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!

Entering The Peak Forest Canal

On this glorious day, we stopped at the services, before we left the Macclesfield, at Bridge #1, we stopped to fill with water and unload our rubbish.

While there a C&RT van arrived, the driver asked if we were going down Marple Locks.  “Yes”, we said. He told us there’s a problem with Lock 9, the paddle had failed. He said he and his team were presently repairing it, he’d just popped back to the yard as he’d forgotten his ladder. He very helpfully said “Please wait below lock #13  and I will wave you through”.

For us, this is our last view of the beautiful Macclesfield Canal bridges, (Bridge #1). We hope to be back very shortly!

Our first ‘taste’ of the Peak Forest Canal, and it looks like it’s not going to disappoint!

We caught up with the C&RT workmen, and John took a short walk down to lock # 9 to ‘inspect’ the ‘works in progress’.

Pic below shows the drained pound, and also demonstrates why it’s best to sail boats in the middle of the pound.

There is a C&RT engineer, wearing waders,  standing in the water and reconnecting the side paddle that had come adrift. ……..

By looking at the images, you’d think we would be held up for hours, not so, the repair probably held us up a mere half an hour,  the time it took us to drink a can of beer! (Well the weather was getting hotter!) Well done C&RT!

The Marple Locks are very deep, and built from stone blocks. Probably the masons were paid on piecework noticing the marks they made on the blocks.

The locks are fabulous! Nature never fails to amaze, how nature endeavours to ‘take over’.

John decided he wanted to do the locking, though by the time we moored up, he was shattered. Perhaps next time I ought to nag him to ‘give us a go’!

We’re presently moored just before Hyde Tunnel, and just after the breathtaking Marple Aqueduct.  Image below is a stock image, the bottom aqueduct is for narrowboats, and top one obviously is for trains.

Not sure yet whether we’ll be moving tomorrow, I’ve a feeling we might due to the fact there’s no digital TV.

Today we did 16 Locks, and approx 2.5 miles.  WiFi is ‘toasting our bread’.