Marple locks open day and Middlewood Way

Marple locks are having new gates installed during this year’s winter maintenance program and today Canal And Rivers Trust held an open day to allow the inquisitive the opportunity to descend down onto the floor of the dry lock. We like to think of ourselves as inquisitive so off we set, sadly on foot as we’re still not cruising.

We also took the opportunity to get there by walking along the Middlewood Way, the disused railway line that ran from Marple to Macclesfield. The route was closed down by Beecham in the 70‘s but in the 80‘s the 10mile route was revived as a public right of way for horses cyclists and walkers. And best of all, it’s well maintained and virtually mud free. Although horse riders don’t follow the same rules as dog walkers have to, in clearing up after their animals so we still had to step carefully. Joking aside it was a pleasant walk and we’d like to complete the remaining 6 miles from Poynton to Macclesfield at some point.

Back to Marple locks; these are a flight of 16 locks that descend 210 feet (62m) on the Peak Forest canal.
Along with a lot of other people, we were being shown lock 14. Impressively deep at over 6m, that’s 2m deeper than average.
When in use the water level changes by almost 4m. 44000 gallons of water are needed to lift a boat up to the next level.

There are about 1500 locks being maintained by CART and they are all inspected monthly. Besides emergency work, there’s a planned winter maintenance program to replace those beyond repair. The gates are individually made in the Midlands at the Bradley workshop. They are made out of English Oak (that is grown in France) and each one costs between £25000-£35000. They should last 25 years, but boaters have a tendency to bash into them as we’re swirled about in the filling locks and those carefully fitted snug gates soon begin to leak. Leaking lock gates are boaters equivalent to motorists pot holes, it’s a never ending job to keep them working efficiently. And at least motorists don’t get a cold shower if they drive over a pot hole.
Although the gates need replacing regularly, the stone and brick structure of the lock is still what was originally built 200 years ago. It took 1000’s of navvies 2 years to build the 16 locks at Marple.
To be able to look at the lock from the floor was both humbling and awe inspiring as the precision of and skill of those early engineers is still valued today.

By the time we emerged from the locks we were in desperate need of a bowl of warming soup and we stumbled upon an artisan deli called “All things nice” and too right it was all very nice. It’s made it onto our list of eateries to visit again. We ended up having more than a snack so it’s beans on toast for tea tonight.


All in all a very satisfying day.

Away for a few days

Eric needed to work on the wiring (wiring being a cover all term for getting the boat working) and we decided it would be more efficient if I weren’t on the boat. Read into that what you like but I wasn’t going to argue and took myself off by train to see mum for a few days.

Of course when I returned the wiring was still in progress and the dinette looked somewhat different to how I envisaged.

But it didn’t take long for it to return to how a proper dinette should look.

Actually having been so desperate to get back to the boat, the first thing we did was take a nice long walk while the sun was shining. But in my haste I forgot my camera. We retraced our steps up to Lyme park and after last weeks mist, yes I can confirm the view was stunning.

And progress has been made on the wiring, I am told that the motor does work despite the morse controller having been configured the opposite way to how we need it. So we’ll be going forward in reverse…..

Connected (or Eric in the bed)

One of the things that makes modern living what it is, is being connected to the Internet and having access to information at our fingertips.  Rightly or wrongly we view it as an essential.  So whilst the TV and Radio are still waiting their fine tuning and we have had a quiet weekend without them Eric has been sorting out the internet access and on board WiFi.

We have a Huawei router (LTE CPE B315) and roof mounted 4G aerials from WiFi on board. http://www.wifionboard.co.uk/

The router is housed under the bed which means it’s accessible if necessary and the WiFi signal isn’t hampered by too much metalwork so that our connection is good in both the saloon and dinette.


We’re using an EE data package and have started with a 6GB/90 Day pay as you go SIM to start with. (We now this will be woefully inadequate but it is only meant to start us off.)

We’re now conscious of paying for the time we spend browsing and we’ll have to top up regularly until we can decide the best monthly contract to use.  It will seem expensive at first but when you consider the true cost of paying line rental etc. on dry land, it’s just that we are conditioned to absorb those costs without thinking much about it.  Time will tell as to how many hours we can waste on YouTube before we realise we can’t check the weather forecast or make blog posts. We’re also taking advantage of the families BT home hub system so when we do feel the need for a little moving action we’ll choose our mooring spot more carefully.

As with all the things on Firecrest we’re not actually cruising yet and a lot of our technology is still to be put to the full test, hopefully for Eric’s sake it will work otherwise it’ll be back under the bed for him until it is right.

 

Day 2 and still grinning

Two days in and we’re still grinning, despite the rain sleet and mud. The boat is warm and cosy and the condensation is negligible. I haven’t tried to unpack properly yet as there is still the small issue of getting the motor commissioned, that is Eric’s job for next week. So it all still feels like we’re camping. The moment the rain stops we don the boots and woolly hats and set off to walk. It’s the weekend so there’s plenty of people about with the same idea as me.

But all the rain has made for some very muddy puddles. I don’t like mud. It’s slippy and I feel unsafe and I’ve decided that I’m going to avoid muddy walks wherever possible. Hence today’s walk took us on a proper track up to Lyme park. This country house is a national trust property set on the hill as the crow flies between here and Whaley bridge. I’m told the views are magnificent, you’ll have to decide whether or not to believe me.

I wish it were easier to photograph the interior of the boat but the grey weather and reels of cables don’t do it justice so you’ll have to be patient for a bit longer.

Worth the wait

Today we moved on board NB Firecrest. It’s been an overwhelming day and I hardly know where to begin sharing our joy with you, but so many people have been wishing us well today and are keen to hear that we are settled, I shall give it a go.

The day started yesterday when we waved goodbye to Suffolk. We set off for an overnight stay in bed and breakfast so we’d be able to get to Braidbar bright and early. We didn’t expect the day to dawn bleak and grey with snow falling heavily, and the car spent more time skidding backward than moving forwards. Luckily a Good Samaritan helped push us up over the hill so we could escape and we arrived before lunch.

Firecrest was looking resplendent in the sunshine with just a little snow left on her roof.

 

It was the first time I’d seen Firecrest since October and I haven’t stopped smiling since. The heating is efficient and quickly warmed the boat up although carrying bags from the car made sure we weren’t cold.

James and Donna give us a brief handover as Eric’s been working on the boat so much he’s already familiar with most of it. And then we were left to settle in.

We’ve spent most of the day relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere, it feels comfortable and cosy and full of promise for a long future.

Tomorrow we’ll think about unpacking and deciding where to store everything. But tonight it’s steak and chips for tea and time to crack open the bottle of champagne we’ve been saving.

A little light relief

They always say moving house is rated as one of life’s most stressful events, not a lot is said about moving onto a boat, but needless to say, the constant uncertainties about when our boat will be complete has been very stressful. Hence the need for a little light relief; I’m knitting a lacey shawl.

For those of you that know me, you’ll know how much time I spend working with fibre, knitting spinning and sewing. I’ve been promised I can have the space under the bed to store all the necessities of life. I’ll be sharing a few of my projects on my craft blog pages, although I can’t promise to be entirely truthful about how much wool I buy.

Good things come to those who wait. It won’t be long now.

 

Fuse goes POP

Fuse goes POP – ooops.   This was fun when I was at university, making the lab technicians jump, but on my boat – well not what I wanted at all.  No satisfying POP in this case, not even a sound or a flash.  At university the fuses were loud when we deliberately made them pop; louder than any firecracker I have ever heard a really sharp bang – VERY satisfying.  Ok what amused me at 18 is less than amusing when over 50 and on my own boat, and where I have to figure out why and find a solution.

I tried a larger fuse 16A instead of 10A – well who doesn’t and to be fair the higher rated fuse was still more than adequate to protect the cable.  Well my 16A fuse also blew instantly on a circuit that had no load where it should have only used 0.05A at most. Ok, time to start to think what is going on, especially when these fuses are £5 a pop, literally per pop.

Our boat has a 48v propulsion battery that connects to the motor and Victron Quattro inverter via 225A and 400A fuses.  It also supplies the 24V DC system for the lights, water pump etc. via DC/DC converters that turn the 48V battery supply to 24V.  So far so good; this saves having a separate 24V house battery and battery charging system.

Under normal canal cruising conditions our batteries need to supply about 50A and when cooking less than 100A (yes we have an electric oven and electric induction hob like one would normally use in  a house).  Even our 3KW Electric kettle only requires 60A.  But, our batteries can deliver over 2,000 amps as a continuous load, around 5,000 amps for many minutes and perhaps 20,000A for tens of seconds into a fault.

The fuses I had selected are capable of interrupting a 200,000A fault current without rupturing or creating a source of ignition, but now I know will blow instantly when it should only draw 50ma (0.05A). Oh!

Time to get back home and let the boat builder do the final fettling before we move on board later in the month, while I consider what to do next.

One step closer

Moving our belongings from house to boat was always going to take a bit of planning, but as we’ve been lucky enough to have a phased handover we’ve been able to transport everything by car. If it weren’t for the bulky items, 2 armchairs and foot stools, we’d have probably got away with just one car load. Instead it will be 3, the final journey being reserved for me, my clothes and craft items. But more on that later. This boat has been designed around me having enough storage space to keep me busy with craft and hobbies to last a lifetime. Eric will have to take refuge in the engine bay and polishing the brass.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the finishing touches will be completed soon after the yard reopens  in January.