Out Of The Narrows

We had a lazy day-off on Sunday, although John did inspect the ‘engine ‘ole’, and found the stern gland leak had got worse. Instead of a ‘plip plip’, we’ve now almost got a dribble!

The worsening leak resulting in me not having a very good night’s sleep, as I noticed the automatic bilge pump was spitting out water every 5 minutes! What would happen if the pump burnt out? What if it fused?

With only 8 locks to go (starting at ‘Roller Lock #8E), and just over 2 miles until we reached Aspley Wharf Marina (after Stanley Dawson Lock #1E), who’d been notified we’d be dropping in to get our leak fixed, we decided to have an early start! We casted off our mooring ropes at 8.30 a.m.

Our ‘normal’ plan was for me to do the locking on the first ‘half’ of the locks, and John doing the last four.  As soon as I had completed the first four, and was filling up the lock on ‘Paddock Foot Lock #4E’, John thought it a good idea for me to continue with the locking as the canal was getting more polluted with beer cans, M’cDonald packages, plastic bags, etc. It was at this lock that a C&RT Lock-keeper appeared, saying that he was sending down water as below us the canal was dry. It appears there was a boat stuck on Lock #1 due to lack of water. He said he’d be accompanying us down to Lock #1.

As John sailed Cyan out of Sellers Lock #3E, I lost track of him, and of course Cyan. I’d heard the Lock-keeper tell John to make for Coal Wharf Lock #2, and to stay there until he arrived, as he was going to send more water ‘down’. This is where the ‘fun’ started; there isn’t a towpath after Lock #3, and I was directed to cross a busy road, and round a block of several buildings, to pick up the towpath. Eventually I came to the towpath, and descended down what looked like a flight of 20 ‘fire escape’ steps to get to the towpath. I could see the water in the canal was very low, with lots of rubbish visible.

In front of me was Lock #1, but I couldn’t get back to Lock #2 as there was no towpath.  So I climbed up the ‘fire escape’ steps again, and retraced my steps in case I missed a signpost. I did manage to see Lock #2 from the top of a bridge, I could just about see the top of John’s head in a lock, and I saw the C&RT Lock-keeper busy with his windlass, but I couldn’t see any towpath. It appeared the Lock-keeper had unlocked a small gate to get to the lock, a gate that I missed.

There was nothing left for me but to march back to Lock #1, windlass in hand, and wearing my pink life-jacket. I hardly blended in with the ‘normal’ people of Huddersfield! I wondered if I’d be stopped by a policeman for carrying a ‘lethal’ object?

(John) I set off under instructions to nudge up to lock #2 and hold until C&RT staff attended. Through the short and very low tunnel under the road and out into a pound with no towpath? No sign of Jen at this point, Rusty and I were getting concerned as to where was our crew member!

C&RT arrived through a small gap in a fence and began to fill the lock. ” Where is our crew member?” “No idea Sir”

“WHAT” “She will probably turn up at lock#1″…..probably! He then opened the lock gate and CYAN moved inside. The C&RT guy confirmed he was going to lower the water level then open the top and bottom gate paddles to let water down to the lower lock. CYAN was to remain inside the lock. The water started to boil and we became a fish fillet in a deep fat fryer! Like a rapids ride without the decent! All the time the reassuring smile from the C&RT guy was visible over the bottom gates…….. 40 minutes later we were released from the lock and descended towards lock #1. Very slowly as the pound was full of rubbish and still very low in water. When the lock came into view Jen was standing, patiently waiting…..our crew had belatedly been reunited!

(Jen again) Eventually we’d gone through our last lock, Lock #1, which was just a small stretch of the legs away from Aspley Wharf Marina. Alan, the manager of the marina helped us moor up Cyan, then he made us both a cup of tea (we needed it!).

We’re moored right outside a restaurant/pub called ‘The Aspley’, in the middle of Huddersfield town. Within view on our left is a shopping arcade, advertising House of Frazer, Next, M&S etc., just along side the shopping arcade is a B&Q. To the left of us is an Asda, and behind Asda is an Aldi! I suggested that this mooring would ‘do’ until CYAN was repaired! (LOL).

The new ‘gland’ has been ordered, which should arrive on Wednesday.  We’re very cool!

Today we did 8 locks, 2.2 miles, WiFi is 30 Mg, and we’re shattered!

Saturday’s Cruise

The local weather forecast said today’s weather was going to be changeable… they weren’t wrong!  We started off in brilliant sunshine, and moored up in heavy rain.

With a similar plan as yesterday, I would do the first 5 locks, and John would do the next 5, though we thought we’d ‘play it by ear’ as to where we’d moor, we couldn’t see a suitable mooring place on the map.

The fine weather had brought many people to the towpath, dog walkers, ramblers, bikers.  The canal’s a ‘centre’of social interaction. Who wouldn’t enjoy such beauty?

No signs of a water shortage in this part of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

Now this is a ‘leaky lock’! Emptying the lock took a lot of patience.  

The Huddersfield Narrow Canal follows the path of the River Colne.

 

This whole area, in years gone by, was the centre of the woollen mill industry. The famous Titanic Mill has now been converted into fabulous apartments, see ‘Rightmove’ link.

The locks take on the ‘flavour’ of the local water, this lock smelt ‘peaty’, and the colour ‘black’ has seeped into the stonework.

We’d never get ‘bored’ with the scenery.

Today we’ve moored up below Isis lock #9 and have gone through 12 locks, and 2.5 miles. WiFi is around 20 Mg.

Between A Lock And A Hard Place

Bearing in mind we have a leaky stern gland, and praying the automatic bilge pump doesn’t develop a problem, imagine how our hearts sank when we woke to find Cyan leaning rather badly to port! I discovered the list first when I went to the bathroom, tottering out of bed felt a little more precarious than it should be.

Think all boaters are paranoid about their boat sinking! We ‘assumed’, though didn’t know for sure, that Cyan had grounded on rocks due to the water level going down several inches over night. Both of us didn’t feel like breakfast, and could only face a cup of tea, we were concerned and wanted to continue our journey as soon as possible for reassurance that Cyan’s list was definitely because she’s settled on stones or rocks, and  was nothing sinister! As soon as we untied Cyan’s very tight mooring ropes, she slid off her ‘rock’, and righted herself.

Our plan was to go down 10 locks today, mooring up at Slaithwaite (pronounced Slawit), I was to do the first five locks, and John locking the rest. As it turned out, I had the best deal!

All went well, until Shuttle Lock #24E.  The lock’s a guillotine lock, and one we hadn’t done before.  John opened the sluice gate to let the water out, before lifting the ‘guillotine’ door.  As soon as it was safe, I attempted to pootle out of the lock. Realisation soon dawned that Cyan’s stainless steel chimney wouldn’t fit under a concrete beam under the bridge. There was nothing left for it, but to reverse back into the lock and raise the water level again to a level where John could reach out, and remove the chimney.

This meant we used two full locks of water to lower Cyan, which caused problems for a couple of moored boats at the top of the guillotine lock, causing them to ‘suffer’ a lower level of water. “Sorry!”

At the next lock, a lovely man came out of his house by the side of the lock, offering us advice, and a leaflet published by the boy scouts showing a map of Slaithwaite, and it’s businesses.  Apparently there’s 4 fish ‘n’ chip shops in the town! The man warned us that the bridge at the bottom of the lock, is very low, and we should take great care.

The canal runs under the bridge, then through a narrow channel, until reaches the next lock (Pickle Lock #22E), where we had planned to moor.

Cyan attempted to sail under the bridge, but with a shock, she was about 6 inches too tall, and it wasn’t easy to make her ‘less’ tall – there was no way she’d fit under the bridge. No way to turn around, no way to go forwards. Indeed she/we were between a ‘Lock an’ a hard Place!’ I threw John the centre line, and he secured Cyan to a post, while we had a ‘think’. It was impossible to lower the height of the boat, so the only way to lower the water….. Cutting a long story short, John legged it to the lock in front (Pickle Lock #22E), and on advice from the C&RT via a phone call, John filled the lock twice, and emptied it twice.  This lowered the water level in the pound, to the point where Cyan became ‘low’ enough to sail under the bridge. Once again thanks to C&RT for their advice, and offer of assistance, the ‘C&RT Crew’ are very obliging – TOP MARKS!

Basically, we had used too much water getting through the guillotine lock, temporarily raising the water level in the pound. At the time of getting marooned, I envisaged the fire brigade cutting Cyan’s roof off! (I know, should be writing pulp fiction).

We moored for the night at the bottom of Pickle Lock #22E,

Today we did 10 locks, cruised almost 2 miles, 20 Mg of WiFi, excellent TV.  For dinner we had tasty ‘old style’ fish ‘n’ chips from ‘The Captain’s Table’ cooked in beef dripping. Thoroughly enjoyed by all 3 of us!

Continuing On The East (Yorkshire) Side Of The Huddersfield Narrow

Before we set off we had concerns regarding water levels.  John returned from walking Rusty to say the lock pound after Lock #41E looked empty, a boat going down appeared to be stuck on the bottom. Another boat attempting to come up the lock, appeared to be struggling due to the low water level too.

We phoned C&RT for advice, asking should we let water down from Lock #42E? The C&RT asked us to wait, and that help was on its way.  It appears the water in the first several locks are finely ‘balanced’! There are notices on lock beams asking if boats are going down, ‘fill up the next lock before opening paddles draining the lock containing your boat’. It appears there’s a risk of flooding gardens if too much water is let down and not allowed to fill the lower chamber.

The C&RT team arrived promptly, and were really helpful, offering assistance to get us down the first 4 locks. Big thankyou to all the team.

Before the C&RT men appeared, we had a lovely chat with the crew of NB Cygnet, Debbie and Jim. This was the boat coming up the locks, and they moored behind us. Strangely enough, they had read this website of our ‘adventures’ from the ‘other’ West side of Standedge Tunnel, a direction they were heading.

Debbie and Jim also gave us a fantastic tool we’ll need for locks on the Calder and Hebble; our next canal! To buy this tool, it costs £15 at a chandlers! Jim, instead of buying it, made his own tool, which looks very much like a length of 2 by 4 wood!  Thanks Jim, we’d have been really stuck and at the mercy of the sales pitch on the navigation.

After several rainy days, it was brilliant to be cruising with the sun on our faces.

Cameras never do justice to glorious views.

I did the first five locks of the day, and John did our last five.

I just love how nature fills these barren areas.

Our mooring for the night, just at the bottom of Pig Tail Lock #32.

Right ‘next door’ to our mooring is Sparth Reservoir.  People wearing wet-suits were busy this afternoon, kids included, swimming in the reservoir.

Today we’ve done 10 locks, cruised just over one mile, and moored with great digital TV, and WiFi over 30 Mg.

The Highest, Longest, and the Deepest Canal Tunnel!

Standedge Tunnel is 5,029 metres (over 3 miles) long, and is the highest, longest, and the deepest canal tunnel, and we went through it yesterday!  Can’t say it was the most relaxed journey, John looked shell shocked at the end of it, and Rusty had to be medicated!

We should have had an inkling when John was handed a hard hat by the chaperones who took us through the tunnel, the hat was scratched and scuffed on the top.

Rusty and I were down stairs, with all curtains open, and all lights on. Poor lad (Rusty) was shaking, panting, and his ears were back; he wasn’t happy. To help him I gave him a dose of his Metacam medicine, it’s a painkiller, with the effect of relaxing him and making him sleepy.  If I’d have thought; I should have walked him over the top of the tunnel, and met John on Cyan at the other side; risking being called ‘chicken’.

After breakfast we stripped down Cyan’s roof, took off the chimney, dismantled the canopy, and the cratch cover, removed the flowers. and filled up the water tank.  Cyan was measured to see if she was too big to get in the tunnel, luckily we passed the test.

Because I was downstairs, pacifying Rusty, I didn’t see much of the journey.  Though I did hear from John that at certain times in the tunnel he was steering Cyan on his knees.

We moored up just before the first lock on the ‘East Side’ (Yorkshire), and put Cyan back together again.

There is abundant history surrounding this magnificent engineering achievement by our Victorian ancestors. The image is of ‘Leggers’ walking a boat through the 3 mile tunnel.

As the tunnel was excavated by hand it is not precisely straight and the interior changes from raw exposed rock face to beautifully constructed brick arches. From cathedral like caverns to almost impassable sections were the headroom is almost nil!

We will take time out today to take a look into the Visitors Centre before heading off towards Huddersfield.

Navigation note: While out walking Rusty last evening, the pound below lock #41 was almost empty.

In general the Eastern section has a serious water level problem.

WiFi is pretty good! 3 miles and no locks

 

 

A Scramble Up The Diggle Flight…In The Rain

Classic boaters dilemma, we need to be at the Standedge portal by 11.30 a.m. Wednesday, but it is hissing down, and we are at the bottom of the Diggle Flight….Hmmmm.

Stay put and hope for ‘better’ weather tomorrow for an early morning dash up the flight? Or do we bite the bullet and scramble up the flight in the rain, with a promise of a hot shower and an overnight near to the portal?

After a morning walk with Rusty in the rain I felt  it was worth pushing on today, after all we both returned wet through…..

As we left our overnight mooring, below lock #24, the Greater Manchester weather gods decided to show what they could do!

The clouds covered most of the views of Saddleworth Moor as I walked the flight of 9………poignant and fitting; following the news about the demise of Ian Brady. The rain was relentless……

Jen and Rusty stayed on board while I wielded the windless, the locks are so close together it is easier to walk than jump on and off the boat.

After 2+ hours we reached the top, and the aqueduct mooring before Standedge Portal beckoned.

Weather note, once we had secured CYAN the rain promptly stopped!

CYAN snuggled up on the aqueduct….

 

Saddleworth revealed at last, feels like we are on top of the world

The Standedge Portal at Diggle awaits…..tomorrow

Amazing portal gates securing the tunnel access

 

The tunnel rules and advice

Another wonderful achievement by Thomas Telford

Starring In A ‘Show’!

Before we took off from our moorings at Saddleworth Visitor Centre Winding Hole, we did a little shopping for bread and milk.  On the outside wall of the bakers was a commemorative plaque to Arthur Rowbotham! It’s great to know that even a ‘baker’s boy’ can be so highly thought of to have his own plaque, for ‘giving his all’!

We planned to travel through two locks only before mooring up for the day. The closely situated flight of 9 locks which will take us to Diggle, will need to be done in one ‘trip’. Diggle is the start of the Standedge Tunnel, where our Wednesday passage is booked.

At Dungebooth Lock (#22W) we encountered an audience of Gongoozlers! People are fascinated with locks, and they asked us the same questions, “Where have you come from?”, “Where are you going?” It’s difficult to know how to answer such questions. “Do you live on your boat?”, and many more questions, some are quite bazaar and strange. It makes us wonder just how eccentric we are!

But those Gongoozlers didn’t prepare us for the next lock’s ‘audience’ of about 50, nearly all taking photos, and most having dogs who seemed to be having a great time.

The Lime Kiln Lock (#23W) was a tricky lock to manoeuvre into, and I was glad I was doing the locking, and John was on the tiller.  The lock doors are just behind the support leg for the railway viaduct. The ‘leg’ has restricted the navigation, even though the canal was ‘here first’. You can just about see from the image below that the bottom part of the ‘leg’ has been ‘shaved’ away to help boats entering this lock. Remember narrowboats are not articulated, they don’t bend! They are rear drive, and they pivot from the centre.

Being the main ‘entertainment’ for the Gongoozlers, and as sod’s law would have it, I’d never encountered before the type of locking mechanism as this. At first I wondered if the mechanism was locked, as some previous locks on the HNC are. Eventually, I managed to work it out, and I was able to lift up the paddles, letting water into the lock. The mechanism’s so stiff that it needed brute force to move it, hence me thinking it was locked.

Our dog Rusty has a problem with locks, he gets so anxious if he can’t ‘see’ where the one who’s doing the locking is, or if he hears them talking to a stranger. When he’s in an empty lock he frets until Cyan comes up in the lock, and then he can see us. If he gets too agitated, he becomes a danger to himself, to the one who’s on the tiller, and of course to Cyan, so he gets sent down into the boat, and the doors gets locked – he’s still anxious but at least he’s in no danger down in the boat.  At this time John thought Rusty was being good through this lock so he was allowed on deck. With all the ‘audience’ watching, Rusty decides to make a dash to get to me, and he jumps from the boat. As his lead is tethered to John, Rusty got pulled back from landing on the lock surround, and fell back, into the lock and water! He always wears his ‘life jacket’ when cruising, which has a strong handle, and I grabbed the handle, to yank him out!  Why now Rusty? In front of all these people?

We managed to moor up at Wool Road Winding Hole, just before the services, and Wool Lock (#24W).

All boats take on water, whether it’s through rain, condensation, or a leak!  For this reason Cyan is fitted with an automatic bilge pump. We noticed the bilge pump had worked quite a few times over the past couple of days.  As we’d hit the bottom ‘many’ times, and sometimes with a loud crunch, since being on the shallow HNC, we wondered if we’d got a problem of the leaky kind!

John opened up the engine ‘hole’ for an inspection, and yes…. we’ve got a plip plip of water going on, coming from the stern gland!

Basically, ‘we’re sinking’!

The automatic bilge pump is looking like it’s going to be our ‘saviour’!

First thing this morning, being Monday, John phoned Aspley Wharf Marina, situated ahead of us on the canal, for help. John told them we wouldn’t be with them till later this week as we’re booked to pass through the tunnel on Wednesday, and then we’ve 41 (I think) locks to get through, before we reach the marina. Alan, the manager of the Marina was extremely helpful and said he’d be ready and waiting for us. Depending on Cyan’s type of system, she might need to be taken out of the water to repair her.

Today we’re staying put! It’s been raining quite hard since 5 a.m. this morning.  I can imagine the canal, and HNC authorities are loudly taking a sigh of relief.  From Cyan’s window we can see a small weir.  Yesterday the water level was about 2 inches below the top of the weir, at the moment of writing, the water’s trickling nicely over it.

We’re moored right next to a winding hole, and our ‘neighbours’ are a family of geese, and they are fascinating to watch!

We’ve got the fire lit, good WiFi, and TV reception – we’re happy!

Like The ‘Flying Dutchman’ Doomed Never To Moor

What’s really great about the Canal system, is the people, they are so friendly and helpful.

At the end of the Peak Forest Canal at Dukinfield, we were thinking of cruising down the Ashton Canal, and then onto the Rochdale Canal to get onto the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. We listened to advice provided by two boaters who said we ought to be careful going on the Rochdale, and to do the first two locks on the Rochdale from the Ashton very early in the morning. Other safety advice given were; to keep the bow doors locked while travelling, and not to let kids, who are asking for a ride onto the boat. Food for thought!

We had a re-think about going through the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, onto the Calder and Hebble Canal, then onto the Leeds to Liverpool Canal. John got out his tape measure, to see how Cyan measures up to with a view to going through Standedge Tunnel, and it appears we are within the C&RT’s spec. So at the last minute we decided on the HNC route, but we were unprepared.

We had planned to have a lazy day on Thursday, but again John was buzzing to ‘get going’! “We’ll just go down a little way on the Peak Forest” he said. I knew he wasn’t happy where we were moored as we were right under a line of electricity cables, between pylons.

We left our mooring late in the morning. After cruising a little way we were asked by an elderly fisherman if we could retrieve his fishing float that was stuck on a bush on the other side of the bank from him. We did, but managed to get stuck while trying to hand him his float. This was the first of many times Cyan would get stuck that day.

Further on down the canal, after meeting another lady boater, she warned us of a sunken fibreglass boat. The boat had been set on fire, and she advised us to be careful security wise.

Moving on, we met a group of 5 youths, they were walking along the towpath. “Can we have a ride to Hyde” one said.  I just said the dog wouldn’t let them on board!

We were getting a bit nervous by now, and decided to cruise on through Ashton Under Lyne, and moor up in a secluded yet safe spot!

At Stanley Lift Bridge (#1), I got off the boat for bridge lifting duty. It was here I met a boater Gentleman who asked where we were going to moor up that night. He suggested we should moor up by the bridge, and not to go any further as it’s the time of the day that druggies are about, and that we should take care!

Hearing this, John was even more determined to get through Ashton Under Lyne.  So we continued with our plan!

Leaving the Peak Forest Canal at Portland Basin.

This beautiful bridge built in 1835, amazing to think what scenes this bridge has ‘witnessed’!

We turned right at Portland Basin Junction, and here we met a couple of lads carrying a huge supply of biscuits, and bottles of pop.  They were pleasant enough, though obviously as high as kites. Poor kids, they are someone’s sons!  John volunteered do the locks, and told me to keep Rusty on deck for show as he jumped off Cyan, and the kids followed him.

The lock was set open, so I took Cyan in. John closed the gates, but soon realised he didn’t have a waterway’s key to open the ‘locked’ lock-mechanism.  With the key on it’s lanyard in my hand, some 12 ft below John, John asked me to throw the key up to him. Trouble is I can’t throw for toffee! It was a horrible feeling watching the key hit the lock wall, and fall down into the lock! Luckily…. the boat’s gunnel was pressing against the lock’s walls, the key fell and lodged between the two. In a panic I grabbed the hook, trying not to rock the boat too much in case it moved away from the wall, and I managed to get the hook under the lanyard. Just as I lifted the hook, the key and lanyard slipped off! Again, and very luckily, the key slipped precariously onto the gunnel! This time I managed to secure it on the end of the hook.  After grabbing it, I ‘firmly’ tied the lanyard to the hook, and extended the hook’s pole so John could reach it.  This was being watched by the two doped-up kids who were peering over the edge of the lock, I was terrified they’d fall on top of Cyan!

With legs like jelly, we ploughed on…… and cutting a long story short…. after 14 locks, and failing to moor up 6 times along the way, each time getting stuck in the mud due to the lack of water on the HNC, we eventually moored up in desperation on a lock-landing.  It was now 9.30 p.m. (Boats are not to moor up on a lock landing)!

The next morning (yesterday) we telephoned C&RT about the lack of water, and could we pleeeeeeese stay on the landing for 24 hours more as it was raining, and we were tired after the problems of not being able to moor up! They were very friendly, and agreed we could stay, and that they’d investigate the lack of water.  We also booked the pilot to take us through Standedge Tunnel on Wednesday.  The tunnel is the longest on the system, and will take 3 hours to pass through! To think 6 months ago I had a phobia of tunnels! Eeeee things we do!

This morning we set off with a plan to climb 6 locks, mooring up at Saddleworth.  I volunteered to do the locks, and to walk between each lock as getting off and on Cyan was too much of pain, for sure Cyan would only get stuck again.

Locking is a very ‘sociable’ job!

We did 6 locks, travelled 3 miles, and we’re moored up with 16 Mg of WiFi!