Thursday, June 25, 2020

So good to be moving again!

We finally left Ellesmere yesterday, after several weeks of hanging around the local area.

Val and Johnny came over for a last visit early afternoon, then, as the temperature started to cool a little, we turned around at the bottom of the arm. Hopefully for the last time for a while!

A visit to the wharf saw the water tank filled and rubbish and recycling disposed of, then we set off downstream, to Whitchurch and beyond.

The cool atmosphere of Ellesmere Tunnel was a welcome relief…

…as was the sun-dappled shade beneath the trees alongside the meres.

We toddled on for another half-hour or so, passing Lyneal Wharf and pulled in  near Hampton Bank.

This morning Amber and I had an early walk, then we were off again at 9 o’clock, aiming for a short trip and to tie up again before it got too hot.

The wharf next to Hampton Bank Bridge must have been of some importance at one time, judging by the size of the house on the offside of the canal…

The canal sweeps across the embankment at Hampton Bank then loops around, past Bettisfield and onto the long straight past the flat, peaty expanse of Bettisfield Moss.

At the end of the straight the Prees Branch heads off to the right, south-east, with a large house overlooking the junction.

As is common with a lot of the projects started at the tail end of the canal era, the branch didn’t actually get all the way to Prees, running out of steam (and money) at Quina Brook, several miles short of it’s planned destination.Now only the first mile or so is navigable down to Whixall Marina. The remaining 2¾ miles is mainly a series of shallow weed-choked ponds, a lot of it a designated nature reserve.

We negotiated Morris Lift Bridge, still requiring 80 turns of the hydraulic pump to lift the road bed and the first time I‘ve used a windlass for several weeks and then moored just the other side of Roundthorn Bridge. I expect we’ll wait out tomorrow’s stormy weather here. But the internet is so poor we may brave the weather and move on a little.

Amber is getting more used to cruising now, she’s comfortable enough that she is prepared to crash out on the back deck.

But she does prefer a little “me time” when we stop…

Locks 0, miles 7¾. Wow, that’s been our recent monthly mileage!

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Still pottering about.

Well, we’re still here, in and around Ellesmere. There are a few more boats coming and going, but the canal is still very quiet.

Just two or three boats on the Ellesmere Arm at the weekend.

Did I mention that we had a new Shoreline fridge delivered last Friday week? The old one went out through the side hatch, and the new one came in the same way. I started it up and left it for a couple of hours to settle then set it the same as the old one and loaded it up. The following day I discovered that it is far more efficient than the old one…

Frozen Coke, anyone?!

To get rid of the old one I hired a car from Enterprise on Monday, no dearer than finding a man and van I thought, loaded it up and took it to the tip at Oswestry. Then in the afternoon we snuck across the border and into Wales to visit Val and Johnny who are still isolating. Social distancing rules were rigorously observed, apart from by the dogs who got to know each quite well…

The car was collected on Tuesday morning, and the checks revealed a scratch along the offside wing extending onto the door panel which wasn’t there when I parked up Monday evening. Bugger. I do have insurance to cover damage to a hired vehicle, but I still have to pay up front before claiming it back. And I’ll lose the excess. So the cheap option  wasn’t so cheap after all. Turned out to be a very expensive fridge. Ah well.

Amber continues to settle in to boat life, she’s more confident on the counter when we move and likes to have a good sniff around when we moor in different places.

“Does my bum look big in this…?”

I’m happy to let her have a mooch about off lead as well, so long as there’s no distractions. Recall still needs some work but we’re getting there.

“Come on Dad, get them boots on!”


Something interesting down in the field…

I bought her a Kong biscuit ball to complement the classic Kong she likes to have her lunch out of. Typical child, she was more interested in the packaging than the ball!

That’s about it. Another week hanging about, I’ve some ebay items coming to the garage next week, then we’ll be off, heading back to the Shroppie. One of the purchases is a Furminator, a grooming brush that is supposed to be extremely good at removing the dead hair from the fine undercoat beneath Amber’s outer, guard coat. The double coat is a legacy of her genetic link to Carpathian shepherd dogs which were bred to protect flocks on the mountains all year round. 

And that’s about it. Thank you SheilaToo for your kind comments, I‘ve not posted them as there’s some personal information there you may not want sharing with all and sundry. Interesting though. Hope we get a chance to see you and KevinToo later in the year. Keep well.

Locks 0, miles oh, I don’t know. A couple, maybe?      

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

All about Amber...

There’s not much cruising to report so I thought I’d just write about Amber’s progress. It’s been 10 days now since we collected her from the van which had bought her over 2000 miles from her rescue shelter in Romania, and she’s doing pretty well. Apart from paperback books having an uncontrollable fascination in the middle of the night…

To be fair they are the only things she’s taken her boredom out on, and only at night. So barricades against the book-cases are the order of the day until she loses interest. She has her own toys and chews anyway, so any sign of interest in a book while we’re there gets intercepted and a nylon chew bone shoved under her nose.

She sleeps on a rug in the saloon, having shunned the £30 bed I bought her. Too well stuffed we think. I have a pad on order for her which she should find more comfortable. At first light, unfortunately at around 4 AM at the moment, she toddles through and stuffs her wet nose in my ear, but goes back and settles down for another hour or two before reminding me in the same abrupt manner that she needs a pee.

She lets us know when there are people passing, very vocally at first but that’s getting a bit better as she gets more settled. The other morning she woke us at 1:30, barking loudly. I found her stiff-legged in the middle of the saloon, glaring at the stove. The bright moonlight had allowed her to see her own reflection in the door glass and she was barking at the ghost dog. A sheet of black-painted cardboard sorted that out.

With the very hot weather I’ve made a half height barrier to fit across the front doors so she can’t molest passers by but can still see out. She’s happy to stand on the step and rest her paws on the top.

Outside she started out a bit of a hooligan, barking at approaching dogs and strangers. Focus and distraction training have improved her attitude to the extent that she completely ignored an oncoming dog on a very narrow stretch of towpath this afternoon. She kept her eyes fixed on me – and the bag of chicken morsels in my pocket!

She walks well on a slack lead, but that’s not really down to me, she does it anyway. When we get out in the fields I let her roam on a long lead and take the opportunity to do some recall training too. At first she was nervous of the wide open spaces, but now she enjoys herself rooting around.
So long as there no one around I’m happy to let her have short periods off her lead local to the boat.

Food wise she’s been on dry food when we come back after the morning walk, then cooked chicken and rice in the evening. That’s what she was on with Valentina in the rescue shelter. But now I’m slowly weaning her off the cooked stuff and she’ll be a wholly dry diet soon. Quality stuff too. Growling Tums was recommended (thanks Alison) so I got in touch with them for advice and they were very helpful. Unfortunately until the C-19 situation is resolved their courier won’t deliver to a collection point, so we’re stop-gapping with another dry food I was able to source.

Didn’t realise that 12kg of dog food would be such a tight fit in my rucksack!

That’s about it. She’ll sit and lie on command without any problems, and I‘ve started mat training to calm her somewhat excitable tendencies. She’s going to make a good dog, I reckon. Everyone admires her looks, when asked what breed she is I just say “pick one, it’s probably there somewhere!”        

We’re still pottering between the towpath and the Ellesmere Arm, going into town at the weekend for shopping.

This Friday there’s an extra delivery, though. Our ageing fridge has finally turned up it’s toes. The compressor is running all the time but the freezer compartment won’t drop below 1 or 2 degrees. So it’s either the compressor itself or a loss of refrigerant gas.Rather than mess about trying to repair the 14 year old unit we’ve a new Shoreline coming on Friday afternoon.

That’s it for this week. Take care, keep well. TTFN.

Monday, May 25, 2020

New Crew Member…

We’ve been waiting for a new member of Seyella’s crew to make her way across Europe since Thursday, but, after a vehicle break-down and various hold-ups she finally arrived last evening.

Meet Amber.

The van delivered her to us outside Ellesmere Tesco’s

She’s a rescue from Romania where they’re rounded up and destroyed if not offered new homes. The transport dropped off in Germany and France on the way, so it’s not just us Brits who are daft on dogs…

She’d made a good friend of one of the drivers, I think he’d have kept her if he could, so was reluctant to leave him. I carried her most of the 100 yards to the boat but as soon as she got aboard she found a new BFF!

I felt quite left out…

She ate and drank then fell asleep, it must be quite stressful to be rehomed in this way and sleep is the best therapy.

At bedtime she was whining a bit for being left alone but settled down after a quarter hour or so, curling up in her nice soft bed. Two small accidents overnight saw us exploring the towpath at 2 and 5, not really her fault but she really needs to give me more notice!
Out again at half six when we could see what we were doing.

Today she’s been dozing through the morning, going out regularly so she knows where to pee, she was a bit barky earlier on as dogs started appearing on the towpath but a bit of focus training (with the help of chicken sausage) has improved that already. I think she’s going to be a quick study but I’ll leave it a couple more days before starting training properly.

She’s around 11 months old, one of the lucky ones who was picked up off the streets by a rescue shelter rather than the municipal authorities. She’d been there for 6 months during which two attempted adoptions fell through for no fault of hers.

We’ll do some easy cruising for the next couple of weeks, no banging about in locks (as if!) to get her used to the motion and engine noise, though after spending 2,500 travelling in a van canal cruising should be a luxury!

We moved into the arm on Friday and she should have been with us on Saturday, but the delays lost the transport a day. I think we’ll head back out to our usual spot later today. The birds will be missing us, then what we do next depends on how well Amber settles in. She’s doing well at the moment…

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Just to let you know we’re still here…

Nothing much happening I’m afraid. But it looks like things are stirring a little, with the government starting to ease the lockdown restrictions. CRT have followed this by allowing limited boat travel.

Those who have a permanent moorings can visit their craft and even go on a short out and back cruise from today, and from Saturday those of us who live aboard are let off the leash and can cruise, short distances for a start, but not restricted to travel for key services only.
On June 1 all restrictions should be lifted and normal cruising is anticipated to be possible. A lot can happen between then and now though. Fingers crossed.

At the moment sections of the northern canal network have chained-up locks to prevent unauthorised access in order to save water after the dry spring. But these are not the only canals with water supply issues. The Panama Canal is also having problems.

The 51 mile canal, crossing the isthmus (fine word, that) between the Caribbean and the Pacific opened in 1914 and has recently undergone improvements to allow larger vessels to use the waterway. Each lock on the 86-foot climb to the summit level at Lake Gatun uses a massive 22 million gallons of water to fill, although the use of side-ponds (like Watford and Foxton on the Leicester Line) reduce the water consumption a little. Compare that to our Lilliputian locks, broad ones take around 53,000 gallons, narrows only around 31,000.

Lower than average rainfall and higher than normal temperatures mean that the lake’s level is dropping, and restrictions on vessel sizes and surcharges have had to be introduced.

Miraflores Locks at the Pacific end of the canal.

That’s it for now, we’re keeping in touch with the northern branch of the family using Zoom, the Midlands branch by phone. All well, so far.

Keep well, TTFN.

Locks 0, miles 1

Thursday, May 07, 2020

A day early…

Usually we come into the Ellesmere Arm for shopping on Friday, but we’ve moved today this week. The washing machine has taken a beating, with the fine weather giving us a chance to get washing dry, so if it didn’t move it got laundered! Consequently the water tank was low and rather than run out we moved around to the wharf to top up before heading down to moor on the arm.

It’s been a steady week, modifications on my bird table/feeder thingy have been partially successful in keeping the persistent pigeons at bay…

…giving the smaller chaps a chance to eat.

Three of eight that drifted past the other day…

Nearly full moon on Monday.

I also got a couple of mucky jobs done. The drip mats under the engine needed changing, unfortunately, as is common with age, old Desmond the diesel has become a little leaky. Not a lot, less than a half-litre between oil changes, but worth soaking up to keep the sump clean.

I normally use those oil pads you can pick up from chandlers, but I had some large incontinence sheets left over from when Meg had a problem last year, and they fit perfectly. Cheaper, too.

The other job was easier, giving the chimney a good sweep. So with my arms grimy with oil and drive-belt dust I got them sooty too. I was hoping we wouldn’t be lighting the stove again, but it’s going to get cold this weekend it seems.

I also moved the bike, John Sage, from it’s winter storage on the rack behind the tiller, gave it a good oiling up and it’s now on the roof. It still looks decidedly shabby, but at least that makes it less of a prize for a passing light-fingered oik.

The counter looks a lot tidier now. I polished the tiller and pins, and scrubbed the dangly things.

The deck needs a scrub but that’ll keep till tomorrow.

I see Boris is going to give us an idea how we get back to normal on Sunday. Hopefully we’ll be able to toddle on a bit next week, but I’m not holding my breath. Having said that, there are one or two boats passing through, so not everyone is staying put.

Locks 0, miles ¼


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Good deed of the day…

This afternoon we heard a plaintive bleating from across the canal, but the source took some spotting.
A lamb had slipped down the bank and into the brambles on the canal side, and couldn’t get out.

We couldn’t leave it there, it wasn’t visible from the field so the farmer wouldn’t have spotted it and it would have starved to death. So I untied the rear end of the boat, poled across and used the plank to get ashore with dry feet.

Mags was taking pictures of the operation but unfortunately she pushed the video button by mistake so the following poor quality pics are frames extracted from the short movie.

Assessing the situation…

…clearing the brambles and lifting the distressed animal up…

…and he’s away, none the worse for his adventure.

Crashed out with Mum in the afternoon sunshine.

For the last couple of days I’ve been trying to get a picture of one of the great-tits that visit the feeders. Today I got that chance as one of them chose to pose on the top of the feeder.

We’ve been here for four weeks now, with weekend trips into the arm. It looks like it’s going to be at least another couple. The birds will miss us when we leave…. I've started to dream about cruising to far-off exotic locations. Like Fradley Junction and Castlefield Basin...

Hiya KevinToo, looking forward to the pork pie and donuts. I reckon they’re locking the Leeds and Liverpool to save water while there’s supposed to be no-one travelling anyway. Lets hope the reservoirs are up enough so we can get up there.

Hi Carol. That Zoom software is pretty useful isn’t it. Good to keep in touch…

Unknown, I wish you’d left your name… Our dongle is charged from a mains socket with a USB port and is off overnight. So it’s only charging when the inverter is on and that’s not usually till lunchtime. I’d noticed that the battery was flat by then.