Saturday, 30 August 2008

The Journey Back To Base

As we were about to pull the pins Dave noticed another couple in a narrowboat struggling to open the swing bridge next to the Farmers Arms, so he went over to help. They were making the same mistake I did, which is to attempt to insert the BW key in the wrong lock. The real one being situated in the upper right corner of the panel (almost out of sight) instead of in the middle (obvious) one!

They were glad of the help and told Dave they were learning the way it worked by going through to the winding hole beyond, then coming back while road traffic was quiet.
Turns out they were going back the same way as us, (down the Rufford Arm) and mooring up overnight at Tarleton. Ready for doing the Ribble Link tomorrow morning. Their names were Fiona and Bill, they still hadn't decided on a name for their boat, so it was Anon!

When they re-appeared on our side of the swing bridge we set off together and soon came upon the notorious Crabtree swing bridge, neither of us wanted to tackle it on our own!
I was surprised, because after all we'd heard, and all the turns it required, it seemed no more difficult than turning the sluice mechanism on some locks with a windlass.
Fiona and I managed it between us, opened the bridge, and both boats went through. The barriers seemed to have a mind of their own though. Whilst gently taking the barrier up I checked to see if it had locked properly in position (sounded like it had) but hadn't! Good job vigilance prevailed, it could’ve done me some damage.

We carried on to the next swing bridge and we were leading the way, probably as well because when we turned onto the Rufford Arm there's another swing bridge, right next to a lock. Then three more locks in quick succession.
Seeing as I'd done this before I helped Fiona with the necessary learning curve. It was nice to be able to help someone else out with it, instead of the other way round! Obviously we couldn’t fit both boats in a lock together, and I couldn’t work out if we were holding them up or vice versa! Good job we weren’t in a hurry...
We did five locks, moored up together, had lunch and a few drinks. Fiona and Bill asked for a guided tour round TT (Disney Tour). And even though it was a day of hard work we had a really nice time.
Turned out they knew of TT because they stayed at our marina on a temporary basis, for 6 months while their boat was being fitted out! (That was before our boat was, well, ours). 

This heart-warming familiarity with the boat we keep coming across always reminds me of a day some while back when I was waiting for a lock to fill. This little old guy appeared out of nowhere and said to me "EEEEE I know’s that boat ye know.” After I'd opened the lock I walked back to have a chat with him, he seemed very frail and leant heavily on his walking stick. But his eyes lit up when he looked at the canal and the view, it made me wonder if he'd worked on the canals when he was younger, but I didn't like to ask.
After our rest stop Fiona and Bill had to set off sharpish because they were meeting their daughter down at Tarleton. So we said our goodbye's and wished them luck with their crossing of the Ribble Link tomorrow.
Meanwhile we chilled out for a while longer before pulling the pins again. As we trundled along the sun came out for a couple of hours. Double nice because we haven't seen much of it recently at all.
Dave noticed a heron on the bank, we didn't think for one moment we'd get any decent photos, (we didn’t – spot the heron). It seemed to be playing a game with us, for a while it would stay put, till we got nearer. Then take off up the canal, stand at the side for a bit, then take off again…

We wondered if it might be the same one that was on the roof the other day trying to hitch a lift back! I even sent one of those pictures to our local TV news team. They seem to like showing wildlife photos when doing the weather forecast.
I think it's designed to take our minds off the general December theme for August and make us all feel a bit better. It doesn't work...
Back to our journey, almost home, with the familiar Parbold hill in the distance...

Friday, 29 August 2008

Moving On

After pulling the pins we set off through New Lane swing bridge to navigate through further unchartered territory. We went past the Scarisbrick Marina site so I took some photos.
Excavation began on the site in May this year and as you can see there is some structure there now.
It looks like most of the piers and jetty's are in place, we were guessing about electrics. Lights are visible on the end of the piers but whether they switch on or not yet is another matter!
It will cover a huge area when finished, even though it's a building site right now, you can get a rough idea of the shape. It reminds me of when we used to walk past St Mary’s marina during it´s excavation and being built. It was fascinating to watch. At the time we had no idea we’d end up there living on a boat, or any marina, it just hadn’t been considered…!
Scarisbrick Marina building site…

We carried on to Halsall Hill Bridge (No 24) where there's a winding hole, so we turned round and headed back the way we came. Later on we moored up for the night in the same place as yesterday, opposite The Farmers Arms pub.
We arrived there about 7pm and met a couple who knew our boat (through Alan and Chris). I don’t know, this boat has quite a fan club. We once came across a guy on the towpath who told us "I've been on that boat and had a look around it ya know, it’s very nice.” We don’t get surprised anymore!
Later on we went to the pub again for something to eat, we were starving by that time! Then it was an early night ready for all those locks again tomorrow...

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Setting Sail At Last

It's a shame about the last two days of waiting because Dave has now mastered the skill of using the wind in your favour. But the remaining problem would've been getting lined up correctly before entering a lock.
After assessing the weather (yet again) the wind wasn't quite as angry today, and the forecast was for it to drop. So we decided to go for it and headed up the Rufford Branch towards the Leeds Liverpool canal.
As it turned out there were still times when the front end was a bit out of control. It was overcome by backing up then giving it some throttle forwards. Faster = more control = front end line up! In theory of course.
I steered us part-way, but I won’t do locks. It always makes me laugh how some people do a "double-take” when they see a slim blonde, confidently manoeuvring a wide beam, along a canal! 
Anyway, here’s some photos:
Setting off from our mooring towards the marina entrance...

After passing through the seven locks and two swing bridges on the Rufford Branch. We arrived at “Junction Bridge” which marks the spot where it joins the Leeds Liverpool canal.
From here on, turning right is new territory to us, we've never come this way on the boat before. So with Nicholson's No5 to hand our magical mystery tour began!
We headed towards Burscough and moored up for lunch about a mile before the notorious Crabtree swing bridge. (Turn 18 times to open and 36 to close!)
After we'd eaten our butties and set off again we got lucky, the bridge was open as another boat was coming towards us. They very kindly allowed us through before closing it, nice timing..!
We moored up overnight just before New Lane swing bridge, opposite The Farmers Arms pub. (Owned by Shaun Teale the ex Aston Villa footballer).
And this is the view we had, lovely...

The electronic swing bridge just in front of us...

And The Farmers Arms opposite us...

After we'd tied up the boat, we walked across the swing bridge and went to the pub for a meal. By this time the wind had dropped completely and it was warm enough to sit outside later on. Hard work with the locks, but a thoroughly enjoyable day...

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

The Waiting Game Day Two There´s A Heron On The Roof

Unfortunately today has been "ditto" from yesterday as far as the weather's concerned, so the decision to set off has been cancelled again, this is so frustrating!
We decided some retail therapy was necessary in the afternoon, (always a good idea at times like this). So off we went and I spent some of my birthday money.

When we got back there was an unexpected visitor. I've mentioned the "tame" heron that seems to think of the marina as its home. But we couldn't believe our eyes when it landed on the roof of our boat and posed for some photos! WOW...!

There's been many comments from comrades about it being plastic, (no one else was about at the time). So contrary to popular belief, look closely and you’ll notice it moves, I mean by itself...
So here's the question: Can anyone else out there get closer to a real heron and take a photo of it? That´s a challenge...!

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

A Waiting Game

We couldn't wait to get out of the marina today, but the wind didn’t drop, the rain didn’t ease, which means we’d rather be stuck not going nowhere. (Fair weather boaters only!) We reluctantly gave up in the morning, we knew the weather wasn't going to improve & it was very cold too.
As compensation there was some entertainment laid on which was a new wide beam was delivered plonked gently craned into the marina this morning. It's always something to watch is that. And from our mooring we had a great view.

We settled on tomorrow as our first day out, even if the weather is only slightly better, we're going...

Saturday, 16 August 2008

The Calm Before The Storm

On the subject of the "great British weather" the forecasts haven't exactly been very accurate for our area recently. This has (unusually) been a good thing. Because there's been many a day where it should've been rainy and windy, yet the sun has still smiled warmly down on us,, (the righteous?)
But there was no escaping what was coming in soon and we knew it.

The calm: Yesterday evening

The storm: Today, checkout the ducks running for cover! And this was before the stair-rods began to fire down on us...

While on the subject,, have you noticed how all the female weather forecasters seem to have disappeared from our screens of late? Only to be replaced by smarmy blokes in black suits, with a condescending air about them?

In addition (this goes back years) it seems that all male presenters must have a "quirk" to qualify for the job:
The main weather presenter on one news channel is a gaunt looking guy with spiky hair, and has a strange habit of waving both arms about in a circular motion. When reading from the auto-cue, his animated voice goes from a whisper to a loud pitch and back again. Meanwhile he carries out a balletic double axle arm waving routine, marvellous stuff.

Then there's the guy from another news channel, he's so calm and laid back, it almost seems like he's bored to tears and needs a cat nap.
"And with the cold air,,,,, (pause) sweeping through from the East,,,,, (pause) this may even,,,,, bring some,,,,, rain."
Highly entertaining once you've identified the foibles, even if the weather is crap...

Thursday, 14 August 2008

The Huge Clean Up Part Two

Today, cleaning up was about everything I’d missed yesterday, which was a lot.
Dusting, cleaning, hoovering, glass cleaning, and loads more I can't remember. I started at the front of the boat in the bedroom. Then worked my way back through the bathroom, kitchen, and saloon.
It seemed to make more sense to do it that way, don't ask why. Perhaps something to do with the number of dusters needed, different cleaning fluids used, and the ratio aspect of one to the other?

I don't think dusters generate a great deal of interest, they don't really get a good press, yet where would we be without them? Here's what I've learned when I've been wearing my Mrs Mop hat:

Never use yellow dusters till you've washed them.
Use ex tea towels for glass, tiles etc.
Oh and a new innovation, I discovered Tesco cloths which are designed for cleaning windows.
Use thinner dusters for cleaning wood furniture with a spray.
Then there's Flash Wipes for chrome. As for Pledge wipes, well they only seem to move dust around.

One more thing, with regards to laundry. Never mix dusters in with your smalls.

So overall the lowly duster does deserve some credit, I'm not usually one to prattle on about the virtues of cleaning, maybe that Flash spray has gone to my head...
Please note the "mirror effect"
Later on a thorough inspection revealed one lonely spider that must've been hiding, a bit of fluff stuck to a lamp, and the inside of the microwave had been forgotten. Tut, Tut.
At the end of the day, to accompany the increase in size of my arm muscles, (nice) I now have hands like shrivelled prunes. (Not so nice). But hey it was worth it, there's bags more satisfaction to be gleaned (cleaned?? claimed??) from cleaning a boat than a house. Only after all the hard graft of course...

Saturday, 9 August 2008

TT Turnaround Required Skill

Arrived at TT about lunchtime today, amidst a howling gale and pouring rain, well that's not so bad. Even carrying bags of stuff from the car park, well that's not so bad, BUT we desperately needed a pumpout, and in such conditions - this WAS bad!
After we'd unpacked we set off for the service area,, and knew it would be difficult. But we had no choice concerning this dilemma, we had "to go" for it nevertheless! (Excuse the pathetic pun).

After a lot of faffing about, back and forth with the boat. Helpful advice such as "give it some throttle, go with the wind, use it to your advantage" etc. Dave managed (just) to get her over to the service area, and some kindly folks helped us in. We were at such a weird angle I couldn't get off!

It always amazes me how the wind can carry a wide beam like that, it just takes the front end and off you go in the wrong direction. Of course it never works in your favour (well not ours anyway!) We'd have been ok out on the canal, that's different. It seems to happen when restricted to a breeze and open water. There's got to be a bow thruster out there somewhere with our name on it. 

Oh, and the rain was teeming down, it's at times like this when you realise what an advantage having a "covered back bit" is. Even so we both still ended up looking like something out of a horror movie.

When we (eventually) got back to the mooring, Tony was patiently waiting to pull us back in. It's so nice to be surrounded by such a fine bunch of folks, and in true community spirit we all help each other out.

So TT is "about face" this time just for a change, with the bow against the pier and the "back bit" facing the island. We sit out there a lot, even when the weather's crap, it doesn't matter.
The other way round to normal...

Hey, we're staying here till a week on Monday, yeah!!
Little note: A 180 degree turn of the boat can cause some confusion with "one´s" bearings, inside the boat it's ok. I mean you don't start walking up the boat when you should be going down it, the confusion only sets in when you look out the window...!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Relaxing Day With An Amusing Twist

The tiny dot towards the upper left hand corner of this photo is Dave doing a spot of fishing off the end of our jetty. It makes him look like he's hovering above the water in mid air, maybe he'd just caught a big fish and was elated, I didn't ask...
In this one he's come back down to earth, he's no idea I took these so shush...

Oh hello,, I’ve just spotted cameras behind us. There's two guys videoing all the boats on our pier from up on the grassy bank. No problem  provided they stay on the other side of the security gate! Maybe you'll see us on TV, maybe we'll be famous. Nah, it's probably just some Americans --- Howdy Doody.
Later on we’re going to the local pub for a drink, after Dave’s caught the BIG elusive one…