Tuesday, 19 August 2014

A number of things work firmly in our favour.

(Boat Chalice - posted by Alan)
Post for Tuesday 19th August.

Boseley top lock
Our fairly challenging target throughout our big Northern adventure has always been to be back to Alvecote Marina on the Coventry canal in time for the big historic boat event there on the Bank Holiday weekend, (now only a few days away).  This was always going to be tight, and relied heavily on us not "breaking" the boat not breaking, or no relevant parts of the canal infrastructure breaking.

We failed the first test somewhat, initially only slightly, when Cath got sick for a day or so, but rather more so when my tumble from a bike resulted in the need for a hospital visit.

Boseley locks
So far though, the boat has behaved itself, touch wood, (well oak faced plywood actually!).

On the canal infrastructure side we have got lucky.  we missed by a few days closures of the Wigan flight due to inability to keep the pounds filled with water - we also missed a boat sinking incident elsewhere on the Leeds and Liverpool.  Now as we return to the Trent and Mersey, part of that is shut due to a lock problem, but mercifully on a stretch to the North of any part we need to use.

So, as you can see, if you set a reasonably tight timetable for a trip, there is always the possibility that something will stop you being able to achieve it.
The other thing we have had to plan around are anything with opening times, or where a booking is needed.  For example a booking is needed for a mid-week passage through Tuel Lane lock on the Rochdale, but equally something like the far more used Harecastle tunnel on the Trent and Mersey requires that you are there before a certain time to guarantee a passage that day. 

The attractive surroundings at Hall Green stop lock.
Finally, even in "normal operations" if you have to pass through a flight of locks, it is very hard to predict timings, as it heavily depends on who else is using them, and how efficient they are about it.  One person ahead with a "shiny boat" that doesn't want to rub any blacking off the hull, and will hence only part open the paddles can slow everybody else down massively.

Although trying to press on as far as we can do each day has been important, last night I wanted to meet with an old work colleague who lived nearby, and any of the places we might have pressed on to did not yield a decent pub, so we stopped somewhat earlier than usual, leaving us inevitably with some catching up to do today.

So how did all this map out in terms of progress today?  The answer is "it has been a good day", (other than the intermittent heavy rain showers we have regularly had to endure!).  We made good progress to the only significant locks of the day, the twelve downhill locks at Boseley.  These proved somewhat unusual compared to our recent lock experience in that every single gate and paddle worked exactly as it should.  They are a relative delight to work through and the scenery is stunning.

Waiting for a passage - North end of Harecastle tunnel.
What else went well?  Well a boat that pulled out in front of us, and then moved very slowly, soon spotted us behind, and waved us past, so no real delay there either.

What really mattered was would we reach the Northern end of Harecastle Tunnel in time to be allowed a passage through today.  It is a most uninviting place to spend a night, (indeed it is recommended not to do so), but we arrived there in plenty of time, well ahead of rough estimates I had made at the start of the day.

Further good news proved to be the passage though.  We were boat two out of a total of three, and I always hate a slow passage following other boats, as it is much easier to be in full control with a bit of speed on.  Fortunately the boat in front understood this, and held us up not at all, but I estimate the one following was going so slowly that by the time we left the South end, he was no more than half way through.  It's a bit of a nightmare to be behind someone like this!

Westport lake.
And the day yielded yet one further good result.  "Sickle" is still at Grendon dock, some miles past Alvecote, where the event will be held this weekend.  We thought we had to travel down to Grendon, and collect "Sickle".  However, I have been contacted - they are short of mooring space at Grendon - do I mind if they bring "Sickle" up to Alvecote?  Well of course I don't - its ideal, and saves us quite a few hours of travelling.

We moored at Westport Lake, North of Stoke on Trent.  Odin got a half decent walk around it, but although he might have liked to take his first swim since his brush with death, we didn't at all like the look of the green stuff floating in the water, and ruled it a "bad idea".  If it was the rather horrible "blue green algae" there were no warning signs to that effect, but either way, we were not risking it.

Gurnett Aqueduct (Macclesfield canal) to Westport Lake (Trent & Mersey)
Miles:  18.9 (Chalice), 0 (Sickle), Locks: 13

Total Miles: 652.0, Locks: 452

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