Thursday, May 30, 2019

Food for thought…

Now, regular readers will know that I don’t do controversial subjects, comments on current affairs and social injustice, but just for a change I thought I’d have a dabble. There’s a lot going on that bears a little looking at…

First off, that damned Brexit! I see Boris is being hauled before the Beak for the Brexiteer's claim that we would be able to save £350m a week if we left the club. The private prosecution claims that not only was the claim inaccurate, but it was known to be inaccurate, and therefore misleading. He faces a charge of “misconduct in Public Office”, his conduct being “both irresponsible and dishonest”
(Getty Images)

I’ve been doing a bit of reading, and it appears that the cost of Brexit since the 2016 referendum has been between £20bn and £40bn a year, that’s up to £600m a week… This includes not just the direct costs incurred by the government for extra staff (4,500 of them) and procedures, but also the cost to the economy as investment falls off a cliff due to the uncertain future of our status within Europe.
The Bank of England’s estimate is even higher, they reckon it’s cost the economy £550bn so far. And that’s not including the £39bn “divorce settlement” already agreed.
Yet still the politicians wrangle about the way forward, putting personal and party considerations above the good of the country. If there ever was a time for them to work together for the common good, then this is surely it… Pipedream, I know.

I see the vultures are circling, it’s eleven candidates I think now vying for Theresa May’s job. Don’t they realise that it’s a poisoned chalice? Cameron did and jumped ship soon after the referendum. Whoever takes over will have to bring us out of Europe without a deal, or have a general election (and probably lose) followed by another £200m referendum. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Europe has made it very clear that the deal is now longer negotiable, so I don’t hold much hope for the new leader’s efforts to convince them otherwise.

I applaud Malaysia’s stand regarding their return of thousands of tonnes of “recyclable” rubbish to the countries of origin. The Environment Minister, Yeo Bin Yin, said that the country “won’t continue to be a dumping ground for the developed nations”. The problem seems to be not the recyclables themselves, but the contamination by non recyclables mixed in. The reason that the rubbish is sent over to the far east in the first place is that labour to hand-sort it is cheaper than in the west, but they’ve decided enough is enough. They’ve been making efforts to clean up their act, closing dozens of illegal facilities which import this mixed product then either just burning or burying it.
We in the west really should up our game. Plastics and electronics are an integral part of our lifestyle and will be for the foreseeable future. We need to seriously think about how to deal with the waste ourselves rather than just shipping it over the horizon and forgetting about it. Maybe when we’ve finished paying for Brexit (when?) we could re-invest some of that money in waste-management infrastructure? Or just load the crap onto a rocket and launch it into space. Leave it for the little green men to deal with…

We don’t usually, but in the absence of much else on the box we’ve been watching Britain’s Got Talent. I think they’ve got the name wrong though. We’ve only watched sixteen acts in the last two semi-finals, but at least five of them seem to be non-British… A sweet little girl from Malta, a group of leggy ladies from Holland (sorry, The Netherlands), knife throwers and acrobats with distinctly Central European accents. Don’t get me wrong, to get this far in the competition they have got to be good at what they do, but don’t we have enough home-grown talent? It is supposed to be Britain’s Got Talent, after all. Interestingly, none of the imported performers made it through to the final, maybe payback for Eurovision?

The judges are also an act in their own right. There’s Cowell with the scowl on the far end, with barely a good word to be said, Amanda who seems to get emotional about most of the performers and who appears in some distinctly odd dresses, Alesha whom I can’t think of anything to say about and good old David, with a permanent smile and often bemused expression.

Last night one of the acts that got through to the final was Korean War veteran Colin Thackery. The 89-year-old resident of the Royal Chelsea Hospital gave us a slightly creaky rendition of the Vera Lynne classic We’ll Meet Again, backed by other Chelsea Pensioners.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve every respect for ex-servicemen, especially those who fought in Korea, a nasty little war we shouldn’t have been in involved in. But the sympathy vote surely played a large part in him getting through.  And the bookies reckon he’s favourite to win. Good for him. Look out for the album of WWII classics coming out for Christmas…

Ok that’s it. I‘ve no doubt I’ve ruffled a few feathers, especially with the latter. But what the hell. If you don’t like it you don’t have to read it!


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Back to waiting around…

After spending the Bank Holiday weekend in Ellesmere we came out of the arm, filled with water and and moored again just to the west.

Topping up at the Ellesmere services

We’d intended to be heading eastwards, towards Whitchurch, Hurleston and the Shroppie main line, but once again we’ve having to hang around a little longer.

When we were here 3 or 4 weeks ago I dropped off our wedding rings with the local High Street jeweler. Mag’s had taken off her rings after she bruised her hand badly while falling in Pillings Lock Marina last January. She was able to get her eternity rings back on but the wedding ring was too tight. I, on the other hand (get it?… other hand…), couldn’t get my wedding ring off!

The jeweler chappie cut mine off, then sent both to a specialist to be resized. They were due back last week, but didn’t arrive, and it turns out they’ll not be back till this Friday.

So we headed a little way towards Frankton, turned around and moored around the corner from the services. We’ll go back into the arm on Friday, hoping that the rings arrive, then we’ll head off at some point over the weekend. Fingers crossed…

Locks 0, miles 1

Friday, May 24, 2019

Back to Ellesmere for the weekend.

With no locks or lift bridges to deal with we’ve had a gentle couple of days, heading back east to Ellesmere.
We left our overnight stop below New Marton Locks at around half-nine. It was such a beautiful day it seemed a shame not to be moving.

A demolished railway bridge near Hindford used to carry the Oswestry, Welshpool and Whitchurch Railway.

The railway was proposed in 1861, sponsored by a newly formed Cambrian Railways and the established London and North-Western Railway, but didn’t open until July 1864, following difficulties constructing the route across Fenn’s Moss.
It continued operations until the mid 20th century, when, two years after being amalgamated into the London Midland Region network, it felt the sharp edge of Dr Beeching’s axe. Passenger services ceased in 1965, goods trains hung on in the southern section until 1971.

We seemed to be scraping the bottom more than usual, looking at the level control weirs it appears that the water was down by five or six inches.

There were four boats waiting to drop down Frankton Locks onto the Monty as we cruised past, then shortly after we had the awkward bends and blind bridges as the canal winds around Val Hill.

Frankton Junction

Bridge 66 just around the corner…

…leaving Bridge 65…

…and clear of the bends, heading for Bridge 64.
We pulled in on that pleasant bit of mooring before Coachman’s Bridge at half-eleven.

After a quiet night we were on the move again this morning. A bit cooler and more overcast than yesterday, but still staying fine. We‘d had to hold off pulling out though. Boats were passing in either direction and the one heading our way got well stuck on the muddy bottom on the offside. After 5 minutes of shoving with poles and alternate forward and reverse they got clear and we able to follow them.

Near Bridge 60

We’d filled with water on Wednesday so only needed to stop at the service wharf at Ellesmere to dispose of rubbish and recycling, but weren’t even able to do that…

We turned into the arm, hoping for but not expecting a space only to see that there were plenty. We got pulled in about two-thirds of the way down towards the end.

We’ll be here over the weekend now.

Locks 0, miles 6½

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A multinational border crossing, lunch with friends and queueing for the locks…

After a few days sitting watching the boats go by we decided it was time to move on. Waiting for a gap in the passing traffic we set off, heading for Whitehouse Tunnel. Unfortunate timing though, with a boat heading through which turned out to be two…
…Then a third came in just as the second came out! That’s the problem with these tunnels and aqueducts, they’re all single width and if a boat crew sees a boat moving away from them they’ll dive in no matter who’s waiting.

By the time we got in we were leading a short convoy with two behind us.

There’s about a mile between Whitehouse and Chirk Tunnels, and once again there were boats coming through so we had to pull over. Roll on those quiet winter months!
This time though it was a longer wait, long enough that there were five of us waiting by the time the tunnel was clear.

But fortunately Chirk Aqueduct was empty so we were able to scuttle across there without delay. It would have been interesting with all these boats if we’d had to wait in the intermediate basin…

Crossing the aqueduct back into England I looked back at the family of Texans immediately behind, a day boat full of Irish after them and two Japanese couples tagging along. The final boat was English though.

It was just before noon that we pulled in outside The Poachers at Gledrid Bridge.

We stayed put yesterday, Val and John came over and we treated them to lunch for all the help they’ve been while we’ve been in this neck of the woods.

Waiting for lunch at The Poachers.
We had a very convivial afternoon, and a couple of pints of Hobgoblin washed the meal down nicely.

There was another family looking for lunch too…

So this morning, in bright sunshine after a cold night, we left Gledrid heading towards Ellesmere.

We’d decided to have gentle days to get there on Friday before the mayhem of another Bank Holiday weekend descended.
The popular moorings here had emptied yesterday and first thing this morning; with us off as well that left just two boats.

We both commented on the fact that there seemed to be few boats about, but of course we had to meet one at the awkward Moreton Bridge.
Hello the crew of Calon Lân, thanks for reading the blog! have a good trip.

There was one boat on the water point above New Marton Locks as we pulled in to top up our own tank. There were a couple of boats waiting to go down Top Lock, but they kept on coming and by the time we filled we were fourth or fifth in the queue. At least we hadn’t far to go, unlike some of those waiting that were heading for Ellesmere today!

Queueing at New Marton Top Lock

It was slow going, with a lot of the crews being inexperienced, but we all helped each other and shuffled along until it was our turn. A couple waiting below dropped us down, then we had the quarter-mile to the bottom lock where we had another short wait but the queue had thinned considerably.

After descending this one we pulled in on a pleasantly open bit of towpath to enjoy the sunshine.

Tomorrow we’ll head past Frankton to moor near Coachman’s Bridge.

Locks 2, miles 6¼

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Heading back…

After a couple of days moored at Trevor we’re now heading back downstream towards the Shropshire Union. We decided not to go all the way to Llangollen, it’s too busy at this time of year and I reckon we’d have spent most of the trip scraping the bottom as we avoided oncoming boats.

Yesterday we spent a lovely afternoon with friends Val and John. Lovely as in the weather, lovely as in the company.

Mags enjoying the sunshine in the garden.
It really has been a fine few days, but it’s set to change again this weekend. Still, it was good while it lasted.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct from just upstream on the Dee
Pity about the water treatment plant pumping station, though.

Leaving the Trevor Branch this morning.

We dropped lucky at the aqueduct, just a couple of boats heading across to wait for.

Our shadow cast down onto the football field below

Then we filled up with water at the Fron moorings and toddled around the corner, through the lift bridge and past the limekiln moorings.

If we’d left a half-hour later we’d have to wait for the six or seven boat convoy we met after the moorings. They just kept coming…

Thankfully there was no-one coming at that awkward bend under Irish Bridge.

We didn’t go much further, past Whitehouse Bridge and pulling over on the moorings before the tunnel.

We’re going to have a steady trip back to Hurleston then decide which way to turn when we get there.

Locks 0, miles 2½

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Two tunnels, two aqueducts and lots of boats…

Okay, so what have we been up to since the last post. Well, we left the Poacher’s moorings on Friday morning, an overcast sort of day but dry, at least. We were heading round onto Chirk Bank, then across the aqueduct carrying the canal over the River Ceiriog, and over the border into Wales.

The bluebells are out near Monk’s Bridge

We were hoping we’d timed it right to get across the single width Chirk Aqueduct and through Chirk Tunnel without having to queue or wait for boats coming the other way. And that’s how it turned out.

Chirk Aqueduct, with the slightly later railway viaduct alongside.

Into the tunnel.

The tunnels and aqueducts make slow going, pushing against the steady flow running down from Horseshoe Falls.

By the time we emerged back into daylight there were a couple of boats waiting to go through the other way.

Through Chirk Tunnel cutting.

We needed diesel so pulled into Chirk Marina, a bit tight to turn around but we got onto a pontoon and had to wait for half an hour or so before we were dealt with.
I’d already rung to ask about convenient times and days, with hire fleets to service and turn around it’s not always possible for private boats to be helped at the marinas. I was told to be there before noon, and we pulled in at around half-ten, leaving soon after eleven.
I expected an eye-watering bill for the 140 litres we took on board, but in fact the base rate for the diesel was a very reasonable 75p per litre. And we could self-declare our usual 20%/80% split.

Out of the marina and we pulled in just a few hundred yards on.

A job I’d been putting off for a while was the cleaning and painting of the swim under the battery tray. There’s no room to get in there without removing the batteries, quite a big deal.

So I set to first thing on Saturday, disconnecting and removing the six batteries, then connecting temporary leads to a couple of them to keep the water pump and fridge and freezer running. Then I had to cut the ½” ply base board in half to get it out, as the cabinet work had been completed before the electrical gubbins was installed. I could have removed the invertor, charge controller, solar panel MPPT, fuse boxes for the invertor and VSR and the Voltage Sensitive Relay itself, but that would have been a step too far!

With the floor of the compartment out the steel of the inner surface of the swim was exposed in all it’s glory, and it wasn’t as bad as I supposed. Being close to open cell lead acid batteries for a considerable time had stripped some of the paint and started to rust the exposed steel, but it was only on the surface. (Remember the 1960s motor cars with the battery in a tray on the inner wing? In a couple of years the tray had started to disintegrate, another couple of years after that the inner wing had gone the same way!)

A good wire brushing…

…followed by a couple of coats of Hammerite…
…should see it through the next several years.

All re-assembled and running again by half-six.

There were a few bits and pieces to sort out on Sunday, cable runs to clip neatly, things like that, then I could put my feet up.

So yesterday (Monday) we were on the move again. Whitehouse Tunnel was around the corner, it’s short and is the only one you can see through without sticking your nose in if you’re heading west.

Whitehouse Tunnel, you can see if anyone’s coming from a distance.

An awkward left turn takes the canal along the slope above the Dee Valley.

A fleeting glimpse through the trees of THAT Ponty-watsit aqueduct!

Just after Fron Lift Bridge the canal makes a right turn, heading for the crossing over the Dee. Up until now we’d only seen two or three boats, but it was all to change as we waited for the water tank to fill at the end of the Fron long-term moorings.

We had to hold off while a couple of boats came across the aqueduct, then set off ourselves, following a hirer. Another two joined our little convoy shortly after we’d embarked on the crossing.

Over the Dee.

Mags didn’t like me getting off to take photos…

Instead of turning left under the bridge to Llangollen we went straight on, past the Anglo-Welsh base and under the bridge into Trevor Basin. We’d hoped to moor here, but alas there was no room, so we came back out and moored on the left side just before the footbridge.
I’m glad we came in when we did, the two following boats also tried the basin and had to turn around, and there’s not a lot of room. Then Jones the Boat, the trip boat that runs across the aqueduct from there turned up, and they took half an hour to get themselves sorted out.
Meanwhile we were say smugly on the only free mooring in the place…
In the winter both sides of the arm leading to the basin are full of hire boats laid up for the off-season. But at this time of year you can moor on the east side – if there’s space!

Locks 0, miles 5 (since The Poacher’s)