Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Almost at Rotherham

A short cruise today and only three locks, all push button operated.  Replacement of the locks was mentioned in the last post and today we saw one of the original locks.

IMG_9934-1old lock The old version is slightly narrower and much shorter.

More rural cruising today except for a Brathwaite tower tank that appeared on the skyline.

IMG_9938-1 Braithwaite started building the panels for these prefabricated modular tanks in 1901.  The military found them particularly useful and I can remember constructing a few of them in my army days.  They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and I note there are a number of Chinese manufacturers selling a very similar panel.

Jan worked Waiouru up through Rotherham Lock and then we sat in it for 30 minutes whilst using the lock side water tap to top up the tank.  You can get an appreciation of the size of the lock in this next photo.

IMG_9941-1All that water for one small narrowboat!

Whilst we were waiting a fibreglass boat appeared from the opposite direction.  Both Jan and I thought it wanted to use the lock but the crew winded (turned) and moored around the corner on the 48 hour moorings.

Why do the crews of some small boats decide to moor in the middle of the mooring or leave gaps between them.  It appeared I would have to ask them to move forward.

IMG_9943-1I’m not going to be too critical because this narrowboat owner had moored on the lock landing when he could have joined us around the corner from where I took the photo.

IMG_9942-1 It wasn’t a good decision on his part because the Exol Pride arrived around 2pm.  The tanker is so big it couldn’t exit the lock with the narrowboat on the landing.  Consequentially he was required to move by CRT to a mooring in front of us.  It would have been less effort for the boater to have done that in the first place.

I phoned CRT today to confirm our booking for Tinsley Flight tomorrow.  We were advised to depart the mooring at 8am in order to meet the lock keeper at Holme Lock at 9.30.  There are at least 12 manual locks to be done so it should be a good workout.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Leaving Doncaster

Our time on the Doncaster mooring was due to expire at noon but we decided to leave earlier thinking we would be ahead of the Exol Pride tanker.  It hadn’t passed us at the time of writing this post so I must have got the day wrong.  Before we departed one of the local boaters told me we would find the river attractive and that proved to be the case it actually reminded us of our time on the Thames last year, albeit we only saw three moving boats today.


Sprotborough Lock


One of the numerous attractive reaches.  The air was full of the smell and pollen from the hawthorns on the banks.

The imposing Conisbrough Railway Viaduct spans the valley.  This massive structure was built in 1906-07 and consists of 21 arches, 14 to the north side of its iron girder section and seven to the south.  The viaduct formed part of a connection between the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway and those of the Great Northern and Great Eastern. It is 1,584 feet in length and was built with 15 million bricks. 


Unfortunately it didn’t have a very long life, closing to rail traffic in 1966.  In 2001 agreement was reached for its transfer to Railway Paths Ltd - a body set up to acquire and look after potentially useful railway land and structures on behalf of sustainable transport charity Sustrans, until such time as the latter was able to incorporate them into its National Cycle Network.  In early 2008, the Railway Heritage Trust provided a grant for the installation of panels alongside the girder span’s existing cast iron handrails, making it safer for the public and the structure was converted into a combined cycle and pedestrian way.


Slightly further upstream we passed what appeared to be the side wall of a former lock.  You can see the recesses for the lock gates and the vertical slot for stop boards.


An online search revealed this was once the location of Conisbrough Lock.  The lock was removed in 1983 when a final attempt was made to keep the navigation commercially viable by upgrading it to 700-tonne Eurobarge standard by deepening the channels and enlarging the locks as far as Rotherham. 

Wikipedia states

The new locks are 198 by 20 feet (60.4 by 6.1 m), and the navigation accommodates boats with a draught of 8.2 feet (2.5 m) and needing headroom of 10.5 feet (3.2 m). Beyond Rotherham, the locks are 70 by 15.1 feet (21.3 by 4.6 m), and so can accommodate a 70 feet (21 m) broad boat, but Rotherham lock is smaller, being only 61.5 feet (18.7 m) long, and so the upper reaches are effectively restricted to 60-foot (18 m) boats. 

I hadn’t realised boats were limited to 60ft beyond Rotherham.  Fortunately we will fit!


Shortly after passing under the viaduct Jan pointed out the Conisbrough Castle on our port side.  After peering at the flag for a short time I realised it was English Heritage. This is yet another castle built in the 11th century on the order of William de Warenne, the Earl of Surrey, after the Norman conquest of England in 1066.  By the 16th century it was almost derelict which prevented it being used during the civil war.  In 1819 Sir Walter Scott used the castle as the setting for the novel Ivanhoe.

We rounded the bend to find a sign stating the railway bridge ahead was being worked on and to slow down.  It wasn’t hard to see why work was being carried out.  Several of the steel columns in the piers were looking far from perpendicular!


Temporary steel wire rope diagonal bracing has been fitted to prevent further movement.


It was just beyond here we met two narrowboats going in the opposite direction.  The first we passed without difficulty but the second kept moving to our side of the river squeezing us closer and closer to the bank.  In the end I was forced to aim Waiouru’s bow at him.  As he passed us he called out “It’s hard getting around these corners!”  It’s a damned river.  If he’s struggling here then I feel for boaters who meet him on a canal! Smile

Mick, yes I am looking to purchase a vacuum pump and think I might have found something suitable for £12.04.

Bill, I agree with you about the EU.  I think it will probably fail because too much regulation and central government/bureaucracy will stifle competitive advantage.  There are also a number of member countries who continue to be a liability and who show little sign of modifying their behaviour.  I’ve now watched a film produced by the Brexit side (logical but of course bias) and a BBC documentary (more neutral).  Whilst I think both Jan & I are eligible to vote, we won’t as we don’t intend to spend the rest of our lives in the UK.  But if I were to vote, I think it would be for Leaving.



Sunday, 22 May 2016

Maintenance Tasks

If you have been reading the blog for the last week you may remember I was looking for a small piece of timber to use as part of the Victron shunt repair.  Mark very kindly visited us in Wakefield bringing a suitable piece of timber.  The repair has been completed.

This is the shunt above the domestic battery bank negative terminal.  If you look closely you should be able to see that small piece of timber behind the shunt.  The shunt is glued to the timber and the timber is screwed to the supporting length of marine ply.


When I looked down into the bilge I was reminded it needs the annual clean and coat of paint.  You can see our small dry bilge and pump in the top half of the photo below.  This has also reminded me I need to do something about an extraction method for the gearbox oil.  Twice I’ve attempted to drain the gearbox by removing the bung in the base and both times I’ve ended up with oil under the engine.  There simply isn’t sufficient room to manoeuvre a container of used oil from around the engine mounts.  I think we are going to need to buy an extractor pump. 


A walk to Halfords resulted in the purchase of another 5 litres of engine oil which will be needed for the next service.  It’s a major service so the gearbox oil will need to be replaced.  Whilst there I purchased some Fabsil for the pram and cratch covers. 


It’s a silicon based canvas waterproofer.  The pram and cratch have been recently cleaned and I wanted to get the Fabsil on before the canvas had a chance to get dirty.  The Fabsil isn’t supposed to restore the colour to canvas but after two coats I think the covers look brighter.


Getting itchy feet…. Time to move!

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Fancy Dress Party

This morning we awoke to find an email from Rachel & David.  Until six months ago they were living in Perth, Western Australia but have returned to the UK and bought a narrowboat (nb Black Velvet).  Rachel is blogging about their life on the cut <link here>.  Their blog address is also on our own blog list. 

Later in the day an email arrived from a fellow Kiwi expat currently living in Liverpool.  Mike & Liz have a boat in France and have written a book about their experiences <link here>.  That makes the 3rd Kiwi couple we know of who have spent some of their life boating in France.

Today we went into Doncaster to have a look around the markets.  I think we visited three different markets.


It must have been a special day because a fancy dress party was in progress


OK, OK, they are Morris Dancers, a distinctly English activity.  Apparently there are a number of expat groups around the world.  Not that I’ve seen any of them!  Jan loves watching them.

I enjoyed looking at the architecture inside the old Corn Market.  The wrought ironwork was particularly interesting.  The lower floor is an indoor market and the upper a cafe and craft market.  To the rear are the meat, poultry and fish markets where Jan bought a selection of Cumberland and Lincolnshire sausages.

P1020679-1We then wandered around the town centre.  As we move between towns we’re noticing more and more that all the shops are starting to look very similar.

P1020681-1There were a couple of interesting things today.  The first was the stall in the mall.  It’s the first time I’ve seen any public advertising for the Brexit Out campaign and the tent appeared to to be drawing considerable interest.

P1020685-1If I were attempting to reduce this issue to a simple question I’d ask “Do you want to be British or European?” 

From our mooring we can see a tangible sign of the decline of the commercial life of the canal.  The large brick building in the middle of the next photo has the words “Canal Depot” in large letters.


It hasn’t be used for canal related activities for many years.  To the left of the white dutch barge is another smaller brick building which has Canal & River Trust on it.  This building is also boarded up.  The moorings are secure behind a locked gate operated by a BW key.

Friday, 20 May 2016

To Doncaster

This morning we prepared Waiouru for cruising and then moved her across the navigation to the water point.  The tank was already ¾ full but it still took an hour to top it up.  Yes, a very slow tap.  The plan was to move the short distance to Doncaster where we will spend the weekend.  There is nothing particularly attractive about this stretch of the navigation.  The left (east) bank is mostly overgrown former industrial land with various signs of commercial canal access.


One of a number of old wharves

The entrance to Doncaster was more impressive.


That’s probably worth an exploration trip.  We were looking for the CRT 72 hour moorings and all I could see were permanent moorings.  However Jan mentioned she had read the mooring was on a floating pontoon.  Just as I thought I’d seen them the Exol Pride came around the bend on her return trip back to Goole.  Some frantic reversing on my part to get us out of her path and against a pontoon.  Eventually I noticed the small sign stating “72 Hours” so we arrived at our destination almost by mistake.

In the afternoon I walked to Halfords for some engine oil.  The next service isn’t due for some time but Halfords was so close I thought it was worth the effort.  Dinner was a Chinese Takeaway.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Rest Day

Well not really.  More of a “no moving day”.  Although the forecast was for rain we had a clear and dry day until 5pm.  Yesterday we had decided to utilize the forecast rain and clean both the pram and cratch covers.  The inside of each had a motley grey/brown surface which would need to be removed.  Our method was to place the cover on the BBQ table in our private garden and clean them using the ‘Pink’ cleaning paste.


Son needed the technique to be demonstrated

P1020675-1Hmmmmm…… a slow learner! Smile

Once the inside had been cleaned the outside was done using just a scrubbing brush and water. 


By now there was only one person cleaning.  The other had gone to Sainsburys having decided on a late BBQ lunch.

P1020678-1The covers were then refitted to the boat and left to dry.

The inside surface cleaned up rather well.


We have a can of Fabsil to seal and protect the exterior surface but the instructions state it must not be wet for the first six hours after application.  With rain forecast we elected to defer the application of the Fabsil to another day.

Meanwhile the keen BBQ crew member had started on lunch.


Under the distant supervision of his mother…….. 

The Exol Pride came up through the lock on her way to Rotherham (not Doncaster as I had previously thought).  The boat is big, taking up almost all of the lock.  She will be back tomorrow so we will have to watch our cruising days to ensure we don’t meet on a bend.


Waiouru had a visitor whilst we were seated having our late lunch.


The local CRT boat license checker.  As continuous cruisers we’re always happy to see Waiouru’s number being recorded.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

The guillotine, tanker and reader

An email from reader and good friend Bill from Newbury provided more information on the Stoneground Flour Mill at Castleford. 

lizard.jpg (1 of 1)

Bill mentioned the name Allison and confirmed the mill had a water wheel.  He also mentioned there were plans to convert it into a working heritage museum.  Using this information I have discovered the mill was built around 1822 and was subsequently purchased by Dr Thomas Allinson who was an early vegetarian and advocated the healthy benefits of eating stoneground wholemeal grains.  There are photos of the mill interior here.

The mill closed in 2012, however a local trust is attempting to purchase the lease and redevelop the building “into a centre which will include a sculpture and art gallery, cafe and craft classes, heritage centre, community space, and it is hoped a training restaurant for young chefs and a school of sculpture, teaching skills like boatbuilding repair and stonemasonry.” <link>

There are two canal related facts.

  1. Much of the grain and finished product was moved by water.
  2. Apparently CRT owns the mill.

We turned left at Sykehouse Junction to discover a wide beam boat in front of us and then two narrowboats appeared behind us.  We had a convoy!  The map showed six swing or lift bridges on the straight between Sykehouse and Bramwith Junction.

bridges  Waterway Routes Map

Without any discussion the four boat crews started working together with the lead boat operating the bridge and then taking up the rear position.  There was a slight delay at the first bridge when a CRT employee appeared to operate the bridge.  The reason for this became apparent when the Exol Pride appeared from the opposite direction.  This is a recent commercial operation moving petroleum products between Goole and Doncaster.  Our crew had appreciated just how much water she was going to move and had tied bow and stern ropes.  The wide beam crew had only used their centre line which had two adverse effects.  First their boat was dragged around and second their centreline had so much tension it formed a knot they couldn’t untie.


The convoy continued to play leapfrog through both the bridges and Sykehouse Lock.


Part of the way down the straight our gps ran out of map and I couldn’t get the next map to load.  We were truly cruising into the unknown.  Towards the end of the straight we could see a large structure which we eventually identified as a guillotine gate.  Then we realised there were two guillotine gates.


It wasn’t until we had passed under the first gate that I realised it’s purpose.  The gates are at either end of an aqueduct over the River Don.


When the river is in spate (flood) the water will flow over the top of the sides of the aqueduct.  The guillotine gates are lowered to prevent the river entering the navigation.

At Bramwith Junction the other boats in our convoy turned east heading towards Keadby and the River Trent whilst we continued south.  The navigation will continue on to Sheffield, which is our next destination.

We stopped above Long Sandall Lock on a lovely private mooring where we have our own (temporary) garden complete with BBQ tables and rubbish bins.


It’s interesting to see the size of some of the objects pulled from the navigation around here.


Four cars amongst that lot


This one had been in the water so long it had accumulated barnacles.

Fountains were trialling their new towpath mower.  Apparently it’s quiet, doesn’t spray clippings and fertilizes the vegetation.



In the evening we headed off for a walk.  Along the way we were approached by one of the friendly locals who introduced himself as one of our blog readers.  We’re always pleased to meet our readers and best of luck with your own boat project Mick!

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Aire & Calder

This morning we wandered into Castleford for a few essentials.  Most of Castleford was very familiar as we had passed this way in 2014.  The Millennium Footbridge was there last time.  Well it would have to be as it must be 16 years old.  But not as old as the flour mill behind it.


Can’t see the flour mill?

lizard.jpg (1 of 1)

My guess is there was once a water wheel to grind the flour.

Whilst walking down the main shopping street in the town I happened to notice something I’d not seen during our last visit.


Not that obvious.  It’s on the HSBC building.


We topped up the water tank above Bulholme Lock.  A wide beam arrived at the lock just as we were stowing the hose and we joined them to drop down through the lock and onto the River Aire.

Apparently Ferrybridge coal fired power station has closed since our last visit.  The was no sign of it being in operation and the unloading facility was starting to look derelict.


There are some lovely spots along this way.


As expected, Ferrybridge Flood Lock Gates were open and glancing back we could see the view was dominated by the power station.


At Bank Doe we turned right continuing on the Aire & Calder Navigation.  This is new territory for us and obviously more interesting.  The navigation is wide and deep, cutting it’s way through flat rural countryside.  At one point we noticed a couple of large artificial black hills.  Our guess was they were made from coal.


On getting closer we came upon a sign.


Kellingley Collery

This was the last deep coal mine in England closing last year.  It was a relatively modern mine, opening in 1960.  The location of the mine was partially dictated by the proximity of road, rail and the canal.  Whilst the mine has closed it appeared the area was still being used to stockpile coal, which is being moved by rail.

Shortly after passing the colliery we passed two narrowboats going in the opposite direction.  Both Jan and I commented on the small number of moving boats around here.


A late lunch stop at Pollington Lock where Jan got to use her magic index finger on the control box.


These locks are BIG and most of them have at least one intermediate set of gates.  We’ve also noticed how much bigger the boats are around here.


Shortly afterwards we reach Sykehouse Junction.  The Aire & Calder continues on to Goole but we turn right onto the South Yorkshire Navigation.  It looked like CRT were doing work ahead as most of the navigation appeared to be blocked.


There are good 72 hour moorings just around the corner.


Even the tupperware boats are big in this part of the network! Smile