Sunday, 27 June 2010

On top of the world

We made it as far as Riddlesden today, which means something actually went according to plan. We pulled pins about 8.30 knowing we had 11 locks to work today. Everything went very smoothly, there was one single lock, then a pair, then the Bingley 3-rise quickly followed by the Bingley 5-rise. Apart for the single lock all had lock-keepers to assist us through.

Shortly after leaving our mooring we passed through Saltaire, the village was built by Titus Salt as an "ideal industrial settlement" for his mill workers in 1850ish. As mill towns go it is impressive, I have visited it before and we didn't stop to explore this time  but it does look different from the canal. The mill buildings on either side of the canal are beautifully restored/preserved. I know one side houses the art gallery and small shops, the other appears to be residential. There is a huge park where an enterprising boatie has a wide-beam moored selling ice creams, burgers etc.

When we reached the 3-rise we caught up with 'Our Florence' and 'Trojan' who we first met at Clarence Dock. We followed them up the '3' and when we reached the '5' we were the fourth pair of boats in the queue. Luckily apart from the boat that was coming down as we arrived everyone was going up so we were able to follow each other with just a lock between each of us.

Bingley 5-rise from the bottom

And from the top, that's us at the back, hidden by the trees

It's a bit steep to walk up, you rise 60 feet in a distance of about 300 feet. The lock-keepers know their stuff and with their help we had a quick and smooth ascent. We are now on a lock-free stretch of about 17 miles until we almost reach Gargrave, 11 more locks, then it is downhill all the way.

We will be here for a few days as I have volunteered for baby-sitting duty. Tim and Margaret are coming to pick me up tomorrow and I won't be back until Wednesday. Ray should be kept occupied as one of the reasons for stopping here is to visit Puffer Parts who, by reputation, are an excellent chandlery and very helpful. Morgana still has a few "work in progress" elements so hopefully some will get sorted while I'm away. There is also a launderette here so I might even get the washing done for me while I'm gone as well!
We even get a good satellite signal so Ray can watch the footie.

Today's journey 7.3 miles, 11 locks and 8 swing bridges.
So far we have travelled 347 miles, 388 locks,  31 swing bridges 4 lift bridges and 9 tunnels.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

The land of the swing bridges.

Now we are heading up over the Pennines back towards Lancashire. I have decided that I like the architect of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Instead of a lock every mile or so, these locks are grouped together so you get a few lock free miles then a staircase style lock. These locks are designed so that the top gate of the bottom lock is the bottom gate of the next lock. This means that three locks only have four gates not six. this makes travelling much easier, or it would if not for the swing bridges. Our smooth, semi lock-free passage is interrupted on a regular basis by swing bridges.

We are now out in the countryside, although tomorrow we will pass through Saltaire and Shipley, hopefully reaching the outskirts of Keighley at Riddlesden. We had an mostly uneventful day, met up with Narrowboat Phoenix and shared locks and swing bridges with them until Ray knocked our stern rope into the water as he got off a a bridge, I still had Morgana in reverse to slow her down, and the rope ended up round the prop. We bow-hauled Morgana past the swing bridge then moored to sort it out. Phoenix carried on alone. It didn't take long to sort out but as it was nearly four o'clock we decided to stop for the day. This is a very pleasant spot looking across the Aire Valley. Lots of fish to catch, including some really big carp. We caught lots of small fish but aren't really equipped for big carp so we just enjoyed seeing them swim past.

Today's journey 4.9 miles, 5 locks and 8 swing bridges.
So far we have travelled 339.7 miles, 377 locks, 23 swing bridges, 4 lift bridges and 9 tunnels.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Escape from the city.

We headed out of Clarence Dock about 9.00. The locks on the Leeds and Liverpool have some unfamiliar paddle gear but we soon got to grips with it. Compared to the Rochdale and the manual locks on the Calder these locks seem easy to manage. We have still been travelling breasted up, but may have to stop that soon as the canal gets a little narrow in places and it would be better to be able to take the centre of the channel with both boats. Even today we had a problem at one lock where one gate wouldn't open fully so we had to unhitch Almyne and I took her up into the next lock as Chris had already walked on to set it ready for us. The run out of Leeds didn't seem too bad, The graffiti would have put me off the idea of stopping overnight anywhere but the canal doesn't seem to attract the sort of rubbish we encountered on the way out of Manchester. We did spot a couple of supermarket trollies near Morrisons.

We moored up for the night at Rodley, then Tim, Margaret and Nicholas came over and we went back to their place for dinner. Ray did a bit of sorting out of a couple of plumbing problems for them and then Tim, very kindly took us to Asda's for some shopping on the way back.

We are aiming to get to Keighley by Sunday so that we can use the launderette on Monday. There are time restrictions on some of the locks because of the water shortages. The fishing here seems good but as long as we can get away by lunchtime tomorrow we should get a decent bit of cruising done.

Today's journey 7 miles, 13 locks and 2 swing bridges.
So far we have travelled 334.8 miles, 372 locks, 14 swing bridges, 4 lift bridges and 9 tunnels.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Progressing slowly

On Monday we all took a trip into Leeds, I still reckon Leeds market is one of the best there is. I also found a fabulous aromatherapy shop, I can't believe I hadn't seen it before. Chris went up to the LGI to get his hearing aid fixed. then we went back and set up our bonfire.
We had a very special night, sitting by our bonfire, setting the world to rights and singing songs from about forty years ago. It was fantastic to watch the progress of the sun, even when it was 'dark' it wasn't, you could still see the afterglow moving slowly across the sky until it started to get lighter again.

Long before sunrise the sky was beautifully light, the mist was rising off the river and the world was wonderful. The sun rose in a blaze of glory in an almost cloudless sky with the cloud that there was enhancing the golden glow of the sunrise.

After staying up all night to watch the sun rise there was a lack of enthusiasm about moving on to Leeds yesterday. Not from me I might add, a couple of hours sleep and by about eleven I was ready to think about moving. It took Ray and Chris rather longer to recover. So moving to Clarence Dock was postponed until today. It was an easy trip, the locks are all mechanised and it wasn't far. For a built up area Clarence dock looks quite good, especially at night.

Slightly blurred photos due to the long exposure and lack ot tripod, my hands aren't quite steady enough.

We had a lazy afternoon, I went back to the aromatherapy shop, with a list! Apologies  to my bank manager! We didn't need the radio or TV to known what was happening in the football, a group of lads having a World Cup party in one of the flats kept us updated! Tomorrow is the long haul from the centre of Leeds out to Rodley. We are told the water levels are low and BW are restricting traffic so we will set out as soon as they unlock the security locks on Office Lock.

Today's journey 4.2 miles and 3 locks.
So far we have travelled 327.8 miles, 359 locks, 12 swing bridges, 4lift bridges and 9 tunnels.

Monday, 21 June 2010

The GPS says Leeds!

Yesterday was very windy. We had intended to travel as far as Wakefield, investigate the market and the fishing tackle shop and then move on. However, we decided that as the moorings looked secure and the wind was horrible that we would stop at Wakefield and carry on towards Leeds today. I was very disappointed with Wakefield, the market is rubbish and the rest of the shops are very "retail" and uninteresting. Except for Alexander's and Morgana. Alexander's sells fishing tackle at very reasonable prices, and also air rifles, cross-bows and long bows. Morgana sells "goth" style clothing, I just couldn't think of an excuse to treat myself to an ankle length black velvet coat and the emerald green velvet skirt which I could just about afford was only in a small size, small I am not!

We got woken early by the police knocking on the boat, they were looking for someone reportedly seen aboard a narrowboat in the area. It shouldn't be allowed on a Sunday morning.

As all the locks from Wakefield to the centre of Leeds are big, very big, at least 140ft long and 17ft 9in wide, Chris and Ray decided to breast the two boats up so that it only takes one person to handle them. It makes us about 14ft wide but we are still tiny compared to the gravel barges. The boats handled remarkably well and it made it a very easy day of travelling. Apart from the first lock they were all automated locks so it was just a question of pushing a few buttons. At some it wasn't even that as there were lots of other boats on the move and it only takes one person to operate a lock no matter how many boats are sharing it. We had five boats including ourselves in one lock. Ray was doing all the steering as Morgana tends to pull to the right but Almyne goes nice and straight but will follow if you change direction. Ray reckons that today's miles and locks count double for him as he has brought two boats all the way. I'm not convinced.

We have moored for the night near Woodlesford where we have a nice view across the River Aire. We are planning a bonfire for the summer solstice tomorrow so will stay here until Tuesday. We might take the train into Leeds tomorrow or we might wait until we get there by boat. The GPS says Leeds but we still have about 4 miles and 3 locks to the centre of Leeds.

Yesterday's journey 3.3 miles and 3 locks.
Today's journey 12.9 miles and 7 locks.
So far we ave travelled 323.6 miles, 356 locks, 12 swing bridges, 4 lift bridges and 9 tunnels.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Good travelling, good food and lousy football.

Before we left this morning we hauled up the crayfish traps and had caught enough crayfish to make a meal for us all so I started the day with two buckets full of water and crayfish in the cratch.

Today went like a dream compared to the previous couple, we actually fitted both boats into about half of the locks which meant we didn't have to work them all twice. The locks were a bit further apart which meant we covered more miles and some of the locks were actually a bit easier to operate. We have made it as far as Broad Cut Top Lock which means we only have two more locks on the Calder. The weather was a bit mean, rained on us a lot of the time but only light rain so not too bad. I managed to stay out of it quite a lot of the time as I was on mince pie and crayfish cooking duty. No, I wasn't cooking them together! One crayfish did make a bid for freedom and I had to chase him round the kitchen floor.

We made good progress, for the first time in ages. When we moored up above the lock for the night the sun decided to shine at last so we sat outside for a while, Chris and Ray shelled the crayfish for me, then I did a sauce of tomatoes, onion, garlic and peppers to go with them, followed by rhubarb crumble and custard it made a good meal. We ate it while watching the football, Chris doesn't follow football and last night's match won't have done anything to encourage him. England played so badly they don't deserve to get through the group stage.

Today's journey 10.7 miles and 11 locks.
So far we have travelled 307.4 miles, 346 locks, 12 swing bridges, 4 lift bridges and 9 tunnels.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Catching Crayfish

Today's progress was slow. The combination of warm weather, stiff lock paddles and heavy gates did nothing to encourage a long day. The locks on the Calder are very hard work and because of the way we are sharing the work if we travel through 8 locks I have probably done the work for the equivalent of at least 12 locks. It is a pity because the scenery is lovely and I would be enjoying this stretch far more if it wasn't such hard work.  I shall be glad when we get onto the Aire where the locks are so big we can all fit in (in a line behind each other if we choose), they are also mechanical locks so either there is a lock keeper or you just insert your BW key, push a couple of buttons and job done.

We stopped briefly at Sainsbury's at Brighouse for butter and flour, Chris has presented me with a huge tub of mincemeat so mince pies are on the menu for elevensies and I don't normally make much pastry. After that we headed down to a mooring above Kirklees Top Lock where the fishing was lousy until Ray caught a crayfish on his line. Chris has a couple of crayfish traps so he dropped them in (baited with dog food) and we soon had a couple of dozen crayfish. This is only about enough for one portion but we figure if we leave them in overnight we might get enough for a crayfish dish for dinner tomorrow.

We are hoping to manage to get almost to the Aire tomorrow and leave these awful locks behind us.

Today's journey 5 miles and 5 locks.
So far we have travelled 296.7 miles, 335 locks, 12 swing bridges, 4 lift bridges and 9 tunnels.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Are we on Plan Z yet?

We had planned a reasonably early start today but the fish were biting nicely so we enjoyed the sunshine for a little longer than planned whilst drowning maggots. After both fuelling up it was midday before we left the canal basin at Sowerby Bridge and started off down the Calder and Hebble. I had warned Ray that it was a right turn into the first lock at Salterhebble, he didn't realise that it was a right-angle turn literally into the lock. so he overshot by about ten feet and had to shuffle his way backwards.

We had this theory that we could get both boats into the lock and then swing Merlin across the stern of both boats allowing us all through the lock together. They all fitted into the lock but as the lock gates open inwards it would have been impossible to actually open the lock gates to exit the lock once we were down. So we untied Merlin, hauled her back out of the lock, took the two boats down, refilled the lock and took Merlin down. Merlin does not have a motor, at the exit to the lock there is a small bridge, we had to work out how to pass the ropes under the bridge so we could still control her. A bit of nifty work with me allowing her to drift under the bridge without letting go of the ropes allowed Ray lean over the bridge to hook the front rope with the boat hook. so now we are doing these locks with Ray taking Merlin in beside Morgana and Chris bringing Almyne down alone. We seem to have devised a system that works. The front boat prepares the lock, by which time second boat has arrived. First boat goes down through the lock, heads off to next lock, second boat goes down, I tidy up, dropping paddles and closing gates behind second boat and either ride on second boat or walk to the next lock. This way nobody has to do a lock entirely on their own.

We did have other interesting moments, Almyne ran aground whilst moored betwen the first two locks ( which are only about 30 yards apart) and it took considerable effort with me pulling and Chris pushing to refloat her. Ray managed to get Morgana and Merlin wedged in not one but two lock entrances because the gates would not open fully and at the last lock of the day one gate would not open at all so Ray had to untie Merlin get Morgana into the lock and then pull Merlin in alongside. All this time Ray was struggling with the throttle as "something" had worked loose making the lever position needed for any particular gear variable. If you think in terms of a clock face by the time we stopped neutral was at nine instead of twelve, forwards at six instead of nine and reverse at twelve instead of three. Then, as we were about to moor Ray gave a qiuck blip of reverse to slow us down and forwards would not re-engage. Luckily there was a fellow boater who we threw a rope to and we were safely moored.

By the time we moored for the night we were all totally knackered but "toad in the hole" with roasted onion gravy and a nice bottle of red did much to restore our spirits.

Today's journey 4.5 miles and 7 locks.
So far we have travelled 291.7 miles, 330 locks, 12 swing bridges, 4 lift bridges and 9 tunnels.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

On the move again.

We had a lovely day on Sunday at Nicholas' baptism, he was his usual happy self, even the priest chucking water over him didn't bother him. I was most impressed with the train fare from Hebden Bridge to Leeds, Family Day Rover, less than £9 return for the two of us.

The proud family on Sunday!

Chris arrived back with us yesterday evening so this morning it was all systems go, off to finish the Rochdale. We had spotted a big Tesco at Sowerby Bridge when we came through on the train so the plan was to stop off for essential supplies like beer. All went well except for my usual moan about the lack of water, the canal appeared to be about a foot below the normal level. When we got to Sowerby Bridge there was little chance to moor before the Tuel Lane locks and tunnel but I had a word with Rob, the very friendly lock-keeper and he said we would be OK on the lock moorings for a couple of hours while we shopped and he went for his lunch.

Talking canals with Rob

Tuel Lane lock is the deepest on the inland waterway network, it is also unusual as it has two sets of bottom gates, one pair make it a 60ft lock, the others make it a full length 70ft plus lock. Using it as a short lock except for long boats saves a lot of water.

It doesn't look too bad from here

Going down!

But it's a long way down!

Free at last!

Rob was very knowledgable about the canal, a real advert for BW. After we had gone down through the lock and the tunnel he helped us with the last two locks on the Rochdale and showed us where there were some good moorings and even helped us moor up.

My brother did suggest when I was complaining about too much water on the River Nene that I should get a submarine type vessel, perhaps this is what he had in mind!

We are hoping to fuel up and then get a good day of cruising in tomorrow.

Today's journey 5.6 miles, 8 locks and 2 tunnels.
So far we have travelled 287.2 miles, 323 locks, 12 swing bridges, 4 lift bridges and 9 tunnels.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Busy doing nothing

We have spent the past week doing not a lot. Kathy, Kaia, Scott and Chris have headed back into Manchester aboard Destiny with Foxy Lady in tow and we are waiting for Chris to get back to us before we head off towards Leeds. Hebden Bridge is nice enough but after a week and a bit there isn't a lot to do. We took a trip into Halifax yesterday, not that exciting but something different to do. The rest of the time it has been the usual round of catching up on the washing and general fiddling.

We experienced our first real act of stupidity last Saturday night (before Kathy etc headed back), some idiot thought it would be fun to pull the pins on Destiny and Almyne and set them adrift.  Almyne stayed where she was but Destiny ended up about 300 yards further down the cut. I am understandably reluctant to leave Morgana unattended overnight while we are here. Chris should be back with us by Monday at the latest unless they encounter any problems so I will have to get stocked up ready for our next bit of travelling.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Plan A again, revert to plan B and now plan C!

We thought, for a couple of days, that Kathy would be able to join us on the Calder and Hebble and Leeds and Liverpool, the BW chaps we met thought Destiny might fit diagonally in the locks. Then the chap from the boatyard who came out to try a fix Scott's outboard said "no chance" 61 foot is absolute maximum. Ray and Chris got busy with the tape measure, including her fenders Destiny is 64 foot.

So it was back to plan B and us meeting them at Wigan. After much discussion plan C was hatched. Chris is trying to complete the entire canal network so wants to do the bits Kathy can't. Plan C is that we will all stay together until Kathy has to turn back , Chris will then go with Kathy aboard Destiny back to the other side of Manchester, leaving us with Almyne. He is then going to get the train back to wherever we are. Kathy will make her way to Wigan and we will all go via Leeds to Wigan. It should make it quicker and easier for us and Chris has company doing that stretch of the network.

We are having a smashing time here in Hebden Bridge, the weather is being kind to us. Had a lovely visit from Tim, Margaret and Nicholas on Thursday, picnic lunch and a wander round town in glorious sunshine. Everyone thinks Nicholas is very cute, as a proud grandma I agree, of course!

A very early blog today as we aren't going anywhere by boat but Ray is treating me to a meal tonight at the Thai restaurant that overlooks the canal

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Sunny Hebden Bridge

We spent Tuesday in Todmorden, only to find it was early closing day. This obviously has a different meaning in Yorkshire, for early closing read not bother to open at all. As there were a couple of shops Kathy and I wanted to visit we decided on a slightly later start so we could shop first. We eventually left Todmorden a bit after midday with Chris, Ray and I in the lead with Kathy and a new travelling companion, David aboard Ngarpi, following us. Ngarpi is apparently Swahili for 'How Much!', well, David is a Yorkshireman.

The journey to Hebden Bridge was, for the Rochdale, relatively uneventful but a bit slow. A hire boat managed to get between us and Kathy so we let them leapfrog us at the lock. Then a moored boat with no one on board had come adrift and was part way across the canal so Chris rescued that and re-moored it. By the time he had done that the others had caught up so we waved them into the lock first. 

As the locks are a bit further apart on this stretch Ray was waiting below the locks for me to close the gates so I could ride instead of walking. At one lock Ray stepped ashore and held Morgana on the rope, I stepped on, she drifted out a bit, I asked if he wanted me to bring her in closer, he said " No it's an easy step". No prizes for guessing what happpened next! Ray up to his knees in water, hanging onto the seat at the back of the boat, while I grabbed his arm and hauled him aboard. Good job that the canal is only a couple of feet deep! Apart from a close encounter with a trip boat which was turning round and another boat which tried to pull out between us and Chris the rest of the journey went smoothly. There are good moorings beside the park at Hebden Bridge, Tim had spotted these on Google Maps, an excellent recommendation.

You may remember me mentioning that Ray was towing Almyne Too, the tender for Almyne. Well, Almyne Too is now Merlin, tender to Morgana Le Fey. Chris had been thinking of selling her ever since they bought Scott his little cruiser and we said when we first saw her that we wanted first refusal if he did decide to sell. He and Ray reached a mutually agreeable price and she is now ours. We intend to use her (or should that be him?) as a workshop/ storage area/ spare room. She is only 17 feet long but is fitted out (at the moment) with a bench seat down most of one side and a work bench down most of the other, she even has a little wood burning stove. You can just see her behind Ray in the picture "Waiting for the canal to open" on 20th May.

The Rochdale wasn't going to let us get away with an uneventful day however. We were moored up, sunning ourselves on the towpath when I noticed that Morgana was listing. We were aground, so were the others, the canal appeared to be flowing quite fast, but canals don't flow fast! We assumed that someone had left a paddle up at the next lock below us and it was draining the pound. Chris went to investigate and found a couple, first day out aboard, attempting to fill the lock with one paddle still up on the bottom gates so the water was just flowing straight through the lock. It is the sort of thing all of us have done at some time when a paddle hasn't fully closed but this paddle was all the way up. They knew it, told Chris it wouldn't drop but they thought the lock would fill eventually! Chris rapidly dropped the top paddles and helped them to reverse out of the lock. He phoned BW to tell them about the problem, then one of the local boaters came along who knew the knack for getting the paddle to drop, so BW were phoned back and told it was sorted.

It was barbeque weather so dinner was burgers (interesting Thai Burgers from the butcher in Todmorden) with potato salad eaten at the canalside. Time to tidy up ready for Tim, Margaret and Nicholas visiting tomorrow.

Today's journey 4 miles and 9 locks.
So far we have travelled 281.6 miles, 315 locks, 12 swing bridges, 4 lift bridges and 7 tunnels.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Toddling to Todmorden

The plan for today was to head down to Walsden and Grandma Pollard's Chippy as recommended by brother Gordon and most other available sources. It is right by the canal and you can moor virtually outside. We had the usual problems of stiff paddle gear with the locks but made fairly good time. If I hadn't known it was a bank holiday and half-term week I would have guessed, we met three hire boats that were going up towards the summit. We made it to Walsden by about one o'clock and decided that we would have fish and chips for lunch and then carry on to Todmorden. The weather forecast for tomorrow isn't very good so getting as much cruising in today as we could seemed like a good idea. The chippy lived up to it's reputation, excellent fish and chips, it also sells cakes so I treated everyone to a cake each. The kids managed to eat theirs but the rest of us saved ours to have with a cuppa later. I don't think any of us had anything much to eat tonight.

Chris and Ray probably had the hardest job between Walsden and Todmorden as they went off together but with no crew so they were having to climb the lock ladders at each lock. Kathy, Kaia, Scott and I brought up the rear, occasionally going forward to lend a hand when we caught up with the other two. We moored up by The Golden Lion in Todmorden, went for a walk, then spent much of the evening playing a card game called Skip-Bo.

Todmorden looks quite interesting, not sure what the weather is going to do tomorrow. We have decided to have a bit of a wander and then if it isn't raining we may carry on a bit further. I must get in the habit of taking my little camera with me, I keep missing photos because my new camera is too bulky and too expensive to risk when I'm working the locks.

Today's journey 3.2 miles and 17 locks.
So far we have travelled 277.6 miles, 306 locks, 12 swing bridges, 4 lift bridges and 7 tunnels.