Wednesday, 6 July 2016


River Weaver

I do like it when there is a run of words that more-or-less sound the same but have no link to their meaning. Try saying these words with a NZ dialect! It’s like the deadpan run of bare, beer and bear.
The suffix – wich refers to the presence of salt and not the presence of witches! We have been in the locale of salt towns in Cheshire. I never thought what ‘wich’ meant until this cruise. 
Road salt in case of ice!

You do get some unusual names in this country and it is a sign of the variances in language and spelling as well as the progression of life over the centuries. Over recent days we have passed through Middlewich, Northwich and Nantwich. (I’m starting to think that the English names of my country North Island and South Island may have emanated from some creative person in this part of England. On a google search, Wikipedia says that the English name for the islands was never formalised and they were commonly referred to North Is. and South Is.)
Anderton Boat Lift from the River

So the aim of our trip to this neck of the woods was to get to the River Weaver. We were close when we got to Ellesmere Port but due to the breakdown of Weston Marsh Lock on the River Weaver we had to back track to get to the Anderton Boat Lift on the Trent & Mersey Canal. This meant back to Barbridge Junction to turn onto the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal. It took us two days to cruise to Big Lock on the Trent & Mersey Canal, Middlewich. A pleasant enough cruise although it was under mixed weather conditions. 

We, I mean I, saw a couple of ‘tupperware’ boats moored below the Lock and there were some available in-ground rings just in front of them. Perfect, there was no sign indicating ‘no mooring’ or ‘lock mooring’ so we tied up and went to the Pub with the intention of going back to home base for dinner. And so we did, eventually. We got as far as the ‘Tupperwares’ on our return to DB and got chatting with the ‘friendlies’ for more than a quick chat. I even succumbed to the invitation to play a wee tune or three on my Uke!!
Mooring confusion

Next morning a little later than sparrowfart, there was boat traffic on the move. A Narrowboat was edging in towards us for a controlled steel kiss. 
“You’re moored at the Water Point” said matey.
“This is not a water point.” I helpfully retorted back.
“Yes it is and I’m going to come alongside and tie onto your boat.” He said.
“Why isn’t it signed as a water point? I can’t see the water tap.” I did a quick scout around and sure enough it was a water point but the box which housed the tap looked camouflaged in 2 colour paint (black and ‘red ned’{a.k.a anti-rust}). 

I removed myself from any need for further comment and went and chatted to a holiday-maker queuing for the Lock. I was invited onboard for tea and homemade chocolate cake!  
Breakfast spot canal side

Soon we were free to move on without rocking the boat! The cruise from Middlewich to the outskirts of Northwich is picturesque along a wide canal with some hairpin bends. 

Within 3 hours we were at the Anderton Boat Lift. I went into the busy Visitor Centre and was directed to the ‘behind closed doors’ check –in desk. Through the boaters network we had been informed we could pre- book a passage for £5, reasonable fare, but there were financial repercussions if we didn’t turn up at the appointed time. So as we were prepared to wait I booked the passage, on the spot, and we only waited a couple of hours. 
Della under contol

Enough time to walk Della, where I got chatting with a couple of gongoozlers and, in friendship, offered them a ride with us on The Anderton Boat Lift. It was great to meet you Christine and Alan, thanks for the lovely Shropshire honeycomb icecream!

The Anderton Boat Lift is high tech.

Ground Control

When I booked I wasn’t sure if we were going up or down. I thought there would be a booking office for craft coming off the river and I was coming off the canal. Well for craft coming off the canal, the lift is going down. Thoughts of ‘Are You Being Served’, the sitcom, came to mind....possibly, Swimwear Department. At 1440 we were asked to move to the ‘holdings’ mooring and wait instructions. 
Boats that pass!

We and another boat were moved into lane position to then ‘chug’ onto our metal tub. 

It looked like the metal hatch at the back end of the tub was dropped, not literally, into position thus enclosing the boats and crew as we were gently lowered down to river level. 

At the halfway stage we met alongside the tub being raised which had a tourist boat full of tourists in it. We shared smiles and waves given with the good spirit of sharing a new and unusual experience. It’s not an everyday occurrence.
Chemical Factory in view

We loved being back on a river. The River Weaver is a tea-coloured smooth flowing River that would give good reflection if the sun decided to shine. 

In ‘old’ days it was reported there was a lot of river traffic and the Locks were designed with that in mind. 
Home sweet home?

All 5 Locks have C&RT lock-keepers to operate the mainly manually operated Locks. Size matters with the windlasses they use to wind the paddles to open the gates and sluices. 

We were just small fry in the Lock. At one Lock, quick action from the ‘Locky’ saved us from what could have been a bad experience that could have sunk DB, the case of the rim of the hull getting jammed into the Lock wall and....... We were OK thanks to Cptn alerting Locky who reacted quickly. It is so important these people are kept on the job!!

Highlights from the Weaver experience were:

-recognising my full name on a boat that was named after me?

-The mooring outside ‘The Red Lion’, a community Pub in Winsford, was ideally located on the banks of the River Weaver. There is no tv and no fruit machines. The people that work there are creative and musical and give out friendly energy. We went to the Monday night game evening. It was fun and welcoming.

-The rural mooring at Barnton Cut.

-We met NB Comfortably there anybody out there. They were seated, on shore, under a huge umbrella kept from the days when umbrellas were built to last all the days of your life and more!
The Gemini in me could be a Brolly Dolly and a Trolly Dolly

-The walk to the T&M Canal that was up an incline and round the corner. I could see that we have to do the 3 tunnels, up there, one day and on to the Bridgewater Canal.

-Waving out to our ‘Tupperware’ friends from Middlewich when we cruised past their land base.

We did cruise down river to the Frodsham Cut and then turned back to Barnton Cut so we could take an early morning cruise to the Anderton Boat Lift to get back on the Trent & Mersey and meet up with our mate, Phil, who was going to be with us on the cruise back to Nantwich. We thought it would be easy for him to meet us at Marston, rather than meet at the Boat Lift. All good in theory.
Flash walk on the wich

I had time to walk my trolley, not fly my broomstick, across the gravel lined paths which criss-crossed or is it zig-zagged along the ‘flashes’ of Northwich salt marshes to Aldi supermarket. 

The nice store assistant freed a shopping trolley for me because I had forgotten a coin. If you don’t ask you don’t get! All good and I remembered how to get back to the boat. A couple of hours well spent!

As for Phil travelling from Bournemouth, he was having difficulty getting from Crewe to Northwich and the bus timetable was not working for him. He eventually found us. 

Next day we were underway through foul means or fair.....

Need I describe this?

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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.