Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Baptism of fire, wind and rain continued...

Baptism of fire continued!!!

Day 3
Day 3 wasn't too bad, weather wise or luck wise really. We needed to take some water on board and get a pump out, but there was a marina at Wrenbury. I walked down to the marina, only to be told the awful weather the previous day had burst their water pipes (HOW?) and there was no water to take on or any to pump out with. Whats more, we could forget about going further than Wrenbury as a tree had come down at the next lock and BW had closed that part of the canal!!!

At Wrenbury there is a lift bridge, an electric one. Being such green narrowboaters, we were a bit scared to use it but we had no choice. We had to get out of Wrenbury to get to a (new) turning point to go back again. We started off towards the lift bridge, and there was our first bit of good cheer of the holiday. There were engineers working on it, so they very kindly stopped the traffic and opened it for us. I must admit we made a bit of pigs ear getting through it, but get through it we did. We went up to the turning point, turned around and started to go back.

After a while the sun came out, and it started to dawn on me that despite all the things that had gone wrong, I was really enjoying myself. The 2 Chrisine's and Lucy were moaning about the cold, the weather, no supermarkets!! But me? Put it this way, I have never had a hobby I was totally absorbed with, but being on that canal boat felt 'right' as if I belonged there. It was like falling in love and I started to look around and enjoy the scenery and tranquility. It was on the way back that we noticed how much higher than usual the water level had been the day before. One lock we had gone up in had finally stopped filling about half an inch from the top of the lock gate, going back down it was a lot lower, and the bywashes a lot slower. We decided to go to Nantwich and stay there for a few days.

Day 4
After spending another night at Hurleston we made our way to Nantwich and moored up. I had never been to Nantwich so was really surprised when I saw all the tudor style buildings. It was raining so we found a nice (another!!) pub and had lunch there. Lucy and Christine 1 were thrilled to bits because there was a supermarket and a Woolworths!! Christine 2 pottered about in the shops and I settled down to a nice Migraine. Oh well.

Day 5
It was pretty uneventful really as we stayed in Nantwich. The lady at the laundry in Nantwich marina expressed surprise when I told her I was loving it. She told me that after the storm a lot of seasoned boaters had given up and gone home. She also told me there were a lot of stoppages on the canal because of fallen trees. Nothing untoward happened, the boat started first time, we got water and finally had enough shopping to cook our own dinner!!!

Day 6
We had to start making our way back towards the marina, in 5 days I suppose we had travelled all of a 10 mile round trip!! That day was absolutely beautiful, a real Indian summer day. Lucy and I were on the back of the boat steering and dancing about to the radio. There wasn't a soul about apart from cows, sheep and birds. We made our way back to the pub we had stopped at the first night, and there we saw the boat that had pulled us off the ledge the second day. I think they were highly relieved to see we were actually able to steer the boat now and much better boaters than when we started. The 2 Christines and Lucy were thrilled to bits about going home the next day and vowed NEVER to set foot on a boat again. I was a bit sad. We spent the afternoon cleaning and scrubbing the boat, had some lunch then set off up the Middlewich branch to moor up outside the marina. we spent our last night on the boat uneventfully, with me raving on about what a great time I had had and the others promising not to accompany me ever again.

Day 7
The morning started bright and early for us, as Arthur was meeting us at the lock at 9am. He walked onto the boat and stared in amazement. 'Goodness!' He exclaimed 'The boat is so clean' He then went onto explain that when hirers took the boat back it was sometimes in a disgusting state. So if you are one of those hirers, SHAME ON YOU!!!!.

Finally we got to Crewe station for a 10.30 train back to London. We got there to discover the 10.30 had been cancelled, but the guy informed us that a London train was due in on platform 5 in 5 minutes. We were on platform 6 and at that moment, I looked up and saw a virgin train come onto the next platform. We ran with our luggage and all piled on it, found a seat and settled down. After about 10 minutes, I looked up and saw that the train was actually on platform 11. I jumped up and said to the others ' Quick, get off this isn't platform 5, we are on the wrong train!!'
We ran down the carriage, just started to gather our luggage when the train started pulling out. Panic stricken, I asked another passenger where the train was headed and he told me Hollyhead!!! As far as the others were concerned I was dead. They cursed me and made me explain to the train manager that we were on the wrong train. Very kindly he didn't charge us and told us the next stop was Chester and to get off there and come back. To add insult to injury for the others, on the way to Chester we passed the marina we had just come from. Lucy was not impressed. I think in the end, we got back to Euston about 5 that evening as Railtrack were still working on the points.

True to their word, my daughter Christine and her friend Lucy have NEVER set foot on a boat since. I live in the area now and pop down occassionally to the marina. I often laugh about my 'Baptism of fire' I did take my daughter there recently and she wouldn't even go and stand on the boat. Her son loves it, but then he is only (almost) 3. I have had quite a few boat holidays since, all of them have been fantastic. I just love being on a boat. I must have been a working boat person in a previous life!!

Christine and Arthur will have 4 boats next season, the business has taken off really well. If you are interested you can get them at www.cheshirecatnarrowboats.co.uk

Monday, May 22, 2006

Baptism of fire, wind and rain

I have absolutely no idea, how we ended up on a narrowboat. I know I booked it obviously, but it wasn't our intention to go narrow boating. My daughter and our neighbour, her friend, and myself and a friend of mine decided to have a week away. It was left for me to book something and initially I tried Centre Parcs but they were far too busy and far too expensive, and so I started surfing the net.
I came across this web site, offering Narrow Boat holidays. They were a little one boat company, I looked at the dates available and our week was free, so I contacted my friend and said 'How do you fancy a week on a narrow boat?' She was all for it, so to cut a long story short I booked it.

I must admit, the weeks leading up to it were filled with some trepidation. None of us had ever been on a narrow boat before, I kept worrying about sinking it, crashing it. But as the day drew near, we had our train tickets booked and had decided on the Llangollen canal. So along came the Saturday we were to set off and there began the 'holiday from Hell' for Christine, Christine and Lucy, but my baptism of fire!

A few weeks before our holiday started, there had been a rather horrible train crash at Potters Bar, this apparently had been caused by a faulty repair to a point, so on the day we were off to Crewe, Railtrack decided they were going to check all the points practically all over the country and most train journeys were going to be delayed due to speed restrictions.

We got to Euston and it was heaving with people. There were TV crews milling around asking what people thought of the train delays. Most people were furious, but not us because we were going on holiday on a Narrow Boat!!! We found our train, then sat on it for a hour before it moved anywhere, eventually it left an hour and a bit late and we began the journey to Crewe at 20 miles per hour!! By 3.45pm, when we had only reached Stafford, I thought it would be best to phone the owners of the boat as they had been expecting us at 2. I explained we were going to be late, they were great about it, but did warn us we wouldn't be allowed to cruise in the dark and as it was the end of October, it would be dark very soon.

We eventually got to the marina at about 4.30, we grabbed some basic supplies at the marina shop, and they were basic, had our run through on how the boat worked with the owners, what to do on a daily basis to ensure we didn't sink, how to go through a lock, then bless, them, they took us down the canal to a pub and moored us up there and then was gone.

We had a really nice evening there actually, a nice meal a few drinks, it was halloween so we had to vote for the scariest waiter (They were all dressed up as ghouls and ghosts) then staggered back to the boat for a good nights sleep. Tomorrow was a big day, WE WERE ON OUR OWN.

Day 1
We woke up to rain, not a lot of rain, but rain just the same. Christine senior got to work on the breakfast from our meagre supplies and I went to the back of the boat to start the engine for some hot water. I turned the key, kept it on the heating element for 30 seconds then turned. The engine coughed, spluttered but wouldn't start. I patiently tried again, it still wouldn't start, so I tried again, and again and again. After 10 minutes I came to the conclusion that the best thing to do would be to call the owners. Luckily for us they had an arrangement with an engineer, so told us to wait and they would send him along.
Eventually the engineer came and got us started. An hour after that, saw us pushing off and starting our journey towards the Llangollen canal. We did all the usual things narrow boaters do on their first ever trip. Nearly hit moored boats, panicked everytime we saw another boat coming towards us, went across the canal instead of along it. Had to get rescued by another boat when we got stuck on a ledge, it was a bit of a laugh actually, until we got to the junction at Hurleston. We were meant to turn right, and go through 4 locks, but they looked so scarey I went straight on towards Nantwich, I just panicked, we went under a little bridge and as we emerged, this HUGE gust of wind just took the boat and pushed us towards the tow path.
An hour later saw us still trying to get away from the bank, Arthur, the owner, had told us not to use a lot of throttle so we didn't, as a consequence every time we pushed the front of the boat off, the wind just blew it straight back to the bank again. We were stuck fast!!

Lucy started stressing, then crying, to make things worse, it really started chucking it down with rain. We pushed the boat off the bank, the wind just kept pushing it back, we were trapped!!!

Then we heard this whistle from the bridge behind us, there was Arthur and Christine! The owners, our saviours!! They had decided to come and find us so they could take the boat to a marina to change the batteries! Thank god!! Arthur got us away from the side like the true pro he is!! It was great really because as we cruised towards the marina, we got extra tuition. He changed the batteries on the boat, chugged us back towards Hurlston Junction for the Llangollen canal, took us through the locks, and moored us up as it was beginning to get dark. His parting words were ' I've moored you up nice and tight, there's a storm coming, but it will be gone by 11am tomorrow. Enjoy the rest of your holiday!!' Then he was gone.

Day 2
The day started at 5am. It wasn't planned that way, it's just that we all got woken up by a loud BANG on the roof of the boat. Then, as I slowly came to, I noticed this distinct rocking motion of the boat. It was rocking from side to side quite violently, then I became aware of this whooshing and howling and rustling, along with the occasional noise of something falling onto the roof. I jumped down from the bed and was very glad to see, that at least, the floor was dry and we weren't sinking!! There is a gentle current on the Llangollen. It brings water from the river Dee to some reservoirs at Hurleston, it usually meanders along at about 4mph. I looked out of the window, canal side and saw the water moving along a tad faster than that. The water was full of leaves and bits of wood and branches, it was then that I saw that the trees were bent over double in the very high wind. We were moored under some huge trees and if was probably something falling from them that had hit the roof. It must have been a force 10 gale outside, so I decided to make a cup of tea. There we all were, huddled all together with a nice cup of tea while we waited for the heating to warm the boat, it was 5.30 in the morning. Then the rain started, really heavy heavy rain, which then turned to sleet. I actually found it quite cosy. The others didn't!!

Apparently, it was the worst storm since the year dot, there was widespread flooding, the river Dee had burst its banks (Remember the same river that takes water along the Llangollen to Hurleston) Trees had come down, homes were under water and my mobile beeped non stop with texts from wellwishers enquiring if I was still alive!! Arthur was right though, by 11am it just blew itself out, we got the boat started (eventually) and chugged on up the canal. We needed supplies urgently and had to get to civilisation soon. We didn't realise until the next day, that the Llangollen canal was about 5 inches higher than usual, we had a few hairy moments coming out of flooded locks, being dragged back towards the bywash taking the water past the lock. We went through this really spooky bit of wood and ended up at Wrenbury.

Wrenbury post office was sight to behold. If you ever go to Wrenbury, do go into the post office, it is a mini supermarket too and sells the most delicious pies and pasties from a local baker. Nice cheeses and bacon, in fact, very nice food of all sorts. I highly recommend it, oh and in the summer, the villiage of Wrenbury have a scarecrow hunt too!!

We spent the night there, we had a nice meal in one of the local pubs, had a look around the villiage which is pretty and spent a peaceful night on the boat.

But that's it for now, my baptism of fire is to be continued..........

Friday, May 19, 2006

Nothing much

Well I am feeling a lot better than moany old yesterday, it is probably something to do with the weekend being upon us.

I am going up to Crewe this evening, courtesy of Virgin. I like going back to my house, it really feels like home to me. Until 3 years ago, I had only ever lived in London, and although I still work in London during the week, it is more bearable knowing I can escape the place for the weekend.

Oh, I booked tickets for the Crick boat show! I managed to get my daughter to come along, even though she hates the sight of narrowboats (mmm maybe a good blog there!!) I convinced her that it wasn't all boats and my Grandson would really like it. Really, it is an attempt to convert him into a narrowboating gardener! He's 3, so very easy to influence.

Crick isn't until the bank holiday weekend, but it is my first proper inland waterway boat show, so I am really looking forward to it. I am going to poke around all those boat exhibitors and maybe find that wild streak I so wanted yesterday!! Oh and they have a hog roast!!

Anyway, I am off now. I think I WILL write about my 'Narrowboat holiday from hell' Next week, it just might raise a few smiles.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Oh what shall I do?

Well I have finally got around to blogging again. I am going to have a moan to myself.

I have worked all my life, as most people have, but I have WORKED. I brought up my daughter alone, so often than not I went straight from one job to another, sometimes working all day, all night then back to my day job again. I have no regrets about it, I had the stamina and if I didn't keep the roof over our heads, no-one else was going to. Thankfully now, my daughter has grown up into a nice young woman with a son of her own and I can start to do the things I want to do. The problem is I can't decide just WHAT THAT IS!!!!

I work in London but have a nice house in Crewe, so I go home on Fridays for the weekend then stay with my parents during the working week. What I THINK I would like to do, is buy a nice narrow boat, find myself a nice mooring and then, over time, cruise the whole canal system. BUT (and isn't there always one of those!!) I need to work, whats more another pair of hands on a narrow boat, if not entirely essential, preferable, especially when going up and down in the lock.

There is nothing stopping me, I have a nice chunk of equity in my house, add a tiny marine mortgage and that would buy me a very nice boat from a favorite narrow boat builder of mine. I am just too darned 'sensible' to do it. All these bloody questions go around and around in my head. What would I do for money? Is it the 'right' thing to do to sell a house (that gains capital) to buy a boat that depreciates. Would I worry about my parents, who are both in there 80's? I would definitely miss seeing my Grandson whenever I wanted. If I did it would the idea of it be more appealing to the actual doing it? Am I running away? Oh boy I could go on.......but I won't. I get really frustrated with myself at times and wish I had a wild streak in me that just DID things like that! Mind you, I was like this for ages about moving up to Crewe, so I suppose I should just carry on as normal until I say' Right, thats it, I'm doing it!!!' You never know, you just may see me chugging along the canal one day.