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Saturday, June 30, 2012

A look back through the photos

The bridge of Sighs, not in Venice but in Chester, UK. The bridge was built to enable prisoners to cross from the prison in the Northgate across to the chapel to receive their last rites. The old Northgate was a main entrance to Chester. It was replaced in 1808 by a Geogian arch. Now it is a arch going nowhere. The bridge cost £20 ($30) to build in 1793. During WWII the metal railings were removed and melted down.

I liked the wide walk board on this Chester lock. It makes avoiding the greasy winding gears easier.

The locks through Chester out to the River Dee look a little neglected, right. Access to the Dee can only be made at certain tide levels but it`s been a good few years since a narrowboat made the trip. The Tuesday night club I believe did the trip but I could not find a link to the report; a search box on the site would help. Anyway the narrowboat above found it`s way onto the Dee albeit with the help of a crane further up stream.

The Alaskan frontier woman has a dubious meeting with local aliens at a very quiet mooring between Chester and Ellesmere Port.

The Airbus Beluga is a regular site around Chester as it flies into Hawarden airport and the Broughton Airbus factory. It flies parts between Airbus manufacturers around the globe. The Broughton factory produces A380 wings that are transported by road and then by barge along the River Dee to be shipped from Mostyn aboard roll-on-roll-off ferries to France. The A380 can carry 555 passengers in three classes spread over two decks. I can just hear the hostesses saying "no standing downstairs; please use the top deck." If the flight was all economy the passenger total could be 840. They have talked of a three deck cargo version. My design--and I have patented this so beware--is a twin cabin, four deck version. Like a catamaran`s twin hulls, it will have five jet engines; two on each wing and one between the cabins to carry all those greedy w bankers. I reckon we could get at least 2,000 on board sitting on laps and in the gangways, landing them on some remote island.

The end to another perfect day!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Moving on.

We finally have as Jaq has just posted moved on off the Shropshire Union along the Middlewich arm and onto the Wardle canal. The Wardle is  the little length of canal as you leave what every boater knows as Maureens lock even though it`s official name is Wardle lock. The journey through this time was very sad as Maureen pictured by me back in 2009 sadly passed away in March. I have over the years spent a few evenings in the pub with Maureen listening to her tales of her life as a child and adult on the working canal boats. Now the cottage has been sold and that side door no longer bears the weight of all the brass. So after passing through the locks leaving Middlewich town and passing through Big lock on the Trent and Mersey I left Jaq with the boat while I walked to the Cemetary.  Maureen is now with her husband Jack. RIP
LINK to Wardle and Maureen.

So now we are on the Bridgewater canal heading for Manchester and will moor in the heart of the city. The route we could use to the Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals involves 40+ locks most of wich are through Manchester and it`s suburbs. Now this is not my idea of boating if a more rural route is available and so we will return back down the Trent and Mersey with a similar amount of locks but spread through the countryside.
I was just looking through my pictures and it`s amazing how many pictures never make the blogs, I say blogs as it must be the same for all bloggers. Anyway if I can find time I will post some with small captions. Time is a funny thing and Jaq is just coming to terms with that old saying "how did I find time to work".
Still on time, I have for a while had a countdown clock on the blog that will slowly but surely arrive at the day i get my State Pension. Be nice to have an income.
The clock idea came from Derek and Carrie on their blog Uccello

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Muggy Weather on the Bridgewater Canal

"I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses
put in order.” ~John Burroughs

   We rose mid-morning after a lovely night of dozing with the windows open, waking mid-sleep to a light rain on the roof soothing our sense and cooling things down briefly. After a breakfast chat we decided to move on from our mooring spot at Bridge 206 overlooking the River Weaver. After nearly eight weeks of waiting around in the general vicinity of Nantwich for an initial dentist's appointment and the follow up appointments which took a month and half all together, we are antsy to be on the move while summer is in full swing--especially because we have to figure out soon where to moor the boat for our November trip to America and head in that general direction.
We went into the Preston Brook tunnel on the Trent & Mersey Canal under the auspices of British Waterways, and came out the other end on the Bridgewater Canal under the authority of the Manchester Ship Canal! The Bridgewater was England's first official canal and it is lovely!
An seventy-something woman followed into the tunnel aboard her boat NB Safari. She was single handing it. She told Les it does take longer to travel on one's own but it's doable. Everything just takes more time but that's fine--she was in no hurry!
The last two says have been very muggy! I had no idea it was this humid in Great Britain. 99% humidity with no rain yesterday was a killer. We both wore sheens of sweat as it sweltered around seventy degrees Fahrenheit. (Ya--I hear you my lovely favourite first-born daughter, laughing at me for wilting in seventy degrees. What can I say? I am an Alaskan through to the marrow of every bone and anything over sixty six degrees Fahrenheit is redundant and unnecessary in my humble opinion!)
For our American audience I will say it is not like the heavy blanket of moisture that drops form the atmosphere after crossing the Ohio River and heading full tilt into the Midwest of the U.S. where it just keeps getting wetter and heavier the further south one travels. It is less than that and a bit more than one experiences on a muggy day in Pullman, WA when dry lightning will flicker amongst the clouds at eventide.
As we travelled along from the tunnel towards the village of Preston Brook itself, we passed under green cathedrals formed by the overhanging boughs of Oak, Ash, and Willow trees, finally coming to rest outside the village of Moore on a bend in the canal which offers lovely views all around, and some great wild crafting ahead as the tow path here is awash in red clover which has strong anti-cancer properties. I will dry the flower heads and mix them with rose hips collected later in the fall, and some mint, for a healthy winter tea.
Just after we moored and set up the wind genny a thunderstorm passed and cooled it right down! Another hour and I can remove my BBQ Pork roast from the oven and commence making BBQ pulled Pork on ciabatta rolls, lemonade, and coleslaw for dinner. I am hoping to finally pull it together and make a Bacardi rum cake for dessert.
As we came to rest here I grew teary eyed. Today's cruise touched my soul: the green of passing woodlands, the serenity of the green cathedrals, lit by sun from above, filled with birdsong, small fairy groves marked by spires of foxglove glowing pink in shady nooks.
I am surrounded by beauty all the time now and it feeds and heals my soul. Being surrounded by the beauty of nature changes us as surely as eking out survival surrounded by nothing but manmade structures, poverty and filth. I am expanding inside; it's timely too as I am so filled by rushes of HUGE emotions--the deepest joy, the widest happiness, and inner peace which all feels so much bigger than my little body can possible contain. I wonder if this is what it feels like before the dragonfly bursts forth from the skin of its nymph self: from utilitarian existence to unparalleled beauty.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hunkered Down at Calveley

"You have to sniff out joy. Keep your nose to the joy trail." ~Buffy Sainte-Marie

   We took the opportunity of a break in the rainy weather and left Chester behind once and for all on Monday afternoon (June 18th), cruising along through the willow curtains which obscure one's view across the canals, allowing a game of chicken with moored boats as well as those on the move!
The view from our window at Christleton
   We stopped for the evening at Christleton near the water point and took the bus back into Chester Tuesday morning to pick up my wedding ring from the jewelers, where the band was being repaired.
   Ring on hand once more, we cruised off again and made it as far as Beeston, just before the locks. Next time we come this way we will climb up to the castle; we knew the warm, partly sunny weather wouldn't hold out long and we wanted to put some miles between us and Chester.
Near our Tuesday evening mooring; Beeston Castle on the hill

A lone Pen with five of her six cygnets. One was nearer the cut. Where is her Cobb? We didn't see her partner at all. Swans mate for life. I wonder what happened to him?
   By Wednesday we found ourselves once again back at Calveley, moored up in one of our favorite spots between bridge 104 on the Shroppie and the winding hole before Bunbury staircase locks.
    We chose to hang out here after our second foray into Nantwich for Les' dentist at the end of May. Back then we clipped back the grass and hung our laundry out to dry in the sun, enjoying the quiet and privacy.
    We found our old spot empty on our way back from Chester and did the same thing again this past Wednesday, shortly after mooring up. We managed to dry three loads of laundry before the skies opened up and poured; now however the cut all along here is rammed nut to butt with other boats. Traffic entertains us coming and going from the winding hole behind us to the water point and services at Calveley, below us beyond the bridge.
    Why are we back here again and will we ever move on? Well, Les needed some DIY stuff to build a cabinet for our computer and a couple of bits and bobs to wire electrical 12 v plug-ins on the port side of NB Valerie near the dinette.
    Once these projects are complete we will no longer have computers cluttering the table and cables strung thither and yon. Trying to get up and walk to the loo while the computer is plugged in and the pointer is charging is a bit like trying to negotiate a giant game of Cat's Cradle!
Views above and below, of the cut at Calvely today
   We were being held hostage by the heavy rain and high winds anyway. The Met weather office issued an amber weather alert for the area around and just below Manchester--which included this part of the cut. Heavy flooding, pouring rain, and high winds to fifty MPH are forecast so we will stay hunkered down until a break in the weather allows us to cruise back onto the Middlewich arm and head towards The Anderton boat lift and the river Weaver.
   As I type this I am listening to a streaming of WDRV radio out of Chicago, Illinois; classical hard rock. The Stones are entertaining me with "Waiting For a Friend." This is one of three stations I listened to back in Pullman, Washington. The others were NPR (National Public Radio) and Martini in the Morning which broadcasts 50's and 60's Rat Pack music out of California.
    A nod of thanks to Rita and Scooby Talbot (NB Festina Lente) for inspiring last night's dinner. We had the best boneless Pork steaks I've been able to procure over here. Tesco's had giant Pork leg joints available. Too much meat for two people, they are an excellent buy for four to share. Scooby had the scathingly brilliant idea to split one with us. From our half we have four lovely boneless steaks, some chunks to make a stew, and a large roast from which I will make BBQ pulled Pork once we get another spell of hot weather.
   We enjoyed sauteed Pork steaks rubbed with Beau Monde, garlic, and lemon pepper, with a dark brown crust outside; tender and juicy inside. Accompanying our chops, I decided to attempt Risotto. For this I must thank Rita who served mushroom Risotto when they invited us aboard for dinner back in Chester.
    I am not a fan of rice. I don't like the sticky oriental variety, and regular white rice reminds me of insipid school lunches from childhood. Risotto is in another class all by itself but for some reason I've always been intimidated by the apparent finickiness of Arborio rice.
    Rita's excellent dinner inspired me and I made a delicious Cheddar Cheese Risotto ala Nigella Lawson. In this recipe I used Vermouth for the white wine and I whipped up some stock with Knorr's Vegetable stockpots.
   For dessert we had N.L.'s Chocolate Guinness cake--also inspired by my North American correspondent aka Rita Talbot (she's Canadian) who has baking this cake down to a fine art. After tasting hers I knew I had to try it.
    I also knew it would never cook in the tiny boat oven if I put it in a single spring form pan so I divided the batter into two silicone nine inch round cake pans. I spread cherry jam between the layers and frosted the top with Nigella's recipe for Cream Cheese frosting made with whipping cream. Deelish!!!
The happy captain of NB Valerie and my heart!
   In the evening a small wood fire kept us warm as rain came and went, poured and slackened, and the wind genny purred atop our boat.
    Every time I think I cannot be happier, I find I am delirious with joy; all the more surprising for me because I chose to be single for so long, convinced marriage was a trap for women and a failure for me. Les too has been having "pinch me" moments, overwhelmed with happiness; our lives our simple, uncomplicated, and we are filled with gratitude.  Led Zep calls me now with "Cashmere." Stay dry, warm, and may you be as blessed as we two. Happy cruising wherever you are!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Inside the walls of Chester and the water is not hot!

Rain is pouring down as I sit here typing and I have no intention of cruising in such miserable conditions. Instead I spent 3 hours trying to discover why HOT water decided not to flow through our galley tap. Since the water is heated by the engine, my first thoughts were of a possible air lock in the pipe work from the engine to the hot water storage tank. Some time back I had installed a bleed valve to make releasing air from the system easier.

I discovered this valve fitting was leaking and I wondered if it was allowing air to enter the system. With a new fitting in place and the engine running hot I bled the system. Still no hot water. I removed the pipework in several places to check for a good flow of water; all  was okay and very hot in the pipes but NOT in the galley.

So I went back inside to see just how far the water pipes were hot on their way to the storage tank under the bed. After removing the mattress and top boards,I gained access to the tank. I discovered very hot pipes all the way to the tank as well as the hot water pipe supplying the boat.

I asked Jaq to try the bathroom tap and hey--we have scalding hot water there but still none in the galley further along. Now I was puzzled. I could find no sign of leaks so I visualised the pipe work through the boat system. Then it hit me: the washing machine is plumbed in before the galley sink! I felt sure somehow an air lock had occurred here, stopping the hot water flowing to the galley. I hit the washing machine "on" button and after a cough and splutter, hot water flowed into the machine. Air lock cleared. This allowed the hot water to flow through the galley tap. 

From the walls of Chester can be seen these small houses dominated by the larger one. Both look old but in fact the large one dates back to 1881, whereby it`s smaller neighbours date from 1650. They were Almshouses built for the poor and needy and were a block of 9 but only 6 survive after being restored in 1969.

Sedan House on the left, so called because of the porch that enabled the rich arriving by Sedan coach (pic. right) to arrive warm and dry.  Each side of the porch had an entrance door. The coachmen would enter either side, stopping to allow their passenger to exit directly inside the building.

The Chester Rows are covered galleries above the street level shops with access at each end and steps at intervals from the pavement; additional row of shops are above.

These shops are located above the ones in the top picture. Was this an inspiration to our present day indoor shopping centres?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A day on the walls of Chester

The Romans built wooden defences around Deva (Chester) and later rebuilt in stone. The Saxons then used a lot of the Roman walls to defend against the Vikings. Norman Earls repaired the walls in the period 1120-1350 and towers and gateways were added in the Middle ages. By the 18th century the walls no longer being used for military defences, they became walkways. The gated entrances to the City were pulled down and replaced with stone arches. The walk around the walls is almost 2 miles long and a very enjoyable day can be had if you stop for Coffee and Ice cream!
This is Kaleyards gate built in 1275 when the Cathedral was an Abbey. The Monks used this gate to access their Vegetable garden outside the walls and locked it each evening. The gate is of such a size that a Knight on horseback was unable to enter. Well you wouldn`t want Boris to ride in and take over as Mayor.  Over 700 years later the gate is still locked each night.
(US readers; Boris is Mayor of London.)
Jaq up on the walls above Kaleyards gate. The cathedral is to the left inside the city walls.
Steps over Eastgate arch

The Eastgate arch was built in 1768 and replaced a medieval gate.


View from the clock along Eastgate street.

The clock was set in motion on Queen Victoria`s 80th birthday in 1899 after missing the date of her Diamond jubilee. I wonder if someone ended up in the Tower of London after that mess up.

A lovely walk and as you can see the sun was shining and most of all Jaq looks very happy so after a year of marriage I must be doing something right. If you want a virtual walk around the walls click here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Happy Anniversary to my Heart's Desire!

Dear Sir,
Thank you for traveling 5000 miles to find me--and for not letting me go.
Sincerely and with all my love,


A year ago today Les and I stood on Kamiak Butte and pledged our lives to one another. How quickly time flies--whether you are having fun--or not!!
Fortunately for me and Les, we have great fun with one another. We "get" each other; we laugh like maniacs over silly things, and then laugh at our laughter. We watch out for another and take care of each other.
...and now!
    For the first time in my life I have a true partnership on every level. I feel respected, appreciated, adored, accepted, and known for who I truly am inside my skin--and loved for it.
   And that fabulously romantic English bloke who convinced me to marry him feels similarly, although not for the first time. If he feels as happy and loved with me as he was with Val then we are doing fine.
   Thank you Les. Here's to many more years and miles through life together!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

On to Ellesmere Port and Out Again!!

"Being on a boat that's moving through the water, it's so clear. Everything falls into place in terms of what's important and what's not." ~James Taylor 


  After a lovely night cocooned on the boat with a bright wood fire crackling away inside while wind and heavy rain buffeted everything outside, we awoke to....overcast skies and rain more or less.
  The weather really does come in bands over here so it will sprinkle lightly for ten minutes, stop and be overcast for twenty minute--then start raining again; stop for five minutes then open up and piss down rain for an hour--maybe two, then slacken off gently over the next sixty minutes; the sun will make an appearance at dawn and occasionally at dusk.
   One day in five or six will be partly cloudy with blue sky and sunshine breaking through. When this happens the temperature rises to 66 degrees and I am hot! Mind you I am not complaining--except it would be lovely to have a bit less rain. So there you have it--English weather in a nutshell.
   Last night and early this morning we were visited by a family of swans. The male is the largest and his size was impressive. Swans are the largest water birds here in England according to my book on birds. They appear so regal floating on the water; wait until they heave themselves up on land. They are huge and odd looking, with the same short, wide, ungainly feet as me--only no toes! The cygnets in this family have a way to grow to develop those lovely, graceful swan wings.

    We cast off just past ten a.m. yesterday, bidding the swans goodbye in the rain and headed for the end of the Shroppie at Ellesmere Port where the mouth of the tidal Mersey River empties and fills beyond the Manchester Ship Canal.

   This end of the canal is heavily industrialized. Tall metal electricity towers crisscross the landscape carrying bundles of wire filled with electricity for the masses, while smoke stacks belch fumes from petrochemical plants, and sewage works sit chin by jowl with the canal.

   We cruise out from underneath a canal bridge upon which a British Waterways crew has parked for lunch in their rig. A blue BW working barge is moored up along the cut.

   As we near the mighty Mersey River and Ellesmere Port, the Shroppie is also laced overhead by carriageway (highway or freeway) overpasses. I like this shot directly below, of NB Valerie; it appears to be black and white but is actually color.

   A flash of sky and trees between freeway overpasses. Canal bridges are marred with graffiti although not as much as we saw on the Coventry canal.

   Dozens of pipe bridges either cross the Shroppie or travel next to it along the towpath. Mother Nature works extra hard in these parts to impress with her early summer beauty.

   I especially like the view below of the canal bridge with pipe attached, juxtaposed against the carriageway overpass. Some might not find it eye catching but I did! A canal side sculpture is lost amongst it all over on the left.

   The Shropshire Union Canal Society installed mooring rings along some of these sections but no sane boater will use them. Delinquents and ruffians hang out along the cut using the area for their less than legal or moral pursuits. To moor along here would invite trouble we don't seek.

   This pipe bridge wears a decorative fan--to keep hooligans and juvenile delinquents from climbing on the pipe. The final bridge up ahead will bring us into Ellesmere Port.

   We arrived at the Ellesmere Port National Waterways Museum just after 11 a.m. The air was thick with humidity and heavy rain threatened. Up ahead to the right beyond the car park is a vista encompassing the ship canal and the Mersey... ahead and to the left is the museum.

   The Manchester Ship canal curves by in the mid-ground and the mighty tidal Mersey stretches out in the background of the two pictures below.

   In the upper basin across from where we moored one sees the Ellesmere Port Boat Museum with its tall stack, and restored working boats moored alongside.

   The basin down below was full so we moored up at the top by the car park and moseyed toward the exhibits. Here is a submerged working boat hull. The museum hopes to restore some of these...

   The pictures below show what is left of Porter's Row. Porter's were the men who worked on the docks moving cargo between the boats and the warehouses.

   In 1851 twelve members of the Grimes family lived at number twelve; six members of the Harrison family lived at number eight; six members of the Thomson family lived at number ten Porter's row. Census records indicate that by 1871 blacksmiths, shipwrights and watermen were also living amongst the Porter's in the row houses.
   Originally there were twelve small row houses built in 1833 for a sum of £780.00 to house workers for the Ellesmere and Chester Canal Company. In 1846 the company was amalgamated into the Shropshire Union Railway and Canal Company. In 1863 gas works were built on the nearby docks for the company and the Porter's houses were the first to be lit with gas lights. In 1921 the Manchester Ship Canal company takes over and employees living in Porter's Row have rent deducted from their pay. In 1921 row houses 1-8 are demolished to make way for a garage.
   Number ten was lived in continually until 1981 when the Museum purchased the building for restoration. After speaking with those whose families lived in them, the museum has restored the cottages in its care to accurately reflect how they looked between 1840 and 1950--furnished to provide a look at domestic life in Porter's Row. The interiors--from gas lamps to wall paper were carefully researched and chosen for accuracy. (Information courtesy of the National Waterways Museum, 2012.)

   Above, a view from outside the rows. Around the back was a neat kitchen garden, a shed to house animals such as chickens and rabbits, and a communal outhouse and laundry room.
   Below, standing in the kitchen doorway of the 1950's house, looking outside at Ellesmere lower Basin.

   Below we are standing in the doorway of the 1950's Row house which opens into the front room. the back wall is out of sight on our left. Beyond the baby pram is the door to the kitchen. the black and white telly is broadcasting an interview with a very young Brigitte Bardot!

   That is the extent of the first floor space. A small set of steep steps off the kitchen led up to two rooms upstairs for sleeping quarters. It is hard to believe families of six to ten or more crammed themselves into such tiny living spaces!

   Below we are standing in the kitchen doorway looking into the Victorian front parlour as it was known then.

   And below, inside the Victorian kitchen with its wonderful cast iron stove and oven. There are no spacious counters on which to work up a loaf of bread or a meal for a family of ten--just a small table cluttered with the tools of a wife and mother's trade in home economics, while the iron sits warming near the flames.

   On the left kitchen wall is the Welsh Dresser for china with storage underneath for a bag of flour and other comestibles.
   The drying rack hangs from pulleys attached to the kitchen ceiling, allowing one to pull it down to load with wet laundry and hoist it up again where the heat from the kitchen fire bakes everything dry.

   Stepping through the back door of the kitchen one comes to the communal laundry shed. For those who've never set eyes on such a sight, the item directly left is called a mangle. One feeds the wet clothes through it after washing and rinsing and it wrings out the clothes.

   The stick standing up in the large barrel is actually a wooden plunger with dowels at the bottom which turn the wet, soapy clothes. This is a manual tumbler! Imagine the upper arm muscles a woman would develop!
   A fire was lit underneath the white brick square to the right and it would heat the water in the large copper bowl which sits under the round wooden lid. It's easy to understand why Monday was wash day--and laundry literally took all day to complete. Tuesday followed as ironing day! (Remember the iron warming on the kitchen hearth, two pictures up?!!)

   After touring Porter's Row and the Museum with its exhibits of all the parts of working boats, the canals and wharfs, we went outside and looked into the living space of a typical working narrow boat, below.
   A man and woman and all their children would live in this tiny hold! A wood cook stove provided heat and a place to fix meals. On the left wall just past the stove a round edged cupboard flipped down to provide a counter/table.
Opposite is a built in bench with storage. The curtain provided a modicum of modesty and privacy. Beyond, another cupboard opened out of the wall, and another wooden section dropped down to connect with the bench opposite creating a bed the width of today's single beds. Mum and Da slept there; children slept on the kitchen bench or floor near the stove.
   A boat wife had to heat water for washing up, laundry, and bathing in this tiny space, as well as store, prepare and serve meals, and get a gaggle of children asleep every night. It makes the cramped quarters of Porter's Row look quite spacious by comparison!

    After lunch back on NB Valerie me and Les discussed what to do and where to go next. We didn't want to stay in Ellesmere if we couldn't go down in the basin overnight--teen vandals are notorious in the area for cutting boat ropes and lobbing rocks and other crap at boats moored up top.
   The tide on the Mersey headed out; the skies opened up and poured. Les slipped into his rain gear and winded NB Valerie. We motored back to our spot at bridge 134 near Chester zoo. It is quiet here and peaceful.
   As soon as Les moored up--it quit raining! That's okay--the forecast for evening was black clouds with heavy rain and wind gusts to twenty eight miles an hour at points.
   We brought in wood and coal yesterday morning so we could have a lovely warm fire. Dinner was Tuna Noodle casserole and salad. Les put up the wind genny as we decided stay here until Sunday or Monday and then cruise back in to Chester for a short foray into the city before heading for the Middlewich arm and eventually the Anderton boat lift.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs