Saturday, 24 November 2012

Fender to Fender Lock to Lock....

6 months in a Leaky Lock

Foulridge is the sort of name that, to me, does not sound very pleasant. But it was a lovely place to moor up with, just a hop, skip and a jump to the C&RT Sanitary block and another hop to Café Cargo which is the renovated Foulridge Wharf building. The Café has a great menu and also a menu for dogs!!! The inhouse dog is a black mini schnauzer with a diamante collar. Yes he is male.

We decided to stay a couple of nights on the visitor moorings and enjoy a bit of exploring on foot. The towpath is paved alongside the canal, which makes a difference to some of the muddy paths we have walked. The towpath does not go under the tunnel but over the top through Foulridge to a reservoir, a pretty setting with a sailing club. We walked the walk around the muddy, in part, track that circuits the ‘lake’. We found out that Foulridge is pronounced Foalridge (of course) and who wouldn’t want to live there? It is a lovely spot.

Back on the move, the Tunnel has traffic lights in operation through the day and it was a green light for us every hour on the hour. It is a 10 minute tunnel and wet weather gear needed for the Skipper as the reservoir must leak. Of course a coffee and a Karcher dealt with the Skipper’s dry mouth and wet seat once we were out of the tunnel.

I have been building my confidence with being Tiller Queen and can now take the helm at any given moment. Chris is keen to do more locks and I, have, reluctantly, been letting him loose with the windlass. We use radio handsets to keep each other informed as it is quite isolating when one is in the depths of an almost empty leaky lock waiting for the gates to be opened. Some boaties call us cheats but I think we are clever. The noise of the engine really does interfere with anyone’s ability to hear. There is a lot of shouting and  upper limb gestures when you are on the move!!! A ‘walkie talkie’ is the answer when one of the crew is off the boat.

We were entering our last leg of the L&L Canal. We had a bundle of locks to do and a couple of flights to do within a few miles of each other. We had decided to stay at the top of the 7 Johnson Locks until a ‘partner’ narrowboat came along. We moored up outside the Sanitary Block just by the top lock as we needed to fill the water tank and do an Elsan disposal. The boaters shower was free and excellent, and I went and had a long hot shower. When I walked back to AM, Chris was talking to a couple of Long Term moorers. They told him of  Nb Daphne who was going to go down both flights. They needed extra assistance to get down the flights and had four people coming to work the Wigan 21 with them the following Sunday. We agreed to go down the Johnson and the Wigan locks with them. So we had a couple of days at the top lock for some rest and relaxation. The pub beside the top Lock was well placed and we walked over with Della. We didn’t quite get to step indoors when Mrs Chef Lady dressed in kitchen whites having her smoko break called out to us  “No Dogs!” We about- turned and said “Bye” and went back to the boat.

My back had been giving me a bit of post swing bridge grief so Chris insisted I take AM down the first flight and he would work the Locks. All went well. No major difficulty with that. The Locks do not  run in a straight line, it was a bit windy and I did give a firm clip entering one Lock so I wasn’t surprised that the glasses had fallen over. One wine glass didn’t make it! We motored on to Adlington and found the Visitors mooring on the edge of a park and close to town. Della was very happy to have a run and meet some of the local dogs. And there was a really friendly pub we went to for our dinner, that night.

Next day we got close to the Wigan Flight, moored and there was time for me to get the bus into Wigan to visit the Primark store there!! (Long sleeved Tshirts purchased). Late afternoon Chris, Della and I walked in the direction of the Wigan Flight, by road. We had a chat to a couple of high vis community police who thought our chosen mooring spot would be fine for overnight. We sussed out the facilities at the top lock and then walked the muddy towpath back to AM. The following morning we were up early and cruised to the Wigans and Nb Daphne arrived a few minutes later. Water, Elsan and showers were had and the ‘Team’ had arrived.  930hrs and we were on the move. AM tied onto Daphne in the first lock and AM turned her engine off. The Lock begins to empty when Chris, on land, notices that there is a huge piece of plywood, floating in the Lock, behind the gate and the plywood is in the wrong place. So it’s Paddles down at the bottom end of the Lock and Paddles up at the top end. Chris managed to fish it out and I phoned C&RT to get it permanently removed before a helpful gongoozler chucks it back in. The morning was fog-filled and it was really hard to see the Lock in front. I was helpless to steer and could only shut my eyes waiting for the impact as we entered each Lock. Chris and I swapped places for a few Locks and with all the extra help we got down them in record time, 3 ¼ hours. And only a few scrapes!! Interesting to see the boats that are active on the canals, all have scratches and scrapes. ‘Contact’ sport and all that! It is not usual to hit other boats but bridges, lock walls and overhanging trees leave a mark.

We would love to have gone to Liverpool and have only heard good reports of moorings in Liverpool. But we were creeping into the middle of November and realized that stoppages were looming on the Trent & Mersey Canal. So Liverpool will have to wait. After the final Wigan Lock it was a sharp Left Hand turn to follow the L&L to Leigh where we merged into the Bridgewater Canals / Leigh Branch. The run from Leigh to Manchester was a long day, probably because we left close to midday as we waited for the rain and a strong wind. to abate. Then the engine wasn’t running smoothly so Chris needed to attend to that and found shelter beneath a bridge at Worsley. Fortunately the rain was clearing and Della and I were able to walk the towpaths on either side of the Canal. (You don’t see many parallel towpaths and paved / gravelled to boot!!) Chris soon had the problem sorted, litter that had caught on the prop!

At Worsley we were entering the built up area of Greater Manchester and the canal seemed to stretch for miles, particulary after we went across the Aqueduct over the Manchester Ship Canal. Impressive. We were intent on getting to Castlefield Junction where we had every hope of getting a mooring. It was a fabulous sunset, that evening, we waved to the commuter trains and got smiles and waves back. We passed Man. United FC stadium and on the other side was Old Trafford cricket ground.  When we passed Pomona Lock (what takes you to / from the Manchester Shipping Canal), we knew Castlefield was less than a mile away and we would be moored before it was dark.
Nuff said

Mobile audience

Sunrise Sunset
The bright lights of...

At Castlefield, there were a few boats moored up but still space for us. It would be helpful if boaters considered space, in these ‘built up’ boat moorings!! Lucky, for us, there was space under the shade of an autumn leaf dropping tree! We could see no notice of length of mooring time so can only assume it was 14 days or whatever. We stayed 2 nights. Yep, we teamed up with a rental boat that was being returned by long term boaters to a Marina on the Trent & Mersey Canal. The boat had been rented and was affected by the September floods canal ‘breach’. These kind people were being the ‘Good Samaritan’ and returning the boat the only way which is the longest way!! We had walked the Rochdale Canal flight of 9 locks which awaited us, well we walked 6 locks, the day before to check it out. The Canal was very full of water (and rubbish) and the full locks were overflowing. Chris was concerned and phoned C&RT to find out if this was normal. He spoke to the ‘We’ll help you if you need help’ Lock Keeper who was being multitasked by C&RT.

We set off in good spirits along this litter full canal. What animals chuck their rubbish into the canal? Should be a jewel in the crown for Manchester, not a festering cesspit of water washing paper and plastic and cans!! The companies that produce and sell these products should be contributing some of their profits to C&AT to pay for the clean-up and damage caused. You don’t see any bins filled with rubbish. (I was raised in the days of “Be a tidy Kiwi”, it’s happily ingrained!!)

All went well until we got to one Lock where we couldn’t unlock either of the anti-vandal locks on the Paddles. Phone to C&RT and help was on its way. By the time help arrived Chris had unlocked the anti-vandals and we were in motion. The Lock-keepers were lovely chaps and we bemoaned the fact that we didn’t have them present on the flight as some of the gates needed attention and you really need to think through the best way to work some of the locks. First- timers, Health & Safety….. All is not straightforward. Some of the surfaces where you need to stand to push the gates open / closed have the wrong material laid and good tread on the heels and soles of shoes doesn’t hold. No way do I want to slip into a Lock!! A couple of gates were more suited to Hobbits and I climbed into my hole to push open the gate.

This Canal runs close to central Manchester and is in the heart of the ‘Red Light’ district. It is known that you don’t moor on this stretch and, probably not, on the next stretch of 18 Locks (Peak Forest and Ashton Canals). We met a few boats as we neared the end of the 9 locks. One Lock Labourer, of some years, was experiencing acute back pain and that was just his first in the run of 9 locks (but probably not the first in his day!). I really felt his pain and didn’t admire his Superman efforts! My back was fine, I have to say, and Chris and I had agreed to share lock labouring on the the next stretch of 19 locks.

I’m aware that talking Locks can get quite boring but when you are on the move there seem to be a lorra lorra Locks and the stretches with no Locks are soon forgotten. We were now off the Rochdale and on the Peak Forest and Ashton Canals. The difference was we were now back in Narrowboat-land i.e. Locks and bridge widths for Narrowboats. Temptation is to step across an open and shut gate! I only did it once!! Nah I didn’t fall in.

Leaving the Rochdale we had an early warning that a 70 ft traditional working boat was heading in our direction. We had to move under 2 bridges (the 2nd a 90 degree turn at each end) and on exit we met a gusty breeze. We saw the boat coming through a narrow stretch ahead, so we pulled to the right and waited. Our ‘friends’ on the rental boat got caught by a gust of wind and were unable to move out the way. The working boat could not reduce its speed in time and there was a BANG as it hit the mid point of the rental boat which in turn went Bow end into the canal wall. No injuries sustained. Glad it wasn’t us.

We gradually worked up the next flight. It helps when there is a boat following because one unlocks the anti vandals and the next boat locks them. Somewhere along the way we became a flotilla! There were 3 narrowboats. We were the lead boat. Chris took his turn working the locks and he was Lock Labourer near  the site of what looked like a new suburb of Manchester being built. Turns out the suburb is the new grounds for Manchester City FC. There is some money there!!! The lock gates would not close properly, I think they were jam packed with leaves. It took ages for the Lock to fill and I had to use the force of AM to get the gates to start swinging. I cruised to the next Lock, slowly, I didn’t notice the gates were open (time to get my eyesight tested) until I got closer. I edged the Bow into the Lock and then heard the sound of grounding, a groinch under the stern and then no movement. Yikes, a bit more power and the exhaust fumes enveloped me. I put Della indoors, as I didn’t think the fumes would do her any favours, and then waited for Chris to sort it out. It appears that Boat No.3 were in a hurry and had been opening the Locks ahead so that we could all move swiftly. Fine in theory but the pounds were emptying and AM was resting on the ground. So, now, we have Mr Very Helpful telling me what to do. I thought he was from C&RT because he had his standard issue life jacket on. I was upset that I was grounded, I couldn’t make the boat float and I was getting asphyxiated with the fumes. I was ready to end my boating lark there and then. But common sense kicked in. Water was being let into the pound by raising the paddles at the top end of the Lock and AM gradually floated out and I moved her back into the Lock. Took 3 attempts to get her all in. Gates closed and off we went. Chris was not pleased with Mr Very Helpful but we carried on. We had 4 more Locks to do and the heavens opened. I was working those Locks and at the last Lock, Mr Very Helpful appeared, again. I was soaked to the skin and we had had a long day, 27 locks and we did not want to keep this person in our sights. There was a Basin with permanent moored boats straight ahead of us and we went there to take shelter and hide from the Helpfuls! We ended up staying the night there, kind permission given us by the site’s Chief Controller. Thank you for taking pity on the wet and dishevelled  Left early in the morning and had a Lock free day finishing near the Hyde Bank Tunnel.

It was a relief to turn away from Manchester and head in the direction  of Marple  We found ALDI supermarket with a mooring site alongside. They had mustard coloured steel capped lined ‘boater’s boots in their bargain bin. Boater’s boots is my name for them for obvious reasons. So Chris went and got his boots while I started a fry-up. After the late breakfast, I popped into ALDI for a few provisions and on my way back to AM, I could clearly hear a security announcement that had been activated earlier on. It told me “ATTENTION ATTENTION YOU ARE BEING FILMED FOR SECURITY REASONS”. I called out to the late morning drinkers and had a bit of a laugh with them. They probably didn’t understand a word I was saying as I’m beginning to realize that my Kiwi accent and dialect is pretty incomprehensible to most, in this fair land.
Please take a seat, your comfort is important to us!

Onwards we moved and were hopeful of finding a mooring before the Marple 16 Locks. We were going through the Woodley Tunnel (308 yds) and a towpath walker called out that there was an armchair floating in the canal near the end of the tunnel. You expect to see this sort of thing all the time. Time for pole action. Choose the right length pole, we now have a choice of four ‘dancers’. Luckily Chris suggested the longest one and not the one that gives splinters. I carried it in pole-vault fashion though the boat and was able to shout out “contact” when I could push it. Easy push with the thrust from AM. Out went the chair and I snuggled it in bank-side on our left where it sat in the Canal! (There’ll probably be a happy duck discovering that.) Then I phoned the generic number to C&RT who put me through to the local office. I was surprised that someone answered the phone! In my recent experience one gets put through to an answer phone. ‘Floater Armchair’ duly reported. How did an armchair end up in the canal? And it looked such a nice part of town!
Room with a View

Eventually we found moorings before the Hyde Bank Tunnel. Quiet, a couple of other boats and a beautiful sunset. I got chatting to the people in the boat moored in front and they identified themselves as Continuous Cruisers. I got a different feeling about continuously cruising and thought I could be in for that lifestyle if our boat-to-be meets our needs.
Viaduct  from the Aqueduct

The day of our Marple 16 Locks was beautiful and sunny. We began with the Hyde Tunnel (308 yds) followed quickly with a grand view through the arches of a railway viaduct while we crossed on the Marple Aquduct. Once again we shared tasks and Della had a great time being Lock Labourer’s dog. I started off working the locks and all was good. I asked Chris to call out when the stern had passed the gates inside the lock as the walls of the pedestrian bridge obstructed the view down. Della responded to one of his calls and leapt up to the top of the bridge wall and quickly reacted when all she could see was water and no boat! Clever dog, she really has got a sense of danger and quick reactions. She does it once she won’t do it again!
Going Up

Gone up!

Looking back

There were a couple of  ‘bogan’ types in narrowboats, unhelpful, unfriendly and one boat was not currently registered. Shock, horror, his was not the only unregistered boat we saw. One boat that caught my eye had the yearly registration sticker penned out with FREE TO MOOR WHEREVER I CHOOSE. My blog is subjective and there are different types of water gypsies. No different to the makeup of any society / community we live in.

Back to the Marple flight. On my shift with the tiller, Chris had offered one chap and his daughter a ride on AM into and up one of the Locks. I was Tiller Queen and they brightened my day by really enjoying the ride. I kept my nerves under control and didn’t mess up. He said he had seen me enter the previous Lock so had no concerns. (Trumpets blowing!!!)

In summary the Marple flight is many locks, pretty countryside, helpful gongoozlers and we got grounded, again. Once you’ve been grounded, it’s not so bad. The situation can easily be rectified.

At the top of the Flight, we were in Marple, I think, we needed water so went off course to the Sanitary Station. Visitor moorings were taken so no chance to look around but we could fill up with water and went along rhe Macclesfield Canal until we could ‘Wind’ and head in the direction of Bugsworth Basin, near Whaley Bridge. Shame we couldn’t visit Marple. When we passed through a couple of days later, 2 of the 3 boats were still moored opposite the Sanitary Station with no sign of life.

The Peak Forest Canal is beautiful, grand views over the countryside and Bugsworth Basin ( a wharf used in the boat transport of lime) was close to empty with moored boats. Great walks and the old pub, Navigation, that Pat Phoenix (Elsie Tanner) used to run. The Basin is still called Bugsworth Basin but the village is now called Buxworth. It was a brief visit but we know we would like to return. No locks on the Peak but a couple of swing and a couple of lift bridges. I forgot how much winding you have to do with the windlass to raise a bridge! Still it beats a butt push like those on the L&L. 

Hovis Mill

Snake Bridge

Best Mate

The Macclesfied Canal which begins at Marple is another must to return to. The rush was on to beat the weather and the stoppages so we only stopped before nightfall and 3 days later were down the Bosley flight of 12 locks (well presented and in good working order) and through the bottom Lock (hardly a lock really) and ready for an early start to the Harecastle Tunnel. A proper Tunnel. Chris got through to the other side in under 40 minutes. I never saw the outside of the tunnel. He radioed me when he saw the door opening at the end of the tunnel.

Yay, we were back in almost familiar countryside and made it to Stone, 13 Locks later, that evening and got our favourite mooring. Great little town, Stone, and I found the best winter coat (new wool, lined, a nice cut, blue wine colour and midi length….all for £3.99).

From Stone we went to Great Haywood, mid autumn swim, and on to Alrewas through Fradley Junction. (a series of tough locks). We like Alrewas, it is an old village with Elizabethan style houses. Sort of chocolate box look. A couple of nights there, near the Lock followed by the final leg to home base Mercia Marina.

Della has graduated to a position on the roof of AM where she can keep lookout and she seems100x happier with her promotion. Who knows what goes through a dog’s brain apart from food. Her nose was in twitch mode as we turned into the Marina. She saw a coot and that excites her and she seemed to be aware of her surroundings. All these weeks of new smells and then she is back in familiar territory.

And, here we are back at Mercia. It is nice to feel at home, to see and chat with familiar faces.

In my world, nothing stays the same for long…………

Autumn leaves are falling

Sometimes I sit and sometimes I sit and looks.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. what an amazing life.... great read.... loved the photos.. quality has just had a huge jump...fb me and tell me the reason!
    David Haworth


A brief history

This is a blog set up by Chris and Sarah so family and friends can catch up with their travels on the British waterways in the summer of 2011. In 2010, I went to England with the idea of getting a narrow boat built. I had specific requirements so I thought that a new build may be the way to go. I e mailed to numerous boat builders, a great percentage of whom ignored me. The problem of having a family name of Laycock is that hotmail and a few others think that I am a porn star. At an early age you learn not to put C Laycock on your school books. But I guess that my nephew Paul did worse. Anyway I spent a very pleasant few weeks driving around the beautiful English countryside visiting boatyards, marinas, boat builders and just a few pubs. I had narrowed it down to two builders and in the last week I was in Devizes Wiltshire when I came across "Avalon Mist" 54 feet of throbbing neglected narrow boat. The past owner had lost interest, hadn’t maintained her and to add insult to injury had been made redundant. After a very short negotiation I was able to buy her for a pretty fair price. On the day the sale took place I had to beg her to take her trainers and a few rather suspect items of clothing, in other words she left everything. Lock stock and barrel.

Soon after the purchase I flew to California to meet Sarah and have a short holiday. Once back in NZ I started to try and organize works. The first thing that I learnt was that the marina does not allow any contractor on site, only their chosen ones, the excuse given is a concern about insurance, the suspicion is, graft, pay back, baksheesh, call it what you like. It is possible to take the boat off the marina to have the work done, but not really practical.

The first job to be tackled was to “winterize” the boat, i.e. drain off all the water, check the anti freeze in the engine and central heating and fit an automatic bilge pump.

No real problem there except communication, the mechanic just didn’t answer e mails. Difficult to do business like that.

The nice marina lady had a quiet word with him, and things did improve, thanks Debs you have been a star through out . He later confided in me the reason for this was that he was dyslexic, apparently a malady [he] claims affects a lot of mechanics.[It turns out that he is a great mechanic and a nice guy to boot].

That goes pretty high on my list of lame excuses, the top one being a really nice Irish guy Pat, who I had employed as a carpenter years ago when I lived in London. He was always a bit late for work, when I finally collared him about it; he said he could never decide what to wear to work.

Nice one Pat.

I digress, the boat was winterized, which was just as well as it was a cold one and the whole marina froze over.

Next job was to have her taken out of the water, have the hull stripped back to bare metal and have a bit of over plating done. There were a couple of areas where there was pitting, and I though if she’s out of the water, may as well do the job right, so a small amount of over plating and then the hull was blacked, and the engine bay partially de-rusted and then back in the water.

Seems like a good job was done, I had the marine surveyor who had done the original survey, check out all the major works and give me written reports and photos, so all good except once again communications.

I then came across a great guy, the partner of the woman who runs the marina and a carpenter/narrow boat fitter outer .He replaced the stern deck and did a great job, also did a great job on de-greasing, de-rusting and painting the engine compartment. A job I should have done myself, but I just didn’t fancy it, not only that be was great with communications and chasing other people up

So that takes us up to present.

There needs to be a bit of electrical work, not much. The outside is badly in need of paint, Sarah and I can do that and a bit of a tidy up inside, and then she will be a really nice boat.