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Saturday, 28 May 2011

Willington to Chester and The return of the Belts

Monday 16th May started overcast, cool & breezy. I’m getting a bit neurotic about our battery charge state. We had all our alternator belt problems last year that seemed to end once we changed the pulleys & got them correctly aligned. Then just before Xmas our CO detector started going off & we noticed smells around the batteries. They were boiling so we fitted 12 new 2volt cells & Carol really appreciated her Xmas certainly was more than I would have spent on her! Now whilst cruising we don’t seem to be getting the batteries up to anything like full charge and this morning we were only showing 48% charge as we started the engine.
Another dirty roof

We wanted to use the facilities but just as we were going to pull forward a broadbeam moved onto the point and was there for over an hour, but eventually we filled up & got away at 11.30. Before we left we went to the rather pleasant deli & coffee shop just near the wharf, but don’t expect much from the Post Office here, I wanted to pick up a car tax reclaim form but they don’t hold things like that. The day warmed up & we had a pleasant cruise into Burton and the fine weather soon dried the washing. The walk to Sainsbury’s in Burton, in fact to any shop of any size, is rather long & it creased Carol.

Tuesday 17th and a brighter, warmer start, stopping off at Shobnall Boat Servs to buy a can of Off White paint to complete painting of external rear doors. They sell Craftsmaster whilst we have always used Masons, but the colours look very much the same & will blend in well. 34% charge at start.

Steady cruise to Alrewas where we arrived at lunchtime. Another wash load went onto the line drying well in the sun & breeze until I noticed it starting to drizzle! I had set off to get Carol a newspaper but noticed a boat that had stopped just in front of Lily looked exceedingly new & asked the owner how new it was, to be told it was just over 3 weeks! Pete was very proud of Semper Amici and with good reason as he had fitted it out himself on a very tight budget, screwing suppliers hard, but with the most amazing thin being how long it took him. He took delivery of the shell, ballasted but nothing else, though I expect the portholes had been fitted, just before Xmas 2010. He started work at the end of the first week of January and completed her but mid April!! He had a 20+ minute drive to get to the boat from his home and it looked pretty good. I was staggered that he could fit out, including doing the sprayfoam & engine installation, himself with a little help from his son in so little time, especially as he was not a carpenter. Sorry I forgot to take a photo.

Lily Pad dining was on show again tonight with 2 friends joining us for a very pleasant evening.

Wednesday 18th  and before we set off we moved forward to the water point. We were on 48 hour moorings just above Alrewas Lock but the 2 boats behind us and the one in front looked like they would be overstaying this, it really gets me mad!

Overcast at start, we met boats leaving the first 2 locks but it was raining by the time we stopped at Fradley to tip the Elsan. We then pulled forward & went into the pleasant cafe in the BW yard for a coffee, but the toasted sandwiches smelled good so we had those too. Harry Arnold & his wife were in there enjoying lunch, something they do their quite regularly he said, & we had a very pleasant chat. They were interested in our plans to go to Liverpool & they spoke very favourably of it & gave us a recommendation for a reasonably priced Italian restaurant to try whilst there.

Rugeley Mooring
Up the lock to the junction & on we saw we were following a boat, which we very soon caught up. It was a hotel boat set into a 1932 base, Hawkesbury had 4 elderly passengers and was very slow. Near br 58 as we passed a moored boat we went over something which deflected us into the moored boat. It took us & the boat owner much pushing to get us free & he said many boats had run over it during the why didn’t he move his mooring??? He intended to have a poke around & talk to BW.

The rain from 12.30 had petered out by 3 the big yellow thing joined us & it got quite warm. We moored at the edge of Rugely just before Brindley Bank, quite a pleasant spot.

Thursday 19th it had been cool overnight but it was a bright start and we had a steady cruise till Colwich lock where we caught up 2 waiting boats, & 3 more joined us before we got through. We nearly didn’t get through as I had just cast Carol off to go into the lock when I saw the gates shutting. A big shout opened them again.....two ladies were chatting & not thinking!

The High House, Stafford
Pretty Shop in Stafford
Elsan out at Anglo Welsh, but I object to £1 charge. We had trouble at Tixall Lock getting the bottom gat shut. Something on the cill, we worked with other boaters & tried to shift it with some success & got through but I called BW. The cool day warmed up a bit as we cruised until we stopped & br 99 and caught the bus into Stafford to have a look round. The bus runs frequently until about 6pm & then it seems only hourly. Some interesting buildings, but the church was locked, we’ve been out over 10 days & still not visited one!
Wetherspoons in Stafford

The bus stop was right outside Wetherspoons, set in an old cinema, which was where we wanted to eat for our £4.99 curry & beer! Excellent.

Friday 20th Bright but cloudy & still this cool breeze, we were away at 9.30 (early for us) and we caught up with at boat at our first lock, & another caught us. Then at 11 ALTERNATOR BELTS BROKE!!!  AARRGH. Are last years problems returning? The belts had lasted 268 hours and I had noticed little bits of cord around beforehand. I think I may have overtightened them. I fitted the spares I carry & then worried about where I would find more. I searched the localities we would be passing on-line but with no real success, until one chap rang me back after I had left details with the ?elderly? lady who took the message. He had ordered them & they would be with him at around mid-day on Saturday. We stopped at Penkridge for lunch & I walked into the village to post a parcel. It was the first time I had been into the place & I was quite impressed. We cruised on till 5, mooring above Boggs Lock. On the way we had looked a near stationary traffic on the M6, and from our mooring we could see vehicles moving but the cool breeze blew the sounds away.

Saturday 21st May and yet again a bright start with a cool wind. Away at 8.45 to pick up belts, we met boats at both locks to Gailey & then had a steady cruise to Br 68 where stopped & I had a longish walk to buy the belts. We then watch qualifying for the Spanish GP before carrying on. I didn’t do a very good job of Autherley, but we got onto the Shroppie and then cruised on to moor by br 15 after Brewood.

Sunday 22nd and I clocked up another year. It was dull windy & cool. We stopped at Wheaton Aston to get a paper, got a reasonable mooring, saw the Hartley Arms looked OK for a celebration (commiseration) meal and decided to stop as the wind really was no fun & we had a GP to watch. Our second week saw us manage 56 miles and 29 locks, we do work hard!

The moorings we were on were 48 hour moorings, but several boats in front of us had splattered grass cuttings on their sides, the grass there having recently been cut. Now BW don’t cut grass on Saturday, so it was cut on Friday at the latest, and when we set off on Monday there were no boats missing, so that makes it a long 48 hours!!

Lovely weather nr Norbury
Monday 23rd I’m carrying on as it seems silly to blog twice in 3 days, especially as the family are joining us on Sunday. Before leaving Wheaton Aston we stopped at the garage & bought diesel at 71.9p. They will not accept credit cards.

Cold & windy & not a lot of fun but we really do need to move. We stopped for hot soup Carol had made when we reached Norbury, very welcome. Before we re-started I donned a warm hat, scarf, gloves and my winter coat!! It started to rain as we set off, then just past the junction there was a largish branch in the water, we just managed to get past, but I reported it. The rain lasted for a bit over an hour and then things improved a bit, we even saw some sun. We passed Beryl’s old boat Wasp towards Shebdon as well as cruising past the longest linear moorings we have seen, they must have been well over ½ a mile long. We stopped at Goldstone Wharf & I finished painting the outer doors.

Tyrley Lock 
Tuesday 24th and our 42nd anniversary. I’m not that daft, we set our wedding day 2 days after my birthday so when I get birthday cards I get a good reminder I need to take action! 2 years ago we were all in London in shorts & T shirts, well this morning it was bright & a little less windy but definitely not shorts weather for us. We set off just after a Charles Hardern boat we first met at Gailey & which we have kept passing. They used to moor their boat below Mountsorrel Lock until they sold it last Xmas....and they were missing boating so much they hired this boat!

Woodseaves Cutting
France in Market Drayton
Slow passage through Woodseaves Cutting, very pretty though, and fine weather by the time we got to Tyrely Locks, meeting boat at each lock. Mooring at Market Drayton, we had decided to stop & look round as it sounded interesting in Nichiolson. Some interesting buildings, lots of plaques on walls to read & the church was locked! Carol commented on how empty the place seemed with not many people around. Did some shopping at Morrisons before walking back to boat, it was too far for Carol & she was shattered, but we needed to get back in for a celebratory meal. I rang 5 taxi firms without getting a reply before Rays came up trumps & enabled our evening out to happen.

Market Drayton Wharf
Wednesday 25th Bright, becoming sunny, less wind & milder!! Water point in MD was horribly slow. Lovely farm shop at top of Adderley Locks. We bought large free range eggs from the charming lady with her lamb, the muffins & pies she had on offer looked excellent, but Carol has made ours. If we had space I’m sure we would have bought some of their own made sausages & burgers.

Audlem Flight
Easily down these locks & then quick sandwich on the move before hitting Audlem Locks. We met boats at most of these locks including a BW inspection launch!! Well it was a 40ft cruiser style nb fitted as a floating office, I meant to take a photo but the batteries were flat. We were delayed a bit as their engineer did his annual inspection in all we saw about 10 BW bods this day checking things out.

We came out of the bottom lock at 15.20 having taken a bit over 2 hours to pass through them, carrying on to the very good SUCS moorings just before Hack Green. Around Audlem many more long term moorers on 48 hour moorings!!

Now I have charging problems. After running the engine for over 6 hours the charge has only gone from 45% to 75%. I noticed a small wire loose off alternator, one connecting to the Adverc so I reconnected it in hope.

Thursday 26th it was wet overnight and during the morning, the wind is cold but we do need to move. I had wondered if our heat exchanger was working on Wednesday & this morning I found it wasn’t, until I clonked a pump with a spanner! We got wet on our cruise to Nantwich. 4 hours cruise got us from 41% to 70%.

Carol models Spring clothing
Stopped in Nantwich for urgent supplies, Carol had forgotten to buy any chillies & she runs on them. Enjoyed our walk into the town which had a bustle about it & the church was open & interesting. I spoke to Debdale about the Heat Exchanger, we had lunch & set off, but it was very slow as Blue Poppy was going at not much above tickover. They & the Anglo Welsh boat behind them turned right at Barbridge as a boat exited the Middlewich branch. Quite interesting in the strengthening cross wind, but we were then able to carry on till we stopped just past Calverley Wharf where I fitted a spare water pump & sorted out the heat exchanger.

We didn’t go the Secret Nuclear Bunker at Hack Green this time but it is on our must do things for our next trip.

Interesting hovel at Iron Lock
Friday 27th and after a night of wind and rain we set off in the dry to Bunbury Locks and there we met a charming young couple from Thurmaston on an Anglo Welsh hire boat, I’ll give them a copy of our IWA meeting programme as they live on about 50 yards from The Wheatsheaf where we meet. We actually crossed as they passed from the lower lock & we from the upper lock of the staircase, now we were on the Chester Canal they are wide. The run continued sharing a couple of locks with a couple from Stone, fortunately they stopped after Beeston Stone lock as BW have erected a sign alongside the unusual cast iron Beeston Iron lock to the effect that because of distortion it is not recommended for boats to share this lock. We noted a cafe below this lock but decided it probably only served instant coffee......a lady we met in the evening told us this is far from the case and they also do wonderful home-made baking, we’ll drop in later.

Beeston Iron Lock
Nothing too significant after this except we were horrified at the incredible length of linear off side moorings after bridge 115, it must have extended to about 1 ¼ miles. Though the canal is wide enough the extended slow cruising in the strong cross wind was a real pain, surely BW must work to reduce such moorings. We tried to pull in to tie up for lunch but silt near the banks prevented it.  As we entered the outskirts of Chester the sun emerged and with the buildings deflecting the wind it became quite pleasant. We stopped just past the Bridge Inn & walked back to the Focus store on the off-side to get some bedding plants from their closing down sale. After 6 hours cruising we had raised the charge level from 50 to 100%, I suspect I might have had the belts too loose.
Linear moorings

They weren’t too good but enabled Carol to replant her troughs in the evening whilst I walked the 2 miles to the Dee junction to check out moorings near the centre. They looked OK & I returned, somewhat tired having walked faster for longer than I have for a long time. Carol had just about finished & was bushed so I suggested we go to The Bridge to eat, expecting wrong we were. The place was humming with family groups, groups of friends and all sorts. We got talking to a charming couple and their son who spoke in exceedingly complimentary terms of the place. My Gammon was fantastic, Carol had an excellent pizza & Mike & Angela said their steaks were incredible. Give it a try if you are passing, & 2 for 1 on Mondays!

A big brood in Chester
Saturday 28th and a bright start but with very threatening clouds, but they came to nothing. With less wind it was much warmer and after polishing the brasses, ruined by the recent rain, we set off the 2 locks & 1 mile to moor at the closest mooring to Tesco. GP qualifying, shopping for family visit on Sunday & a bit of a wander into Chester filled our day, that & Carol cooking for Sunday.

Cadbury's loading dock
P.C. sign in Market Drayton
So in the 13 days from 16th to 28th we have managed 116 miles & 67 locks and have not seen a single kingfisher!

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