 2 and a half hours whilst they trickle charged them ffs... THEN no sooner had we gotten through that one, did the NEXT one break... 4 and half hours later we abandoned the day and are still on the bridge landing with 6 other boats who are ALSO stuck.  CRT on this occasion NOT being very good at communicating - YES they did send a few chaps out ONCE the barriers had come down (thus blocking the road) but even when they managed to get it open (the bridge for boaters that is) RATHER than calling us all through before closing it and then lifting the barriers, they left us all here - packing up and beggaring off home about 8.30 without a word... When I called over to them "is that it?" - I got a very curt reply suggesting people who need to be somewhere, should get a taxi.  ALL we expected was one of them to walk down and explain that  now the road was open, (and  bridge safely locked in position) we'd have to wait until another team could come back tomorrow.  

I'm not usually one to moan about CRT but on this occasion their "customer care" from at least 1 of the men on the ground, really was not up to scratch.  I know he'd probably had HIS bank holiday spoiled by having to attend but at least he'll have been getting paid - the rest of us have lost 7 hours of boating.

Of course, despite the promise to be here at 8am to try and resolve it, here we are at 8.45 and no sign of anyone.  Pants.  Looks like we might have to reverse a mile or so if we are to get to Tarleton today. - Hmmf!

Until next time - NB Ellis... trapped at New Lane swing bridge.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Wigan 21 - and father improving...

Important bit first.

After 4 days on the ventilator, they woke him up properly yesterday and in the afternoon when my brother took mum down to see him, he was able to talk and was still very poorly but  in good spirits.

Relieved doesn't come close.

Being on a boat, quite often in spots with no phone signal has been very frustrating and stopping  my mind obsessing about things has proven very difficult.

THAT said, yesterday's antidote was the Wigan 21 flight.

We began our descent dead on 12 - noon

Before we began the lock keeper who unlocked the gates wrote me a list of things to watch out for... leaking gates (well badly leaking ones), stiff /jammed paddles etc. and which gates open more easily etc.  It was really helpful and although I did get a bit wet on this one, fore-warned if forearmed. 

We excited the flight at 3.20

Yes I know the photo shows 3.15 but that was on entering lock 85.

I must say that although it's NOT his job to work folk through locks, the keeper on duty AND the volunteer crew on site did a marvellous job of easing our passage down - they were impressed at what good speed we'd made for a 1 on the boat and 1 on the bank crew and rather than making wait until the published opening times (5-6) to exit the flight, he let us STRAIGHT out so we could continue on our way in the sunshine.


We chugged on for a while - passing the dry dock and "famous Wigan Pier" (which looks closed down) and ended up just beyond lock 89 - Crooke.

This morning I had a "Norman Collier" conversation with mum - the crux of it was that dad is much better and I'll phone her back later.

We're going to have a walk a little farther on at some point today to check out phone signals and suss out if it's worth moving on to Appley Bridge or spending a few days here in the sunshine... I've a LOT Of touching up to do and another engine service to do within a few hours so here is as nice a place as any to do it.

Until next time...