Saturday, 31 August 2013


After dinner last night I walked the towpath into Chester.  It was going on dusk and the light was fading but the lens on the Canon does a very good job of capturing ambient light.

The old lock keepers cottage stands alone and forlorn with the windows boarded and weeds encroaching from three sides.

Closer to town I noticed the unusual end gable on a canal side property.

The former Steam Mill building beside the canal has been redeveloped as upmarket offices and apartments with restaurants and bars on the ground floor adjacent to the canal.

Making my way past the Friday evening revellers (who were just starting to warm up) I reached the 48 hour moorings.  These appear to be located between two areas of nightlife and will probably get a significant amount of foot traffic into the early hours on a Friday and Saturday night.  I’m pleased we decided against mooring there! 

This morning we walked to the Park & Ride station only to find they don’t accept Seniors Concession Cards.  Rather than pay the £2 each we walked the short distance back to the main road and caught a regular community bus into Chester.  Both of us were looking for a new pair of shoes and Jan also wanted to get more EasiYo from Lakeland.

It’s our third visit to Chester.  The first was in 2001 and we noticed some shops have closed since that initial visit.  Chester is known for it's Roman links, although the older building looked to be more medieval.  Actually I suspect much of the Tudor architecture doesn’t go back more than a couple of hundred years?

The principal shopping area appears to be Foregate and Eastgate Streets.  The latter has the clock erected to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.  The clock has been erected above one of the gates of the original town wall.

We eventually found Lakeland (it wasn’t lost… .we were!) where Jan purchased two boxes of EasiYo yoghurt sachets and then we walked to Cotswolds Outdoors where we each bought a new pair of outdoor walking shoes.  The soles are worn out on our existing shoes and they are now a safety hazard.

Did I mention we saw a Roman tourist talking to one of the locals.  We thought it might have been Silvio Berlusconi.  Actually Jan thought he was wearing his bunga bunga outfit?

Back at the bus stop the locals who were on the same bus as us coming into town recognised us and we were warmly greeted.  Even told us the name of the stop where we caught the bus and the stop to get off for the canal.  I guess they all catch the same bus every Saturday!

We will slip though Chester on a quiet Sunday morning…… Well that’s the plan!

Friday, 30 August 2013

The Slow Road To Chester

The last time we went past such a long line of linear moored boats would have been on the South Oxford Canal.   It was a late start to the day (8.15am) and after a very brief cruise from the 48 hour moorings at Tattenhall Marina we reached the beginning of 2.5 kilometres of long term moored boats just around the bend from Nixon’s Bridge.

We passed boats at ‘tick-over’ and it took us an hour to cruise past this long line of linear moored boats.  Obviously we’re not working to a timetable and can afford to spend an hour on tick-over.  However I can understand how a hire boater might be tempted to go faster as they are working to a timetable!  The route covered today can been seen on the following screen dump.

The orange line denotes the linear moored boats.  Start point is in the bottom right and our current mooring in to top left.

As we got closer to our planned destination Jan noticed a sign we haven’t seen since leaving Australia.

“Wombats Next 55ft”

And the name of the boat was “Wombat”.  Yes, the boat’s length was 55ft! Smile

As we passed through the bridge hole at Quarry Bridge it was apparent a boat was loose and across the canal.  Fortunately it was beyond the 48 hour moorings which is where we had planned to moor for the night.

The crew returned to the boat shortly after this photo was taken and resecured it.  They have used stakes whereas we have used ‘nappy pins’ to moor Waiouru.  It didn’t take long to realise why the boat had been adrift as another boat ‘rocketed past causing Waiouru to pull back and forth as well as listing heavily.  B@stards!

The mooring is very handy to one of the Chester ‘Park & Ride stations and a large Sainsbury’s is slightly further on.  Jan has been feeling a little “off colour” so I walked to the Sainsbury’s and even managed to stick to her shopping list!

The plan is to use the ‘Park & Ride’ to get into Chester tomorrow.  We may stay on the current moorings tonight and Saturday night rather than moor further into Chester on what are probably the busiest nights of the week.

Left, Right, Across

This morning we bade farewell to Peter & Margaret.  They turned left at Barbridge Junction whilst we turned right towards Chester.

Peter spent much of yesterday afternoon using the Craftmaster polish on the starboard side of Kelly-Louise and you can tell the difference.  The blue is now much deeper and the “chalky white” surface has disappeared.

We reached Barbridge Junction and; as you would expect; Peter met a  hire boat coming from Nantwich unsighted.  He successfully reversed back from the bridge hole allowing the hire boat to complete it’s turn.  They then turned left whilst we waited to turn right.

The CRT facilities mooring at Calverley was vacant so we stopped to fill the water tank and dispose of the rubbish.  There was a small day boat approaching on the straight immediately before Bunbury Staircase Locks.  It went hard left into the bank and then veered violently hard right bouncing off the line of long term moored boats.  It then appeared to be reversing into a small gap between two moored boats and ended up across the canal.  We started to think they were attempting to wind the boat when there was a change of steerer which resulted in the boat straightening up and heading back towards us.  We hovered, waiting to establish what they were attempting to do.  As the boat passed the steerer apologised mentioning they were still learning how to handle the boat.  We all have to start somewhere.  But they are coming from a very low baseline!  We were joined by a share boat crewed by father, daughter and grandson at the staircase locks.  They were heading back to Tattenhall Marina and as the locks are doubles from this point onwards we shared the remaining locks with them. 

There are 48 hour moorings with rings just past Tattenhall Marina which we have used for tonight’s mooring.

Unlike yesterday’s mooring at Cholmondeston we have a very good internet signal.  You can see the local tower in the photo above.

From our current mooring it is possible to look back at Beeston Castle.  This location gives a different perspective of how the castle dominates the terrain.

I walked the short distance back to the bridge over the entrance to Tattenhall Marina for a view of the marina layout.

Then I noticed a boat which is very familiar.

There is AreandAre halfway down the row.

Later in the afternoon Jan cooked the damson plums she and Margaret picked at Cholmondeston and made enough jars of plum jam to last the year.

Jan has taken a leaf out of Sue of No Problem’s book and labelled the jam with the location of the picked plums.  That way she should remember it next time we pass.

I pottered around making a new header tank for the battery automatic watering system, raising the stern button and tightening a few connections.

Before we parted, Peter and I had a brief discussion about fuel consumption.  He has used twice the amount of diesel we used during our cruise.  We’ve been travelling together and I can only assume the variation between boats is due to one or all of the following factors.

  • Waiouru has a new engine
  • Our Axiom propeller is more efficient
  • The Wilson-Tyler shell provides less resistance.

I’m still thinking what else might have caused the difference! ( Jan here….. Peter Is lead footed…….!)Smile

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Cholmondeston Lock

After topping up the water tank using the tap at the Middlewich Junction we turned left onto the shortest canal in England before heading south-west towards Barbridge at 7.30am this morning.  I sounded the horn and Jan called out but Alf must have been heavily into counting sheep as there was no reply! Smile

I’ve been meaning to post the following photo of a boat with the most number of solar panels I’ve seen to date.  The cabin roof and sides appeared to be covered in them.

The passage through Wardle Lock went well but unfortunately that was the only lock where things went smoothly.  The remaining four locks all had queues and a number of the boats had “Ladies who lunch” on board. For those who haven’t previously heard the expression you need to read Jan’s post (nb Qisma <here>) on the subject.  As a consequence Margaret and Jan worked on average four boats through at every lock.

The farm house and stables looked attractive. I think the stables had been turned into one or maybe two houses.  However the exterior of the building has been retained with a number of the doors being false.

The farm house

The adjacent stables

There are some good views across the valley looking north as the canal contours around the high ground.

We stopped for the day on the 48 hour moorings above Cholmondeston Lock.  Peter and I wanted to go to the boys toyshop (chandlery) at Venetian Marina.  Margaret and Jan accompanied us (because they had the money) to ensure there was some financial control over our activities.  In the end we splashed out on four ice creams.  The chandlery isn’t quite the “Aladdin's Cave” you find a Kings Lock Chandlery.

Looking back at Venetian Marina from Cholmondeston Lock

In the afternoon Peter lovingly polished the starboard side of Kelly-Louise with his recently purchased bottle of Craftmaster boat polish whilst Jan and Margaret picked damson plums and apples.  I went off foraging for blackberries and returned with a third of a 2 litre ice cream container.  I’m going to have to keep on foraging if we are to make enough blackberry jam for the next year!

Our cruise with Peter & Margaret ends tomorrow when they turn left at Barbridge Junction and head for home whilst we turn right towards Chester.  It’s been most enjoyable cruising with them and hopefully we’ll be able to repeat the experience.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013


We started at 7.30am today with the intention of finding a mooring in Middlewich around midday.  Whilst we were on rings last night the mooring was actually overgrown with long grass and weeds.  A hire boat crew was much more fortunate arriving late in the early evening to find a vacant prime mooring in front.  Well cut grass and even bollards.  It’s even very handy to the lock.

We were boat three leaving in the morning and the closed hire boat curtains were starting to twitch! I wonder if they realised they had made an error?

Having two crews and dual locks enabled us to make good progress.  Jan was even raising the top paddles on one of the locks for the boat following us <good girl!> Unfortunately there were a few locations where one of the duel locks was either closed for maintenance or had been decommissioned.

The lock to the right in the above photo has been decommissioned

I’ve now been using the Mio PDA and the Waterway Routes canal maps for the last couple of months and have started to find them almost indispensible.  Jan uses our old Pearsons Guides to see the ‘big picture’ whilst I find using the gps maps very useful for precisely identifying our location whilst cruising.

I’m sure I can do more with the functions on the Mio in combination with the canal maps.  But I’m currently too busy being retired to find the time! Smile

One thing the Mio won’t tell me is when we are likely to find a queue at a lock.  It started to get congested for an hour as five boats queued to go down and two waited to come up.  Unfortunately this caused a ripple effect at the remaining locks.

Peter & Margaret on Kelly-Louise followed Waiouru in to Middlewich where we moored above Kings Lock.  The mooring is beside a busy road but the location does ensure we will receive a good TV signal.

After lunch Peter, Margaret and I wandered down to the toyshop (Kings Lock Chandlery) for a browse.  It”s interesting how anything related to ‘marine’ acquires a new price.  I noticed the price of the snap on hose coupling we purchased in the Wednesday market at Market Drayton had moved one decimal place from £0.50 to £5.  Fortunately we weren’t in need of a replacement having purchased three spares at the market.  However I did need a replacement ‘nappy pin’ for the one I left behind (it’s not lost) in the cut at our Red Bull mooring.  I also purchased some Owatrol on the advice of our friend Bill the boat painter in Newbury.  He assures me if it is added to the paint it will inhibit rust and make the paint flow better.  Hopefully that will mean no brush marks in the paint.  I hope you’re right Bill because it wasn’t cheap!

Tomorrow it’s a left turn towards Barbridge Junction.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013


We woke to a very misty morning with poor visibility.

nb Kelly-Louise in the mist

However the mist was quickly burned off to show a bright blue sky.  Two locks down I noticed an old vertical wooden roller on the lower entrance to one of the derelict locks.

I assume its purpose was to prevent two ropes from cutting into the lock wall when pulling boats in or out of the lock?

Back in July I took a photo of two boats in the dry dock at Langley Mill which is at the top of the Erewash Canal.  <blog post link>.  This is the photo.

I’ve since received a comment from Dan Caudwell advising the boat on the left in the photo is his (BCN1645) and he is restoring it.  Dan has started a blog about his restoration of BCN1645.  His blog link is <here>.  I recall looking at BCN1645 and thinking the lower portion of the sides must have been very rusty because there was quite a gap between the side and the baseplate.  I’ve now read on Dan’s blog that the bottom of the hull was full of concrete.  Perhaps that is the reason for the gap? Oh….. BCN1645 is a butty (never fitted with an engine).

Meanwhile I’ve had an email from a farming friend back in Australia

I recently spent $6,500 on a young registered Black Angus Bull
I put him out with the herd but he just ate grass and wouldn't even look at a cow.
I was beginning to think I had paid more for that bull than he was worth.
Anyhow, I had the Vet come and have a look at him.
He said the bull was very healthy, but possibly just a little young,
so he gave me some pills to feed him once per day.
The bull started to service the cows within two days, all my cows!
He even broke through the fence and bred with all of my neighbour's cows!
He's like a machine!
I don't know what was in the pills the Vet gave him but they kind of taste like peppermint.

Monday, 26 August 2013

It appears I’m not the only one with an issue!


It would appear that I am not on my own when it comes to dealing with state bureaucracy.  I’ve been sent a copy of the following letter, which had me rolling around the floor in stitches! 


This is an actual letter sent to the Australian DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) Immigration Minister. 

Dear Mr Minister,

I'm in the process of renewing my passport, and still cannot believe this.
How is it that K-Mart has my address and telephone number, and knows that I bought a television set and golf clubs and condoms from them back in 1997, and yet the Federal Government is still asking me where I was born, and on what date ?
For Christ sakes, do you guys do this by hand ?
My birth date you have in my Medicare information, and it is on all the income tax forms I've filed for the past 40 years.
It is also on my driver's licence, on the last eight passports I've ever had, on all those stupid customs declaration forms I've had to fill out before being allowed off planes over the past 30 years.
It's also on all those insufferable census forms that I've filled out every 10 years since 1966.

Also... would somebody please take note, once and for all, that my mother's name is Audrey, my father's name is Jack, and I'd be absolutely bloody astounded if that ever changed between now and when I drop dead !!!
SHIT! What do you people do with all this information we keep having to provide?

I apologize, Mr Minister. But I'm really pissed off this morning.
Between you and me, I've had enough of all this bullshit!
You send the application to my house, then you ask me for my bloody address!
What the hell is going on with your mob? Have you got a gang of mindless Neanderthal arseholes working there!

And another thing, look at my damn picture. Do I look like Bin Laden? I can't even grow a beard for God's sakes. I just want to go to New Zealand and see my new granddaughter.  (Yes, my son interbred with a Kiwi girl).  And would someone please tell me, why would you give a shit whether or not I plan on visiting a farm in the next 15 days? In the unlikely event I ever got the urge to do something weird to a sheep or a horse, believe you me, I'd sure as hell not want to tell anyone!
Well, I have to go now, 'cause I have to go to the other side of Sydney, and get another bloody copy of my birth certificate - and to part with another $80 for the privilege of accessing MY OWN INFORMATION!

Would it be so complicated to have all the services in the same spot, to assist in the issuance of a new passport on the same day?
Nooooo…that'd be too bloody easy and makes far too much sense.
You would much prefer to have us running all over the bloody place like chickens with our heads cut off, and then having to find some 'high-society' wanker to confirm that it's really me in the goddamn photo! You know the photo... the one where we're not allowed to smile? bloody morons.

Signed - An Irate Australian Citizen.

P.S. Remember what I said above about the picture, and getting someone in 'high-society' to confirm that it's me?                           

Well, my family has been in this country since before 1820!  In 1856, one of my forefathers took up arms with Peter Lalor.  (You do remember the Eureka Stockade!)
I have also served in both the CMF and regular Army for something over 30 years (I went to Vietnam in 1967), and still have high security clearances. I'm also a personal friend of the president of the RSL....Lt General Peter Cosgrove sends me a Christmas card each year.
However, your rules require that I have to get someone "important" to verify who I am; you know...someone like my doctor - WHO WAS BORN AND RAISED IN BLOODY PAKISTAN!...a country where they either assassinate or hang their ex-Prime Ministers - and are suspended from
the Commonwealth and United Nations for not having the "right sort of government"..
You are all pen-pushing paper-shuffling bloody idiots!

Saturday, 24 August 2013

What a ‘Wally’!

After yesterday’s experience at the locks with the unhelpful boater Jan has decided anyone in a horizontal top is a ‘wally’!  This morning Peter and I appear from our boats only to hear Jan call out “You couple of wally’s!”  Oops… both wearing shirts with horizontal strips.  The problem was quickly solved by donning a fleece.

We quietly slipped away from the moorings leaving the neighbours in bed.  We topped up the water tank before cruising towards Festival Park Marina.  Being a Saturday morning it was rather chaotic with hire boats returning from every direction.

We hired a Black Prince boat from here in 2003 and 2005

The bottle kilns continue to fascinate us although the kiln in the following photo appears to be thinner than usual.  The adjacent large rectangular chimney also looked interesting.

View from the opposite side

One building has a graffiti in the form of a large green clenched fist.  Does it have any special significance?

A couple of boats pulled out in front of us as we approached Westport Lake on our way to the Harecastle Tunnel so we knew we wouldn’t be going through on our own.  There were three boats waiting when we arrived and one arrived after us, so that made six boats going through.  The Tunnel Keeper told us there would be a 30 minute wait as one boat was already in the tunnel coming towards us.

Jan got chatting away to the Tunnel Keeper whilst I cleaned and polished the starboard side of Waiouru.  He noticed what I was doing and mentioned he’d have brought his car if he’d known!  I said, “I don’t think so!”   To which he replied “Don’t argue with the Tunnel Keeper!”

This Harecastle Tunnel is starting to become a habit!

Don’t argue with me…. I’m the Tunnel Keeper! Smile

We’d already warned Peter & Margaret that we’d developed a habit of singing our way through tunnels (me badly off key)  However before I could tune up my vocal chords we could hear loud whistling behind us from Peter on nb Kelly-Louise.  Heaven knows what the poor buggers ahead of us thought as the singing and whistling continued.  It took us approximately 40 minutes to get through the tunnel which is much faster than the previous trip a month ago!

It was at the other end we came across “Wally”.  Two boats ahead of us had used the two locks at the top of the Red Bull flight.  Peter and I were loitering above the locks in front of the junction to the Macclesfield Canal waiting for the locks to be free when the boater behind Peter called out “Are you going to Macclesfield?”  Peter called back “No!”  The boater behind then called out “Well get out of the way!”  Not only was the tone rather rude but it proved to be a bit of an issue because there was only room for one boat on the lock mooring. Eventually the boater made his way behind me and called out “You know there are two locks!”  The locks are co-located it’s fairly obvious there are two!  The inference was I’d been too stupid to notice the second lock.  I replied “Yes… and they are both occupied!”   Fortunately that was the last we saw of Wally!

After lunch we raided the local Tesco supermarket.  Jan watched me like a hawk and I was only able to sneak one tin of shoe polish into the trolley.  Later I spent some time finishing the washing and polishing of the starboard side.

Back to Etruria

We slipped away from Stone early attempting to avoid the congestion.  However we weren’t as early as the two boats ahead of us!  Having two boats and crews enabled us to quickly go up the four locks of the Meaford Flight.  We were somewhat bemused by the action of the boat crew following us.  They would stay on their boat until Jan and Margaret had filled the lock and then appear at the bottom end of the lock waiting to raise the paddles.  This was the same crew who had complained yesterday about how slow it was to get through the locks.  If crews don’t work together then locking slows down!

Contractors were rebuilding the towpath above Meaford Top Lock.  All the material was being moved onto the site by boat from a dump at Bridge 100.  They have been working on this stretch of towpath for some time as we passed the work on our previous trip several weeks ago.  This time there were more work boats running a shuttle service to the work site.

We didn’t stop to use the ‘services’

A membrane fabric has been laid and the fine aggregate placed on top before being levelled and compacted.  I think this portion of the towpath is part of the National Cycleway.  Unfortunately my belief is the cycle wheels will quickly “chew up” the aggregate.  If the surface is to last then it really needs something like a bitumen topping.  The boater in me would prefer the money was spent on dredging!  But then I suppose CRT also gets money (or political support) from cycling organisations.

We missed taking a photo of this location on the last trip.

The timber gates to the property have ‘Wharf House’ on them so we assume this was once a wharf.  It’s now a very attractive personal mooring and home.  The boat is Lodestar and I’m sure I’ve seen a photo of it in a magazine?

The stretch of canal towpath between Trentham and Stoke is very well maintained and looks quite attractive.  The locals appear to enjoy it as there were numerous walkers!  With two crews working in tandem it was a quick transit up the five locks at Stoke.

Jan empties “Mr Grumpy’s” lock (Stoke Lock 39) for nb Kelly-Louise while I prepare to enter the top lock.  Peter and I then reversed the boats down the Caldon Canal past the services block to moor on the 48 hour moorings for the night. 

In the afternoon Margaret and I walked to the Tesco Express for essential supplies and I then walked to the local B&Q to buy a couple of ‘Hamilton’ brand paintbrushes as recommended by ‘Towpath Bill’ (thanks Bill).

Tomorrow it’s the Harecastle Tunnel.