COVID19 Cruising through Northern England | Australian Frequent Flyer
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COVID19 Cruising through Northern England

Reggie

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So after 14 years on AFF, I thought it was time to write my first trip report.

Tomorrow (7/8/2020), we (the wife and son) pick up our new canal boat. We hired a canal boat back in October 2018, and cruised the Bridgewater Canal for four days and really enjoyed. We have been walking the canal towpaths near us during lockdown and decided that as it was likely that our 3 week cruise to Iceland and Greenland was going to be cancelled, we should organise our own cruise. So the hunt started for a narrow boat commenced. We didn’t want a wide beam (.... yet, need to cruise the narrow canals first), didn’t want longer than 57’ as some canal locks can’t fit any longer than that in. As we intended to leisure cruise rather then be residential, we settled on looking for something below 40’ as easier to handle, easier to turn, don’t get wet in leaky locks, and most importantly ….. cheaper.

So the hunt started, but narrow boats were selling within hours of listing, or where very expensive as they had berths near London. That added, we didn’t want to have to cruise a boat all the way from down south to the north. Eventually we found a boat that had been advertised on one of the less well known pages, and it was north of Bradford (we are based in Manchester). So after an initial visit, we arranged to go back and take it out for a test drive cruise. Needless to say it all came back to us and we loved it. So a price was agreed subject to a survey.

Two weeks ago, the boat was craned out of the canal, surveyed, some minor repairs and the hull blackened. After the work was completed the boat was craned back into canal, and we cruised it back to the sellers marina mooring.

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So tomorrow we pick up our 40' "caravan" on water and head towards the Bingley Five Rise Locks

www.penninewaterways.co.uk/ll/bingleyfiverise.htm
 

lovetravellingoz

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and head towards the Bingley Five Rise Locks
Thank you, and I am looking forward to this as I love boat/yacht trips and also last time we were in the UK we stayed with some English friends, that we made while driving 4WDs overland in Africa and who who live in Leicester, and one day we spent walking along the canal system including the Foxton Locks, which is two staircases of 5 locks, and are the largest flight of such staircase locks on the English canal system. Apart from canal it was also most interesting to check out the canal boats.

It had a great pub for lunch too ;) The Foxton Locks Inn.



 

VPS

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Following along. Many years ago I did a hotel cruise on a barge - we went from Hungerford to Pewsey and it was 14 miles and it took 4 days. You could literally walk quicker than the boat but it was just a wonderful time. Have fun.
 

Reggie

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The Foxton Locks, which is two staircases of 5 locks, and are the largest flight of such staircase locks on the English canal system
The Leister Canal will be a trip for another time, and more likely another year. Today, if things go to plan, should be numerous swing bridges, where my son loves being the one to turn the key and stopping traffic, there are two double staircase locks and one triple staircase lock. Hoping to get the Bingley three rise towards the front of the queue for tomorrows climb through both the three and five rise locks, otherwise we'll have a day sitting in Bingley, more on that later.
 

Reggie

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Following along. Many years ago I did a hotel cruise on a barge - we went from Hungerford to Pewsey and it was 14 miles and it took 4 days. You could literally walk quicker than the boat but it was just a wonderful time. Have fun.
The locks and swing / draw bridges, result in walking being a faster mode of transport, however, the open stretches are quicker in the boat, but the views are wonderful. Plus the weather is going to be warmer here this weekend than most of southern Australia.
 

Major

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Looking forward to this. Several decades ago spent some time on a boat in the Norfolk Broads. Very peaceful
 
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Reggie

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Friday

Things did not according to plan, just like our original summer holder plans for 2020.

First of all, we didn’t get away from home until lunch, time after dropping off the cat and packing the car. When we got to the marina, our new boat had been moored close the car park, so that was a major win. We load everything that bought with us. Imagine moving into you new house, we needed pretty much everything.

By the time we had received a run down on how to run the boat, the water, the sewerage, the diesel tank, the heater etc etc, we signed the paper work and set off at around 1430. Disappointingly , the previous owner had left the diesel tank almost empty, the sewerage was almost full and was really on the nose, and one of the gas bottles was empty, even though he said he would take care of this and I could settle up with him for the cost. So first stop would be a services (like a motorway services, but on the canal and without the food and casino). Anyway, hi ho Captain Reggie was off.

We arrived at the first swing bridge which was electric, so you put a key in turn it, and the boom gates stop the traffic, and the bridge swings to allow the boat through. Within about a hundred metres is the first lock, but in this case it’s a two rise stair case lock. Unfortunately, there was already a boat in the top lock coming down, and they hadn’t emptied the bottom lock, so the water had nowhere to go but flood the surround area (flood the lock), so we raced to the bottom lock and opened the door paddles to help to let the water out. We finally got up the locks then through some more swing bridges (physical manpower required, like the locks), onto a three rise stair case lock, and lady luck had smiled on us, the locks were set for us, so we opened bottom gate and cruised in. This three rise stair lock took half the time of two rise. However time was against us, and the inside of the boat was smelling pretty bad, the kettle was tripping out the inverter and the joys of canal cruise looked fairly distant. Luckily we could boil water in a pot on the stove, and as they say over here “Calm down and make a brew”

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Operating a Lock

So then it was what turned out to be the last swing bridge for day, and it was my turn, thank goodness, it was another electric bridge.

Day one to be continued .... (spoiler, we didn't make the Bingley staircase rises)
 

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Reggie

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Friday continues

At 6 o’clock we finally arrive at the services, which was the same place the boat was craned of the water and surveyed before we bought it, knowing full well we wouldn’t be making the Bingley three and five rise’s today. The services were shut, so we moored up, resigned the fact we were going to have to sleep in what smelled like a portable toilet at the end of a long weekend concert. The owner of the boat yard then came out, and was about to move us on thinking we were “continuous cruisers coming to take his water and run amuck” When he realised we were customers, he was fine with us mooring up, and sorted us a new gas bottle and topped the diesel up there and then. I was in for an expensive shock, the previous owner had told me the diesel tank had a 70 litre capacity, so I left the bloke to it, next thing I knew there was 170 litres on the pump and he was still going, so I said hang on. We then checked the canal and the engine bay to ensure that I wasn’t sending diesel over board. Turns out the tanks are much larger, and until I get a tape measure onto to them to work the volume out I won’t really know, but likely 200+ litres.

After that, I cleaned the weed hatch out. Due to the COVID19 lock down here, the canals have been very quiet and thus the lack of boats has resulted in the water weed taking hold. So the propellers of the boats are effectively becoming underwater brush cutters. At the least the water wasn’t too cold.

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At this point we realised we’d forgot the towels

Dinner was not up to the normal AFF standards, but with an 11 year old it was suited, McDonalds just up from our mooring, I won’t post photos of the meal. Then into ALDI to pick up a some stuff that we had forgotten, or had planned to get when we stopped for the pump out.

No towels or dust pan and brushes in ALDI, so after dropping stuff back at boat, off to ASDA, got there and we had forgotten the facemasks. L. We were happy to crawl into bed.

Grand total for the day ……………..

4 miles, 5 locks and 6 moveable bridges.

Nb – continuous cruisers are those without a home mooring, They are “supposed” to continually move from place to place over a total range of 20 miles or more rather than just shuttling back and forth between two or three places. They should not stay in the same neighbourhood or locally for more than 14 days. It’s a big problem in London, as people are trying to avoid high rents, residential mooring fees and council tax by claiming to be continuous cruising but actually visitor mooring swapping or not moving from the neighbourhood.
 
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Reggie

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Saturday

An uneventful night on the boat. The mattress was much more comfortable than I thought, nut my first mate (Mrs Reggie) was snoring like a foghorn, so broken sleep, we eventually got up about half eight, and first mate says it was the best sleep she’s had in a while 🤬.

Pump the septic tank out, pay the service and we’re off ….. sort of. Had to stop up the canal a bit and duck into ASDA to pick some other essential items we had forgotten, like dishwashing detergent.🙁 Problem is, we keep forgetting the compulsory face mask thing, and the walk to the car to get them from carpark is considerably shorter than back to the canal. Then the first mate says, junior needs a haircut, which has been impossible around home as they are all still booked solid since lockdown lifted, but we managed to get him straight into a barber’s seat. After all that we didn’t cast off until about 1:00pm.

1596979114409.png

At the two rise staircase lock, the first mate lost control of the boat and lost the stern into the offside trees whilst I and junior where emptying the bottom lock. The water from the lock and the overflow had pushed the boat backwards, and “apparently” anyone who says they can steer a narrowboat in reverse is not being truthful (again apparently). When I heard the screaming, I looked over the draining lock to watch first mate power forward and put the boat into the towpath bank. At that point first mate picked up her bat and ball and said I could steer, and stamped off to operate the lock gates and paddles. We got through the locks, and will be booking the marriage counselling for the week if we get back, (local COVID19 lockdown permitting).

1596979141836.png

Dowley Gap Aqueduct, photo by CRT (as probably guessed, I couldn’t take this from the boat)
Rest of the day was uneventful, and we reached the Bingley 3 rise staircase lock just in time to have assisted passage up the locks and be let into the pound area between the five and three rises. This is a very beautiful area with nice shade, which was very appreciated after one of the hottest days of the year.
 
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Reggie

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Saturday cont...

Entering the bottom lock

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After again cleaning the weeds from around the propeller and the shaft, we then had a look around Bingley and the 5 rise. There was beautiful little café at the top of the five rise, there were plenty of boats moored at the top including wide beam, narrow boats and cabin cruisers. We had a chat with a few of the other cruisers and caught up on the gossip of what to expect, and where not to moor as we move towards Wigan.

Canal and River Trust sent us an email which put a damper on things, stating that navigation is closed on the Wigan Flight whilst their engineers, along with fabricators, continue to design and manufacture a steel frame to repair the heel post at Lock 73 on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, and they anticipate works will commence onsite next week and an update will be provided Friday, 14 August. This means that we may be delayed in getting to our permanent mooring , and where we left the first officers car.

Finally we met some friends in our bubble and had a socially distanced meal and drinks in a near by pub – The Brown Cow

Total for the day ……………..
3 miles, 6 locks, 2 moveable bridges and one major aqueduct (Dowley Gap Aqueduct) .

Grand total for the trip ……………..
7 miles, 11 locks and 8 moveable bridges.
 

Reggie

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Wow, what a week. I tried to keep this trip report up to date on relatively live basis, but between skippering the boat, and poor internet, it just didn't happen.

Sunday
Beautiful night sleep in the pound between the Bingley 3 rise and 5 rise locks. Shower in the Canal and River Trust service facilities was wonderful. Its good to see where our license fees are being spent

Late start, as we had to wait for the first two boats to come down the locks. We then went up the staircase locks, which was an assisted journey as Canal and Rivers Trust (CRT) personnel operate these locks. With assisted journey, we get to stay on the boat.

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Some shopping and lunch in Keighley, and then onto Skipton, the scenery was magical and the weather was fantastic, not as hot as the day before

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We had 17 moveable bridges, majority of them were swing bridges that had to be moved by hand. However the bridges were so heavy and not well maintained that the first officer was unable to move the bridges even with the help of junior. So I had to get off and operate the bridges, the photo below shows one of the first attempts of Mrs Reggie trying to navigate through the canal and swing bridge.

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She wasn't happy about me taking a photo rather than helping her. She is still blaming the wind:)

We finally made it into Skipton, and moored up at the Skipton Visitor Moorings.

Total for the day ……………..
12 miles, 5 locks, 17 moveable bridges

Grand total for the trip ……………..
19 miles, 16 locks and 25 moveable bridges.
 

Reggie

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Its been a long time since my last update, and lots has happened since, but back to where we were

Monday,

I arose early and wanted to get a start on the day before everyone else got going. Yesterday (Sunday) had been interesting dodging the day hire boats coming the other way. They seem to be over loaded with people, inside and on the roof. The funniest / worst was the big bloke coming the other way wearing a sailors cap, beer in hand, 20 odd people onboard, steering his day hire boat through a bridge opened by my missus for us and the other boat heading in the same direction, yelling "sorry, I don't know how to stop or reverse this thing."

Anyway I digress, I needed to get water and empty the weed hatch, which I had neglected to do the night before. As to loosen the weed hatch requires a hammer, I thought I would do that at the water point where it would be quieter for the rest of the boaters still asleep. I also thought it would be thoughtful to not start the engine moored up, but push off and start in the middle of the cut, big mistake number 1 and 2 ................

So I push off, boat floats into middle of canal, and I try to start the boat, rrrrrrrrrrrrrr, rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Now we are floating uncontrolled (no propeller no steering) in the middle of the canal. The wife and son still in bed, and me crapping it. Tried one last time to start the engine ................ no, at this point I gave up trying to start the engine, and started to think how to get the boat to one side of the other. There was a slight breeze, plus the momentum of my push off, so the other side and behind where the water point was my preferred attempt option. I grabbed the barge pole from the roof, and like an inexperienced gondolier, I tried to push this 40 foot hunk of steel to the side.

I finally maneuvered the boat to the other side a little past the water point, but there was a sill edge, and the boat beached on this edge. Luckily I was able to jump onto the edge with a rope and start the pull the boat backwards, then the wind picks up the front of the boat and starts to push it off the bank towards the middle of the canal, thank fully the Mrs Reggie appears and says, darling you look like your having difficultly, would you like a hand, (this is how I choose to remember the conversation, but truth be told it was full of expletives of how stupid I was, and that I had woken her at an ungodly hour and now she was out in her pajamas trying to help me move the boat and secure it). Thankfully we were both able to pull the boat back to the water point and moor it up. Even more thankfully no one saw the whole event.

Inside we go for a quick breakfast and a cup of tea to work out our next move. For those who don't know, boats generally have an engine (starter) battery and a number of leisure batteries to run the internal power, fridge, lights, sockets, 240V inverter etc etc. Google was my friend and suggested that I could try to jump start the engine battery from the leisure batteries, great idea. Problem was I left the jumper leads in the back of my car, back at the Marina. Googled to see if we could find a battery delivery service, or if there was an RAC service for boats (actually we found there is - River, Canal Rescue). Had we been back in Keighley where we stopped during the day before, there a few battery place right near the canal, but not the case here in Skipton. We made the decision to wait til the shops opened then we would go and look for a set of jumper leads.

Mistakes not to be repeated, never push off until the engine is running, never wake Mrs Reggie by beaching the boat on the canal sill.,
 

Reggie

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Monday continues ....

I fill up the boat with water, and then with Mrs Reggie's help I pull the boat as far forward as we can from the water point, as you are not supposed to moor in front of a services of water point unless you are getting water, but I wasn't going to try and barge pole the boat back across the canal.

We set off to the shops, get almost there, and have to go back to get our face masks:mad:. Get into B&M, no jumper leads, but thy do have a 5 in 1 battery jump kit. I was very tempted to buy it (wasn't cheap) but was concerned how long it had been on the shelf and that it might not have enough charge still in it. So off to Morrisons, no luck there but was advised to try their petrol station, no luck there, told to try B&M. :mad::mad:. So last of all into Tesco and YES, jumper leads for 10quid. Purchase them, race back to boat hook them up, hey presto, the boat starts, rev the boat and keep running to charge the batteries.

By this stage its about 11:30 so we decide to make use of the governments eat out to help out where they paid for %50 of our food and non alcoholic drinks up to 10 pound each. We found a Wetherspoons nearby and managed to beat the rush to get a seat, within 15 minutes there was a queue to get a table. Beautiful lunhc of ribs for me and junior and Mrs Reggie had a salad of some type. On the way back to the boat we had a look through the numerous second hand and and antique shops, and Mrs Reggie picked up some books and junior picked up a few DVDs.

Back at the boat, the service area had got busy with several boats moored up and one looking to moore, so we jumped on the boat and pushed off (after starting the engine) and made space before we got yelled at.

It was a very beautiful and peaceful cruise through Skipton and out into the country side. About an hour after setting off, we heard an alarm start sounding inside the cabin, and I looked down at the temp gauge, which along with oil pressure gauge, is mounted just above the floor level, and it was showing 120 degrees. So pull over to the towpath side as quickly as possible, turn engine off and moor up. This day was getting better and better. By this stage, I was having big regrets over buying this boat, and buying a boat full stop. I lift the engine cover which also serves as the stern deck, where we stand and steer from, and the engine is red hot, steam coming out the cap and you could see the heat coming of the engine block. At first I had assumed it was the fan belt, as the previous owner told me it need a new belt and there was one in the box, but he hadn't had time to fit it. However the belt was fine, so then I assumed cooling system needed water, but being too hot to touch, I was looking to see if it was a blown hose, but also couldn't see any sign of that either. Whilst waiting for it to cool down, I rang the previous owner, who surprisingly and thankfully answered, and when I told him what had happened, he said, oh yeah, it will need water topping up, it did the same to me last year when I picked it up. It can do this on hot days like this (England hot day, not Australia hot day). After the the engine cooled down I was able to get 4 liters of water into the cooling system.

Off we set again, this day was not turning out good, so we decided we needed to get some miles in that evening and would likely have a late finish. When we reached the first lock for the day, there was a lovely family who had just picked up a 60' hire boat, and were waiting for the boats in front of them to finish in the lock. The family had a trainer from the hire company at the lock showing them what to do and how to use the locks. As they had a 60' boat, they took up most of the length of the lock and had to be very careful not to get hung up on the sill, otherwise they could sink the boat. They were very nervous, so we offered to pair up with them for as many bridges and locks and as late as they wanted. In the end we went through 4 locks with them before it was getting too late for them (hire boats aren't allowed to cruise after dark.

We ended up mooring up at just on 7pm at Gargrave CRT Longterm moorings. It was a beautiful rural location just west of Gargrave itself.

Total for the day ……………..
6 miles, 6 locks, 5 moveable bridges

Grand total for the trip ……………..
25 miles, 22 locks and 30 moveable bridges.

Overall, a pretty crappy day, and I had real doubts and regrets about buying a boat. By the end of the day, things had improved, but jury was still out.

Regarding the sills in locks and sinking boats, two incidents in past month


and from last year

 

Reggie

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Tuesday,

Bit of a sleep in, leisurely start, cooked breakfast, shower and top up water. Then straight into our first lock of the day at Bank Newton, a flight of 6 locks.

IMG_0172.JPG IMG_0174.JPG

Double arch bridge in East Marton

Travel to Barnoldswick, and think it would it be a great place to have lunch, support the local cafe's or pubs, and make use of the eat out to help out. We moored up and walked into the town centre arriving at about 2:30pm. The town was heaving, pubs and cafe's everywhere. However, none of the pubs were serving meals, and the cafe's said they stopped serving lunch at 2, and were only doing high tea. The cookers were still on, there was food still available, and they were open, but none of them wanted to cook lunch for three if us. We couldn't beleive it, after lock down and all the lost business, we would have thought it would be like other areas and they would be clambering for business, but not in Barnoldswick. So instead I found a restaurant for dinner at our planned stop for the night, and booked that. We then had an ice cream at a beautiful little ice cream shop and then stopped at Aldi on way back to boat to pick some food up.

Junior did some magnet fishing near where we moored up, and caught a multitude of old metal items, including mooring stakes and a road cats eye.

After about and hour, we set off and crossed the border from Yorkshire into Lancashire, no police in sight to check if we had the correct authorisation to cross over. No traffic jams, no barricades to stop boats trying to sneak in. :) .

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We reached our overnight stay at the Foulridge Tunnel Visitors Moorings North East side at just after 6pm

Total for the day ……………..
9 miles, 9 locks, no moveable bridges

Grand total for the trip ……………..
34 miles, 31 locks and 30 moveable bridges.
 

VPS

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I do find it interesting that some cafes (and it happened to me recently in Adelaide) that you go in at 3.05 and they say no the kitchen closes at 3pm. I wonder if it's the employees who just want to get out of there and if it was the owners they could think - here's another $30 or $40 I can do that.
 

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