Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011 review part 2

2011 started with us frozen in at Macclesfield Marina. The ice was 6ins thick and there was no chance of going anywhere - and boy was it boring!

Once the ice had melted we spent a month cruising up and down the Macclesfield Canal, trapped in by the winter maintenance stoppages at Bosley and Marple. We’ve cruised this canal so many times now the boat could steer itself. We finally gave up our moorings in Macclesfield Marina and to celebrate our freedom had a leaving party at the local pub. It was a free-for-all jamming session and Roger made his public debut on guitar.

The winter stoppages ended and we were free! Once we got past the shopping trolleys in Marple locks we headed up the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and spent a wonderful few weeks exploring pastures new. The canal was so quiet we only saw a handful of moving boats all month.

April saw us back on the Macc as we were booked into Kerridge Dry Dock for blacking & I had a few hospital appointments back in Manchester. As beautiful as the Macclesfield Canal is, we were glad to be off it again and spent the rest of the month on the Trent & Mersey. The weather was warm and sunny and I even managed some sun-bathing on the roof.

The weather in May was lovely and we spent most of the month on the beautiful River Soar with the highlight  being the Leicester River Festival.

Most of June was spent on the Grand Union Canal, travelling slowly down to Stratford on Avon for the River Festival.

We liked the River Avon so much, that after the River Festival we used Barton Marina as a base while we explored the area.

August  was a busy month with us cruising the River Severn, visiting Worcester Beer Festival and Stourport, followed by the Staffs & Worcester, Shropshire Union, Trent and Mersey and Bridgewater Canals.

The boating highlight of September was the Liverpool Festival, family-wise it was learning that we’re going to be grand-parents. We spent most of the month on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and really enjoyed it, despite all the warnings we’d received about it being a bit dodgy.

We spent most of October in the centre of Manchester in Castlefield Basin, interspersed with trips to Boothstown and Worsley. Viewing Manchester as tourists rather than as residents was an eye-opener as you just don’t appreciate the city you live in while you’re there. We had a great time with several visits from family and friends.

November saw us back on the Shropshire Union, travelling to Chester.

After visiting Ellesmere Port, Christmas shopping kept taking us back for short stop-overs in Chester. Over the holiday period we booked into Tattenhall Marina while we were away visiting, but we couldn’t get out again quick enough and we’re now back on the cut. As long as the water stays liquid we’ll be out and about, only needing to dive back into a marina in case we get frozen in like last year.
Thankfully, the snow we had early in the month has gone and temperatures are quite mild again making for perfect cruising weather into the new year.

2011 was our first full year living aboard.  We travelled 882 miles, through 542 locks and 21 tunnels and we enjoyed every day of it. 

I hope you've enjoyed reading about our travels, I've certainly enjoyed writing about them. I'd like to wish everyone of you a very peaceful, healthy and prosperous New Year, see you again in 2012


Yesterday we moved on to Beeston. We're moored on 48hr moorings opposite Chas Hardern's hire boat yard from where we hired a boat 13 years ago. It was a small 4 berth boat and to say it was cosy would be a gross understatement. It came with a stowaway, a tiny field mouse which lived in the wardrobe. Our dog Charlie was terrified of it, our son thought it was a great fun trying to catch it and our daughter spent the entire weekend on the phone to all her friends trying to get someone to come and rescue her and take her home. Despite that, we had a great time and it was shortly afterwards that we started building boats.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

2011 review part 1

It's been a pretty horrible day today so we decided not to move on. It was so windy at one stage that there were breaking waves on the canal.

Inside it's nice and cosy with logs crackling on the fire and I've used the time to sort through all the photographs I've taken this year. There are hundreds and I'm trying to sort out a few good ones to show you just how good our life really is!

Lets start with some of the wildlife we've seen on our travels this year.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

It's good to be home

We had a wonderful Christmas with our children but it's good to be back home on the boat. Hotels are OK but I much prefer my comfy bed and other luxuries here, the coffee's better too!

We collected Chico from the boarding kennels this morning and have moved out of the marina onto the 48hr moorings on the canal. I know many people like marina life but I hate it. I don't like being trapped in between other boats, looking out of our windows directly into their boat. I don't like having to keep the windows shut so that the boat doesn't fill with evil smelling smoke when one of the neighbours decide to burn their rubbish and I particularly don't like being woken up before the sun's up by the next door neighbour feeding the large flock of noisy ducks right under my bedroom window! I think I'd turn into a real grouch if we had to stay any longer.

One of the best things about Christmas for me is hearing from friends you haven't heard from for a while. We have friends over in New Zealand who have been suffering from earthquakes for more than 12 months and had another 4 large ones over the holiday period, but it's good to hear they are safe and coping with a very altered lifestyle. An old school friend of mine got back in touch after a couple of years and although her news was of having had a really difficult year with family illnesses and losses I hope we can continue to stay in touch more often. Let's hope 2012 is better for everyone.

It's time to plan next year's cruising but we really don't have any fixed ideas of where we want to go as yet. We tend to arrange things around boat and music festivals so we'll start by looking on the internet and see what's already on offer for 2012.  If anyone has any recommendations I'd appreciate the ideas.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Winter Solstice

It's the Winter Solstice so the days start getting longer from now on!  We haven't been bothered by the short days since we moved onto the boat but when we were both still working the short daylight hours were a real problem. We'd get up and go to work in the dark, work indoors all day and then go home in the dark...miserable!  Life is SO much better now.

We're now back in Tattenhall Marina, purely for the convenience of being able to safely leave the boat while we go off visiting friends and family. I don't like marina life but at times of the year like this it's a god-send.  Today we went back to Manchester to see my Mother followed by my Sister and her family. Soon we'll be off to spend Christmas with our kids, can't wait, it'll be wonderful to all together again even if only for a couple of days.

I won't be posting any more blogs now until after the festivities so I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas. May Santa bring all your hearts desire and may you all eat and drink lots of wonderful stuff.

See you soon XXX Yvonne

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Back to Tattenhall

With all the Christmas shopping finished, we cruised back to Tatenhall today. We're moored outside the marina on the 48hr moorings but will move onto the visitor moorings in the marina tomorrow for a week. This is so that we can safely leave the boat while we go off visiting family and friends again. Also we'll plug into the electric so I can leave the TV recorder box on while we're away.

While we were in Chester we met the skipper of the restaurant boat "L' Eau -T Cuisine" who boaters may know as Bargee Bill, the inventer of Bargee Bill's Prop Cleaner. He's a real character and invited us to join him and his wife at the Mill Hotel last night for a bite to eat and for the Jazz Night. The bar (which has a good selection of real ales and excellent bar food) was packed and the group who play there every Monday were very good.  I think we'll have to go back in the new year for another visit.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Back to Chester

When we got up this morning the weather was awful; heavy hail which was freezing onto the pontoons and paths, but by 10.00 it had stopped and was brightening up a treat. We moved over to the service pontoon and did a pump-out (£12.50) and filled up with diesel (£0.86 / £1.36 a litre - any split) and then headed off back to Chester.  It was cold and and we had a couple of light showers, but as they say "there's no wrong weather, just wrong clothes" so with thermals and waterproof snow-boarding clothes on we were both nice and toasty. I drove for the first couple of hours while Roger stayed inside and played his guitar and then we had a nice easy trip down the locks.  We passed a few other moving boats and then met the restaurant boat at Chemistry Lock. It was good to be back on the move. I get really fed up staying in a marina.

Chester is very busy with Christmas shoppers and we also saw several stag parties setting off for their nights out. One group of about 20 were dressed as penguins, unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me but they looked very comical.

Friday, 16 December 2011

We're snowed in!

We'd planned on leaving the marina this morning to go back to Chester for the weekend but at 8.30 it started snowing and by 10.00 the ground was covered with almost an inch of the white stuff. I suppose we could have gone cruising as we both have all the cold and wet weather gear,  but at times the wind was blowing the snow horizontally so we decided to stay here in the marina for another day.

We'll have to move tomorrow, even if it's only over to the pump-out and diesel pontoon as one tank's full and the other's getting rather low.

Monday, 12 December 2011

It's been another bright and sunny day although the wind's quite bitter. 

This morning we collected Chico from the local kennels where he's spent the weekend.  I always shower him as soon as he comes home to get rid of the smell of the kennel and just in case he's picked up any fleas. Unlike Charlie who absolutely loved baths and showers, Chico hates them and had to be bribed with sweeties. He then curled up in front of the fire and caught up on lost sleep.

I've spent the day catching up on the washing, making the most of being plugged into the electric.  It's also been bread-making day and this afternoon when we came back from Chico's walk, the boat was lovely and cosy with the fire ticking away slowly and smelled of fresh bread. 

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Tattenhall Marina

We got back from Macclesfield early this afternoon after spending a very enjoyable evening at the Davenport Arms pub/restaurant at Marton. The food wasn't as good as on previous visits but the company was good and it was great to catch up with old friends.

Opposite the entrance to the marina there's an ice-cream farm and we called in to have a look on the way home this afternoon. It wasn't very busy, just a few families with young children so we stopped and had an ice-cream cornet. I had "cherry crumble" and Roger had "sherry trifle", both very nice and it's a good job the freezer's full or I may have been tempted to get a "take-away" carton.

We've put the Christmas decorations up, but as we're still planning on cruising until closer to Christmas we haven't put the outside lights up yet. It won't seem like Christmas is nearly here until Roger gets the roof covered, he's just a big kid at heart!

Our mooring here in the marina is covered by the web-cam so if you're interested you can spy on us here

Friday, 9 December 2011


Tuesday night saw us moored back in Chester. This time we used our new security feature to make sure the little loves couldn't untie us again. Roger bought some plastic covered wire rope and made a loop at each end. The plastic stops it rubbing the paintwork and the loops mean we can pass it through mooring rings or pilings and back up to the centre mooring ring to fasten the 2 ends together with a padlock. Job done for less than a tenner!

On Wednesday we carried on up the 5 locks out of Chester to moor at Christleton, outside the Cheshire Cat pub.  It had been a bit breezy but had again been a bright and sunny day, perfect for cruising.  This all changed however, as the gales and heavy rain settled in for the night, so much so that it was too windy to carry on on Thursday. We spent yesterday cosy and warm indoors, Roger trying to mend his laptop and me knitting Christmas presents, while the gale raged on outside.

This morning all's quiet again and the sun is shining once more. We're moving into Tattenhall Marina again, just for the weekend, while we go off to a Christmas party in Macclesfield.  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, see you again next week.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Into the middle of nowhere

We were down to our last bag of coal this morning and didn't know of anywhere to buy it until we get back to Tattenhall Marina. Roger went on the internet to try and find somewhere in Ellesmere Port we could pick up a bag of fuel. He found this company Golden Coals which sell biomass fuels and deliver for free.  By phoning them we were promised a delivery of 3 x 15kg bags of wood briquettes at 1pm and dead on the dot they arrived. Total cost £17.50. The only draw-back we can see so far is that they have to be kept dry as they swell up on contact with water, which means we have to store them in the cratch rather than on the roof. I've just tried them for the first time and using just 4 briquettes has given us a nice hot fire. The manufacturer claims they are 100% carbon neutral and you can even add the cold ashes to the compost heap, or in our case the nearest hedge.

As soon as we'd stowed the bags of briquettes we set off again. This morning the weather was dreadful with hail, rain and strong winds, but this afternoon it's been lovely.  The wind was still cold and gusty but we've had plenty of sunshine and clear blue skies; no sign of snow round here!

We're now moored in the middle of nowhere, on one of the excellent lengths of 48hour moorings provided by the Shropshire Union Canal Society. Thanks guys! We joined the society a couple of years ago. It's only £10 a year and helps towards the upkeep of all these mooring spots.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Ellesmere Port

The weather hasn't been as nice today. We've had a few heavy showers and gusty winds but it didn't keep us indoors for long. We went to B&Q via the very handy sub-way underneath the motorway and then had a walk into the town of Ellesmere Port but, to be honest, there's not a lot there. Because it's Sunday, almost all of the shops were closed and the town itself looked quite run down. There was, however, quite a nice arty sculpture at one of the cross-roads.

The upper canal basin where we're moored is separated from the Manchester Ship Canal by a car park and beyond that is the River Mersey Estuary. One of the many ships using the Ship Canal obligingly went past just as I was taking these photos.

The tide went out later and all you could see was sand beyond the Ship Canal. You can just make out Liverpool Airport across the estuary.

Looking up-stream you can see the huge Stanlow Oil Refinery.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Ellesmere Port

This morning we set off to Ellesmere Port.  The sun shone all day and even though the wind was a bit bitter at times it was perfect cruising weather; the sort of day that makes me glad we're not holed up in a marina yet.

The canal follows the city walls for a while and this section of the towpath is well used by walkers, but is a bit of a rat- race for cyclists.

There's a staircase of three locks which take you down onto the Ellesmere Port section of the canal and the views of the Welsh Hills from the top lock are quite spectacular.

I didn't enjoy taking the boat down the locks as they're VERY deep. When we come back next week, Roger can steer and I'll do the work; much more fun!

We passed this field full of rare breed Jacob's sheep. Unfortunately my freezer is full, otherwise I might have been tempted to stop and buy some.

The ram in the field had been having fun. Several of the ewes had his red mark on their backs and there were plenty left for him to service.

We arrived at Ellesmere Port around 3pm. We hadn't seen any other moving boats all day and there was only one other moored boat in the basin.

This boat had a winter mooring permit in it's window so must be here for the duration, which only leaves one space on the visitor moorings, now occupied by us. It's quite an unusual layout for a boat as it only has windows on one side. In all our years building boats we were never asked for anything like that. I'm intrigued as to the internal lay-out so might have to get chatting to them tomorrow.