"Even the most ordinary life is a mystery if you look close enough. " ~Ingrid Bengis, American author, Fullbright Scholar, University Professor, Seafood purveyor to America's greatest chefs, and creator of the Island culinary and Ecological Center in Maine, USA, 1945-2017.
I apologize for being absent for so long. I've been ill with a wretched cold. sore throat, and fighting the virus' attempt to colonize my lungs. I am over the worst of it now but I still feel a bit weak and wonky. I also damaged my left upper arm tendons and elbow tendons about six and a half weeks ago and this injury is healing very slowly, making things like typing, picking up the tea kettle and carrying a bag of groceries rather painful.
I have a bit of catching up to do! First of all Irene and Ian on NB Free Spirit
were in the area a few weeks back and they were kind enough to stop for a couple of hours to share a rainy morning nattering with me. their boat is aptly named, as this couple really embody the free spirit of cruising on the canals. Irene is known for her amazing and breathtaking wild life pictures which she shares on their blog and Ian is a stalwart cancer survivor and man with enough life experience and wisdom to laugh at life's absurdities while plundering it for the choice bits. A visit with them is always a joy; my only sadness comes from the fact that Les never had a chance to meet them.
|Irene and Ian--two truly lovely souls, and our boats below, bow-to-bow. |
I have been dawdling along between Audlem and Calveley, mooring up 10 days at a time, enjoying the end of the cruising season at last. I was moored up at Hurleston Junction on double mooring pins fore and aft when I injured my arm. A count by Canal & river Trust (CRT) indicated that 100 boats made use of the Hurleston Lock flight over three days on one weekend. That gives you dear reader, an idea of just how many boats were passing by each day and sadly too many of them don't give a fig about observing good manners and slowing down while passing moored boats. The main offenders are Chas Hardern
hire boaters, Midway Boats
day boat hires, and private boat owners coming off long term moorings and out of marinas. Day boats for those unfamiliar with the hire companies, are small boats of about 22-34 feet long with a lot of windows and seats. Groups hire them for a few hours or one day to cruise the canals and have a birthday or anniversary party. For some reason day boat hirers seem to think the objective is crack on at the speed of light to get to wherever they are going and they are unaware of the wash they make. I even had a day boat attempt to cut around my bow when I was half way through turning around at a winding hole. I had to warn him off. Then he decided he would go around the stern and had to yell at him to wait his turn as the fuel boat was breasted up to a moored boat just off the winding hole. This guy road my stern button past a long line of permanent moored boats until I found a place I could pull over and let him pass. Cheshire Cat
hire boats seem to receive instructions on the issue and they almost always slow down.
One old git on a private boat kept in a marina and visited throughout the summer, delights in passing moored boats at absolutely top speed, ignoring shouts and rude hand signs. He has passed me many times this summer and always left NB Valerie rocking heavily from side to side in his wake. Anyway, a boater passing to fast pulled my double mooring pins out and I had to quickly jump the fifteen inch gap caused by the Shroppie Shelf, and hammer them back in place. I was so angry I hammered the living daylights out of the pins and injured my arm. Act in anger (and haste) and repent in leisure. Since then I've also had a lovely visit from Ken and Sue Deveson (NB Cleddau
), and Ken showed me exactly how to moor using spring lines on my boat. What a difference! While she still rocks from side to side when a boat passes at top speed and creates a large, frothy wake due mainly to the fifteen inch side gap caused by the Shroppie shelf, my boat isn't sliding vertically back and forth anymore. In the six years Les and I cruised he never once used a spring line, but he also had far more upper body strength than I do so perhaps he was better able to hammer the pins to China!
It is true that if one hangs out on the canals long enough, one will see just about everything. I was amazed one overcast and drizzly morning several weeks back to see a man walk by my windows leading a donkey! By the time I dug out Les' camera and slipped on some shoes the donkey-ish duo had passed NBV and the boat moored behind me, but I still managed to catch them as they headed for the bridge near Barbridge Junction. This still left me with puzzling questions, such as why walk along the canals with a donkey in the rain? The answer to my questions arrived a week later with the Towpath Talk newspaper.
Adam Less is walking the length of Western Britain from Cape Wrath Lighthouse on Scotland's Northwest coast to Isle of Portland Lighthouse on the south coast of England. Less has undertaken this journey on foot to raise money for Centrepoint Charity which serving the needs of homeless young people in Liverpool where Adam lives. This is not Adam's first footloose trek. On his crowd funding site
"I am an experienced traveller and walker. Since 2004 I have completed long
term, rough travels in South East Asia; travelled overland from New York to
Tierra del Fuego and back again and in 2016 I walked 600 miles along the
Pamir Highway from Uzbekistan to Kyrgyzstan. Most recently, in 2017, I
walked 200 miles from Liverpool to Stranraer. From these journeys I have
been developing a philosophy of slow and rough travel, using these as ways to
experience places more deeply and have chance encounters with people I
meet along the way. I have been documenting these journeys, through writing
and photography, on my blog Adam Walks
|Adam Lee and his sidekick Martin the Donkey. |
While I was filling up with water and dumping my rubbish at the Calvely service point, fuel boat Halsall
was loading up with coal. I had caught them on their way down to Ellesmere Port a few day previously and topped up the diesel, bought four bags of coal and three bags of kindling. I have twelve bags of coal on the roof now, ready for winter. Of course as the following pictures show, we've had a few cold nights recently. I've cleaned the chimney, checked the fire bricks for cracks, and re-pointed the fire concrete around the outside of the chimney where it joins the stove. I've also replaced the battery in the carbon monoxide alarm. A warm, glowing fire on a cold night is a simple and deeply satisfying blessing.
|Brrrr! A sign of things to come: ground frost.|
|Lee and Roberta fill the hold of Fuel boat Halsall with bags of coal for delivery to the likes of me and other boaters who live along the cut. It always lifts my heart to see them both as they bring their big working boat alongside NB Valerie. |
As the seasons change the canals change too. Not just the foliage of the plants and the wildlife but the actual water in the cut. In the evenings when it cools suddenly, the water is warmer than the air and mist rises in columns, water souls rising into the evening air. Early morning on the cut sees the same phenomena repeat itself with misty clouds obscuring the crisp lines of the canal, towpath, and the hedges, lending a mysterious quality to the start of the day.
|Evening mist forming on the Shropshire Union canal at Calveley. |
|Morning mist near Barbridge after a very chilly night.|
|The full moon on a cold evening recently with the bow garden still growing in the short Autumn days and cooler nights. |
I am moored in the basin at Nantwich Canal Centre
. I've been having some issues with the engine and I couldn't put things off anymore so I arrived yesterday. Back in February after changing the oil, I noticed a black drip of oil from the back of the engine about half way down. I kept an eye on it and the absorbent pads I placed under the engine were soaked with dirty oil after about a month. I've been religious about changing the oil and filter every 350 hours. In April a good local engineer gave the entire engine a good service, replacing fuel filters, etc. He commented at the time that engine oil was quite low before he changed it, so I became obsessed with worry about this issue. A couple of changes back I noticed a great deal of clean engine oil had totally soaked two absorbent pads, and it seemed to me there had to be an oil leak somewhere!
The engine was smoking quite badly with blue-gray smoke upon starting as well so with some moral support from dear ones, I bit the bullet and brought NBV in for a look-see. The engineer found a cracked and leaking diesel return hose which had been leaking quite a bit into the engine bay. The good news is there is no engine oil leak as I had thought. The engine was full of carbon and coke and he blew it all out with a good run on high revs for some time. Black grit coated the surface of the water. He shut off the engine, let it cool down, looked for leaks again and then started it up and let it run for three or so hours repeatedly over a 24 hour period. She barely smokes at all now on a cold start, and there is no oil leak! the relief I feel is HUGE. My deepest thanks to Margaret, Linda, Mike and the rest of the Nantwich Canal Centre/Chandlers crew for looking after me and NB Valerie.
|The view, starting from the right, inside Nantwich canal basin, of the back side of the businesses at Nantwich Canal Centre. The Chandlers is in the middle and the cafe is on the far left. Below, the view continues on across the basin to the tunnel on the left where boats are painted. |
Since Les always serviced our engine and dealt with the mechanics, or called River Canal Rescue
(RCR) when something like a drove plate went, the learning curve on the bits and bobs which live in the engine bay has been steep. I am not the least bit mechanically inclined and Les didn't have time to teach me anything about the engine before he died. I've had to absorb things as I've gone along and friends like Any Elford, Ken Deveson and Bryce Lee have counseled, consoled, and offered me the wisdom of their own experience with boat engines. I am pleased to say when I changed the oil and filter two weeks ago, it was the first time I didn't have to think the entire process through and then refer line by line to my notes. I simply grabbed a pair of latex gloves, an empty bin bag for rubbish, and a new oil filter, climbed down in the engine hole and thirty minutes later--job done! It hit me as I climbed back up out of the engine bay; I am comfortable and knowledgeable enough now to remember the sequence of events for an oil change and clean up, and I have confidence in my abilities. Les would be proud of me. I can hear his voice telling me so.
|Me and Les in 2012 on the nearby Llangollen canal. |