Monday, 30 May 2016

Toilet Problems as We Head for Nantwich

We headed off from Anderton around 9:30 under bleak skies, just a five minute trip around the corner to Anderton Marina for fuel and a pump-out (holding tank). Not the best price for diesel on the cut 0.71p (domestic) but fuel prices here have dropped like those in Australia so quite bearable. I find it easy to do both if the price is right and with me helping they can usually be done together. It also helps to keep the fuel tank topped up to reduce the amount of condensation being produced while it is still cool overnight.

The rain didn't hold off for too long, I was ready for showers with my wet weather gear on just in case. It wasn't going to be a long cruise today, just a few hours. We had passed a couple of large (ish) flashes on the way up and had ear marked them as a possible mooring to take in the scenery, avoiding the hustle and bustle of the towns. By the time we arrived at the largest of the two flashes the rain was starting up again so we had done well to avoid the showers although it was rather brisk on the back of the boat. After banging in some mooring pins and tying up it was nice to go down into the cabin and warm up. I was in such a hurry to get inside I didn't take any photos.

Another short hop in the morning and we were mooring in Middlewich, a place we know fairly well although this is the first time back in nearly two years. Turning at the junction on to the Shropshire Union (SU) Middlewich Arm, once again plenty of moorings available this early in the season at a usually busy stop.

The Middlewich stop gave me an opportunity to dismantle the on-board mascerator toilet that had stopped working this morning.

I have spared you a blow by blow exposé as the next job was to open the box containing the blades to find the blockage which turned out to be a cleaning cloth. Not sure how it got there but it is out now although all is still not well with toilet! 

Because we plan on coming back this way Rachael took the opportunity to order a blind for the galley window, the curtains are getting in the way. While she was there she sprung an extra blind on me so it was a more expensive visit than I anticipated. On Saturday morning we wandered down to the main shopping street of Middlewich to check out the street market, we found plenty of beautiful food and wine, too much to take home.

We stayed for an hour then it was back to the boat to head off after a couple of days here. Another short hop today, a couple of hours to Church Minshull, another rural mooring.  (Saw this interesting dutch barge on the way out of Middlewich, might be for sale at the right price Mel! lol)

It took a little longer than expected, we spent the last half hour at tick-over behind a sight-seeing hire boat not prepared to call me through. Anyway we did get there in time to watch the local farmer herd his cows by tractor.

Plenty of bunnies around too!

Reaching Barbridge the next morning was made a little easier by the Shropshire Union Canal Society operating one of the two locks on the way for a small donation.

I had only commented to Rachael a little earlier what good condition the SU Middlewich Arm was looking with all the facilities and signs in such good condition. It was just the right time to moor and head to Venician Marina Cafe for morning tea.

Plenty of moorings at Barbridge for our one night stay. We are on schedule to arrive in Nantwich on Monday ready for our booking at Nantwich Canal Centre. It has been enjoyable moving even slower and in shorter hops than we usually do, it's been a very relaxing trip.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Cruising the Weaver

The rain was off again/on again but we managed to dodge most of the showers. Friday afternoon, after mooring, we locked up the boat and headed across the huge swing bridge to explore Northwich. The main street is predominantly a mall lined on both sides with many black and white Tudor style buildings. This one had been restored and caught my eye.

Northwich, is the northern most of the 'wich'es or salt towns, apparently salt has been mined here before Roman times. We headed up Northwich's long main street seemed to be dominated by banks, real estate agencies, charity shops and fast food stores, not unlike the way many shopping strips are going both here and at home in Australia.We were nearly at the top of the street when we managed to find Wetherspoons, lunch and a drink or two was appreciated.

I thought mooring within 200 metres of the busy traffic on the swing bridge was going to be noisy but we both slept well. Rachael's cousin Stephen, down from Scotland found us having breakfast first thing this morning. Stephen had told us he planned to drop in us this weekend but we weren't sure exactly when. After a long chat and another showery day, there was a break in the clouds and we headed off further upstream heading for Windsford, the terminus for this end of the Weaver. It wasn't a long trip, about an hour and a half before we winded in the mouth of the flash and returned to the moorings right outside The Red Lion Pub, we were joined by David and Gwen from NB Haribell and Stephen there in the background.

An afternoon of drinks and food before we came to the realisation that things were getting quite rowdy in the pub a few doors up. David had moored Haribell in the park but a quick check and fireworks were being let off by quite a crowd of people, we decided to make the move to the moorings at Vale Royal Cut at around 7:30pm for a quieter Saturday Night.

Great moorings at Vale Royal Cut; picture perfect! and a beautiful morning as we headed downstream back to Northwich for the night. Back at Northwich it was time to say farewell to Stephen after his short visit. Monday, and another fine day and it was time to check out downstream, we headed for Acton Bridge Moorings. A bit more industrial this way as we headed back past the boat lift.

Coming up on Saltersford Lock I headed for the smaller of the two chambers but the Lock Keeper signaled me to the larger of the locks and started opening the gate. We had managed to catch him just before he was about to fill the lock. lots of room in here, even with three narrow boats in side.

Coming up on Saltersford Lock
Closing the gates at Saltersford Lock

Acton Bridge Moorings
Acton Bridge in the background is typical of the swing bridges on the Weaver although this one pivots in the centre.

This is where Rachael and I terminated our tour of the Weaver and after a quiet night at The Leigh Arms where we looked around the pub near 9pm and we were the last people there. We left David and Gwen who headed further downstream while we headed back to the Boat Lift to go up on to the Trent and Mersey Canal and moor at Anderton.

We shared the ride up with a Canadian couple who spend the cruising season here in the UK.
We finished the day, the only boat on the Anderton Visitor Moorings, I'm sure it won't be like this in a few more weeks when it gets a bit warmer.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Heading for Anderton and the River Weaver

We had consistent rain overnight at Wheelock and the morning wasn't terribly good either, it was a good morning to sleep in. The rain began to clear later in morning, enough so that we thought we would take a chance and head off for Middlewich. Despite our confidence in getting three rainless hours we donned our wet weather gear anyway. It turns out the wet weather gear was needed after a couple of hours cruising, we spent 15 minutes sitting under Bridge 163 in the Booth Lane Locks when the rain started to really pelt down. The rain finally eased and we headed on past British Salt, hard to believe we eat so much salt!

So much salt!
We opened the bottom gates of Kings Lock at Middlewich to find the junction basin with three boats already jostling for position. We seemed to be the easiest to sort out as we just wanted go straight across the junction, which we did. Three more locks, a water fill and we were moored up near the park for the next few days.

Waterpoint Middlewich
A couple of days break gave us an opportunity to do a bit of shopping for the essentials. Rachael managed to swap some books over as well as getting rid of an additional half dozen books. Our day off turned out to be cleaning day, continuing to get the boat back in shape.

On Friday after our short break in Middlewich, Anderton was only a short three hour trip with one lock; Big Lock at Middlewich. A fine sunny day for cruising we were trying to get to Anderton and get a booking on the boat lift today rather than Saturday when it would be a lot busier. The canal widened in a few spots along the way becoming quite wide although the warning signs indicated it wasn't terribly deep.

Passing one of flashes on the way to Anderton
Arriving at Anderton around 2pm and checking with CART we managed a 3:45 slot giving us plenty of time for a cuppa. Come our booking time we cruised across the aqueduct and into the lift caisson, tied up and enjoyed the ride down the 50ft to the Weaver Navigation below. Built in 1875, the Boat Lift is a marvelous piece of engineering.

Heading for the aqueduct

Across the aqueduct

The view from the top

Moving into the caisson

The other caisson going up as we descend

Moving out of the caisson on to the Weaver

The view back

We headed off upstream for our overnight mooring at Northwich, little more than a half hour cruising time.

Coming into Northwich, swingbridge in the background

Our mooring at Northwich
We plan to spend the next five or six days down on the Weaver before heading back to Nantwich for our boat blacking appointment.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Out of the Marina and Off We Go!

Monday morning; there was a little running around to do at the shops before we I headed off to drop the car off to the Enterprise depot. First time I have hired from Enterprise and my dealings with them so far have been excellent, they were only too happy to drive me back to the marina, which saved me a fiver or so.

All the maintenance on Serafina has been completed, the fuel tank maintenance being the last of it, anything else can be done out on the cut. Over the winter she has had a BSS and the maintenance associated with it completed. The engineer has de-winterised her and given the engine a service.

Rachael was waiting for me to get back so we could get going since we were planning to get to Rode Heath today. A stiff breeze, some tight turns and seven months away from the boat made it quite difficult to get out of the marina but once that was behind us it was an easy cruise down to the Harecastle Tunnel (2926 yds or 2.6 kms).

Being a one way tunnel, our timing was a little out, we arrived to just over an hour to wait before our turn. No problem though, Rachael had decided to do a wash so it was an opportune time to top up the water tank. I had planned to do that later on in the day.

Out of the tunnel and down the locks under the aqueduct carrying the Macclesfield Canal our cruise to Rode Heath was uneventful. It did feel great to be out in the English countryside again.

A comfortable 9:30am start today (Tuesday), it was suppose to be raining all day but bright sunshine was pushing through the windows. The first lock today was only a hundred metres up the tow path so it was into early for Rachael. She took the first few locks and then we swapped over for a while.

Most of the locks were duplicated so there was a reasonable chance of getting one that was ready go into. We were following a couple, Dave and Gwen in NB Harebell, we spent a bit of time chatting with them and Dave was happy to set a few locks for us along the way. Dave suggested we stop at Malkin's Bank Golf Club to get bite to eat for lunch. That didn't work so well despite the large sign on the canal offering great quality food...except on tournament day! So, two pints later we headed off for the last few locks into Wheelock where we are spending the night.

A short trip tomorrow to Middlewich where we will take a break for a few days before heading on to Anderton to take the boat lift down on to the R. Weaver.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Back to Serafina - Getting Ready to Cruise

Our last night in London so we packed up for a quick get away after breakfast. I checked the paperwork to make sure all was in order to pick-up the rental car tomorrow but it wasn't to be found! I logged into the hire company site and there was no booking to be found, not even an email! I rang Europcar and they had no booking either and could not make one for the next day unless I wanted some high priced sports car with no room for cases! We managed to make a booking with a competitor also renting out of St Pancras Station, all was well again.

After nearly four hours on driving and queuing we arrived in Stoke on Trent and went straight to the marina. We unlocked Serafina to see how she had fared over the winter and the only casualty seemed to be my broad brimmed cricket hat covered in mould, Rachael reassured me that she could fix that so catastrophe averted! Plenty of dusting and de-cobwebbing and Serafina will be back to normal. The batteries were fully charged, solar panels have been our best investment.

We stayed overnight in a hotel and arrived at the boat early next morning to clean up in preparation for the fuel tanks being cleaned. A dip stick test done last year before we left, showed a lot of water and 'gung' in the tank. It took five hours to clean up the tanks but the comparison samples showed a huge change.

Cleaning the main tank, 200 lt every 8 mins.

Samples taken from the two tanks
 I don't think Serafina's tanks have been cleaned since she was built. The engine is back to running on diesel!

Most of the clean up will be done, the cupboards and refrigerator full and all the checks made, ready for our departure on Monday morning. We will head north towards Anderton, not sure how long the four day trip will take since rain is forecast from Tuesday on.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Back to the UK for the 2016 Cruising Season

It's been a busy few weeks for us, getting organised to get across to the UK for the cruising season. Rather than just preparing for a five month holiday overseas we thought we could make it more interesting by selling our house at the same time.

Sitting down in the aircraft comfortable that all had gone as it was suppose to was our first chance to relax for quite sometime, attributed in no small part to Rachael's ability to multitask. She managed to organise the the trip and the move from our old house while I finished off the last of my seven months of work.

Something different this year, no stopover in the USA, a different route direct to the UK with a two hour refueling stopover in Dubai. We flew QANTAS for the first time in quite a long time, not a bad trip, a resounding OK. Food was OK, comfort was OK, flight attendants' service was OK although the aircraft was only two thirds full, not sure how they would have gone with a full aircraft.

On arrival in London we thought we could wash off most of the jet lag with a couple of days in a hotel here in London. Rachael had prepared a short sightseeing list which we managed to knock-over thanks mainly to our early start. First point of call was the Tower of London, haven't been here for over ten years. We were at the ticket office when the shutters were opened, enjoyed our tour and it is safe to say it hasn't changed much in ten years in fact not too many changes in 800 years I guess. Snapped a few pictures on the new camera to get a feel for it.

Guarding the entrance

Tower Bridge from the Tower wall

The Keep
After the Tower we headed over to Knightsbridge for a little Harrod's shopping and then finished off at Oxford Street in Selfridges where Rachael got a bit of Christmas shopping done nice and early.

Tomorrow we are off up to Stoke on Trent.