Friends and family

We decided to treat ourselves to an easy day today as Tim, our son was coming to visit and we were still reeling from a stormy windy night. The morning consisted of completing small jobs like wiring a car radio into the galley so we can have music on the move if we want, though I can’t imagine anything sweeter than the bird song.
We walked up the Middlewood Way to meet Tim at the train station, and on the way a cyclist stopped to ask us for directions, in those few minutes we discovered she was a medalist for team GB at Rio, I apologised for not recognising her but it was a real thrill to be able to thank her and tell he how much I’d enjoyed the games and had cheered her on during the road race.
We’ve met some fascinating people this week, all with interesting stories to tell. Yesterday I spoke to the anglers who appear regularly by the boats, apparently the fish enjoy the bits that get flushed out of the boats with the washing up water. And far from disturbing the anglers here, they seem to catch more just after a boat has passed by, Not sure if all anglers share this sentiment but it seems a harmonious arrangement to me. They are after the pike at this time of year.
And the bird watcher who helped me identify the chiffchaff that I’d seen in the bushes. I thought it was a willow warbler but apparently they are migratory birds and on their holidays in January.

Tim hadn’t seen the boat complete before, not many people have. Boat life isn’t for him although he made appropriately impressed comments when pushed. He’d come to take advantage of Eric’s soldering iron to make himself a keyboard. Like father like son. Why buy ready made when you can custom build your own.

Looks like we’re set for another noisy night this time from rain lashing the boat rather than yesterdays wind.

The post we’ve all been waiting for

We’ve made our maiden voyage, our shake down cruise. Words can’t describe how good that feels

The day dawned crisp and bright, and Eric was confident that the batteries were charged and we had sufficient cooling power to allow us a few hours without concern. We’ve both walked and cruised this section of the canal several times so we were familiar with the easy cruise up to the winding point at High Lane (that’s ‘wind’ as in the weather, not ‘wind’ the clock, where the canal widens to allow a boat to turn around. Don’t ask me why!)

Being Sunday we had a plentiful audience enjoying the day, non of them any the wiser as to how nervous we were. Thankfully Eric reversed us out of the Braidbar yard without hitting anything and off we set.    Of course this being our first cruise meant that neither of us was prepared to leave the boat to take photos although we were snapped by several of the walkers.

We cruised for about an hour and half, it was a crisp and clear day and  although we thought we’d wrapped up warm we were frozen by the time we moored up. We hadn’t credited the difference it would make between how warm we felt when out walking and how chilled we got standing at the helm. Guess I’ll be adding some thermals to the shopping list but please don’t hold out any hope of seeing those on a future blog. 

We moored back up on the Braidbar spot on the canal, and Eric’s still tweaking the wires and we’re getting closer and closer to gaining our independance.

Lyme Park

We put aside the chores this morning in favour of enjoying the sunshine, as we still hadn’t seen the magnificent views from the top of the cage at Lyme Park

We chose a longer route than usual going through Ryles wood towards the main park gate on the A6.

We gained a bit of relief from the steady incline by turning around to gaze at the view, looking towards Bollinghurst reservoir.

The Cage was built as a hunting lodge and banqueting hall in the 16th century. It later became a prison for poachers. We weren’t able to look inside.

We couldn’t help but turn back for another look at the cage as we continued onwards towards the house.

The house was closed for the winter and there were a number of vans parked outside so no photos of the great house yet, but I believe it was used in the filming of the BBC’s production of Pride and Prejudice.

The cafe was open and the  NT knows how to make good soup so we had an early lunch before our final decent back home

Anything you can do

I’ll also have a go at. A few days ago Eric rescued a cyclist with a broken bike. Yesterday I pulled a dog out of the canal. While we were out on our walk we saw a spaniel in the canal trying to get out, but the metal pilings put in to protect the bank make it impossible for animals to scramble out. I’m not a doggy expert but this one was looking quite panicked and as its owner wasn’t in sight we opted to play safe and apologise if we’d acted out of turn. Luckily the owners came along fairly quickly looking for their lost dog and they were mightily relieved that we had helped Molly out as she’s not a strong swimmer.

The rest of the walk was uneventful but beautiful as ever. The Macclesfield canal is known for its beautiful bridges. 

Airing ones dirty laundry in public

…..Isn’t really my thing, but as I no longer have a garden with a washing line I can’t even show off my clean linens.

So with this in mind I opted to have a washer drier installed on the boat. Having run out of essentials I knew it was time to test this new toy. It took me all morning to plough through the instruction book trying to assimilate the multitude of choice. Having never used a tumble drier before, I remained apprehensive. After the wash cycle was complete, I extracted the few garments I knew shouldn’t be dried then plumped for the pre programmed ‘cottons’ setting as that was my what my remaining wash was made up of. Oh woe is me, looks like common sense isn’t sufficient this time. On my first attempt at tumble drying I do have a beautiful soft fluffy towel but I also shrank 2 of Eric’s shirts and my favourite pair of jeans. Time to go for another walk I think.

It wasn’t such a bad day though, we have been chatting with other boaters on the canal and showing off our boat to a friend who is awaiting his build slot later this spring to have his own beautiful Braidbar boat built.

Views from the dinette

Our dinette appears to hold a certain fascination for Eric. Apparently he was working on the wiring. And I have to believe him because today both the extractor fan over the hob and the TV are now working.

Meanwhile I was looking out of the window onto Baileys trading post, next door to our mooring, watching the world go by, when a rather muddy cyclist pulled up with a broken chain. He didn’t have the right tool kit so Eric emerged from under the dinette to lend a hand and some tools. It was a good feeling to be able to help someone.


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.

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.