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. 

Monday, April 27, 2020

Why do breakdowns come in threes?

After reading Steve and Chris’ blog from their boat Amyjo, I thought I’d check on my Mifi dongle too. It’s been stuck on the wall above one of the middle windows for two or three years, only coming down for an occasional wipe of the paintwork, and, sure enough, the battery in our Huawei E5573 was also swollen and in danger of failure. So I took a leaf out of their book and ordered a replacement from a supplier on Fleabay, choosing the same model they did.

Huawei 5785 Mifi dongle, up and running.

It wasn’t all plain sailing though. The antenna ports and charging socket were identical which made it easier, but the old dongle used a full-size SIM card, and the new one was designed for a micro-SIM. Still, a sharp pencil and an equally sharp pair of scissors sorted that out…



While that was winging it’s way towards us the Sterling A-B battery charge manager went on the fritz. It was shutting down it’s boost function unexpectedly, turning into a basic split charge system. At least the batteries were still being charged, considerably slower though. I checked the fuse and that was ok, as was the cabling but  didn’t expect to find anything wrong there, after all it’s been running happily for over 8 years.
A trawl of the interweb found me a replacement at the best price of £400, so that was ordered too.

New Sterling AB12210 alternator to battery charger installed.

And finally, yesterday, the voltage sensitive relay that allows charging of the battery dedicated to the water heater popped it’s clogs too! Back onto Ebay again… That should arrive this week.

I’ve developed quite a relationship with the chap in the shop at Mere Motors, the local Collect+ hub. He sees me coming and gets my packages ready…

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I’ve built a rudimentary bird feeder for our feathered friends.
It took a couple of days for them to find it and become confident patrons, but now we’ve regular visitors, a pair of blue-tits and another of great-tits, a robin, two or three blackbirds and the occasional crow.

The lambs in the field opposite are almost twice the size they were when we first started mooring here.

We made our regular run into the arm on Friday, shopping in the evening when for the first time since the social distancing rules came into force I didn’t have to queue to get in! Result!

We came back on Saturday, stopping for water and rubbish disposal then headed up the canal, winded and returned to what we’ve come to consider as “our spot”. We’ll be right annoyed if someone else moors here during one of our shopping trips!
Not likely though, we only see a handful of boats a week and most of them are doing the same as us.

And that’s about it. All families are  well, in fact we had a multi-generational conference call using Zoom on Sunday with Mags’ lot.

Five generations all at once. Can’t wait to do it in person.
Might not be this year now though. Passage restrictions to save water are now in force on all the lock flights on the Leeds and Liverpool, and if we don’t get any significant rainfall they’ll stay in place throughout the summer.

Having said that the fine weather we’ve had for the last weeks is breaking this week.

Locks 0, miles 3

Monday, April 20, 2020

Groundhog Day…

…or I suppose that should be Groundhog Week. Each day is a little different, different little jobs to do day by day, but each week we do much the same; on Friday we head back into Ellesmere, do two shopping runs to Tesco, then head back out on Saturday, filling with water and disposing of rubbish and recycling, before mooring up again in much the same spot.
This weekend though, much excitement, we stayed on the Ellesmere Arm for an extra night!   It was wet on Saturday…

The week after Easter you’d normally expect the Arm to be full with boats…

Bright blossom, blue sky.

Percy the peacock  was ready to welcome us back.

He’s a proud looking chap.

This afternoon Mags had a conference call organised by her grand-daughter Melanie.
That’s Mel in the top left, with Mags’ great grand-daughters Joanne bottom left and Emma on the right. With Emma is Mags’ first great-great grand-daughter, Bethany Grace, now 8 or 9 weeks old. There’s another due in August too.
It was great to see them all. We’ll be doing it again.

Meanwhile we’ve been perusing dog adoption websites in Cheshire and Shropshire, We’d really like to fill the dog-sized space on Seyella. We can’t replace Meg, just like she didn’t replace Bruno back in 2006. But we’d like to give another rescue dog a chance at a good life.
Not likely to be able to do anything till this lockdown is lifted though.

Locks 0, miles, not many. About 3 in fact.

Keep well, keep safe.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Busy doing nothing…

As far as we’re aware all of our friends and family are staying clear of Covid 19, but with the pandemic seemingly getting worse I’m not sure how long that will last. Val and John, our friends from near Wrexham have a daughter Carol who works in the NHS at Chester. She self-isolated after suspecting of being infected, but is now back at work after the symptoms faded.
Just one of the millions of front-line workers who are putting their health and even their lives on the line  Heroes all.

We’re trying to keep busy, jobs to do in the mornings, board games in the afternoons. Beautiful cruising weather that we can’t take advantage of. There have been a few boats pass, but often they come back again after a couple of hours presumably after using the services and visiting the shops. With Mags in the at-risk category I’m only shopping once a week to limit my exposure, while she stays safe aboard.

There’s things of interest outside though, we have regular guests for breakfast and lunch…

The sparrows are busy nest-building in the hawthorn alongside and we had a pair of goldfinch checking out the real estate opposite.

The lambs come and go, watched carefully by their mums and tonight Percy the peacock was back, stalking along the bank opposite.
We hear him most days, but he doesn’t always appear.

The clear skies last night allowed a good view of the super moon, when it’s at it’s closest to earth so it appears larger and brighter.
It’s average distance is around 250,000 miles, but at the moment it’s 3,200 miles nearer.

That’s it then for the time being. We’re still waiting to hear from the vet about collecting Meg’s ashes, sometime next week I guess. And on that subject thanks so much for all the kind comments.

Meg, May 2006 – 3rd April 2020. Much loved, much missed.