Author Topic: Middlewich to Ellesmere by narrowboat  (Read 1192 times)

Wowbagger

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    • Musings of a Gentleman Cyclist
Middlewich to Ellesmere by narrowboat
« on: October 25, 2019, 06:43:32 pm »
It being the week of my dear wife’s birthday, we decided to spend it touring even more slowly than we do when cycling. I did far too little research and then booked a >50’ narrowboat from Andersen Boats of Middlewich and, as advised by them, we decided to head for Llangollen along the Shropshire Union and Llangollen canals.

Frankly, we were ill-advised. To try to do that sort of distance in a week makes it far too much like sodding audax. We were always struggling to keep up with the clock to the extent that we never got the chance to stop and enjoy ourselves. That is, until we decided to do it properly and aim for far fewer miles in the day and to make for Ellesmere instead. Then it became fun. I should add that we would probable have had no trouble in the summer when you have nice long evenings, but our absolute limit was 6pm as then it got dark and we had to find somewhere to moor for the night.

Narrowboat are big. I think the example we have hired, the “Fjord Princess”, weighs about 15 tons. There is a speed limit on the canal of 4mph, but that’s too fast really. The damned thing has a mind of its own at that speed and if you don’t pay absolute attention and it starts veering towards the bank then it becomes very unwieldy and is a sod to right again. The boat can only be stopped by going into reverse but the you lose the steering. It is mentally and physically tiring to drive and I found that at the end of long days I was getting very tired.

Today the weather forecast was for a spell of more than 24 hours’ non-stop rain from about 10am, so we have hunkered down in Whitchurch until lunch time tomorrow. This morning we set off at first light and had covered the 6 miles to Whitchurch in a little over 2 hours. We have to get the boat back to Middlewich by 9am Monday, so we might have even earlier starts as the clocks go back this weekend.

Would we do it again? Definitely! I am disappointed that we didn’t make it to the Pontcysyllte aqueduct but there are so many miles of canal to explore that I reckon we have a fair few holidays on narrowboat in store for as long as Jan has the physical capacity to operate a lock or a lifting bridge. She flatly refused to drive the boat.
Oh, Bach without any doubt. Bach every time for me.

Wowbagger

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    • Musings of a Gentleman Cyclist
Re: Middlewich to Ellesmere by narrowboat
« Reply #1 on: October 25, 2019, 08:32:38 pm »
A couple of additional point: firstly, there are some proper navigators of narrowboats on this forum. I have 5 days’ experience.

Secondly, they are amazingly economical to run: about 10 litres of diesel will keep the thing chugging away for about 8 hours.
Oh, Bach without any doubt. Bach every time for me.

Re: Middlewich to Ellesmere by narrowboat
« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2019, 11:08:37 pm »
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Jh5mjdJPpQ   ;)


A very long time since I've watched this.
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Wowbagger

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Re: Middlewich to Ellesmere by narrowboat
« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2019, 10:46:53 am »
I don’t remember seeing that before. No-one wears a woolly hat quite as effectively as Ronnie Barker.
Oh, Bach without any doubt. Bach every time for me.

T42

  • Tea tank
Re: Middlewich to Ellesmere by narrowboat
« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2019, 11:25:49 am »
Narrow people, too! :)
I've dusted all those old bottles and set them up straight.

Re: Middlewich to Ellesmere by narrowboat
« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2019, 11:57:21 am »
Secondly, they are amazingly economical to run: about 10 litres of diesel will keep the thing chugging away for about 8 hours.

Urm. Ah. Hmm

3.2 miles per liter (assuming 4 mph) = 12 mpg.

Just sayin'

MikeFromLFE

  • Previously known as Millimole
Re: Middlewich to Ellesmere by narrowboat
« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2019, 07:07:31 pm »
Having spent far too many hours in the last 7 years volunteering around canals as a volunteer lock keeper / towpath ranger I think you've hit the nail on the head when you talk about pacing yourself.

My observation is that the journey suggested by the hire boat base may have been realistic for an experienced (and fit) crew, but for a newbie (or an elderly couple for example) it was plainly wrong. It's a bit like a bike hire company hiring a bike and telling someone to go off and do LeJog.
Unfortunately the Hire Boat Companies seem to sell dreams - they will paint a picture of lazy days floating along on a haze of wine fuelled calm - when in reality it can, as you've found out, be bloody hard work. It doesn't have to be a hard slog, if you've got a good team, and a realistic idea of what you want to do (decent weather helps as well). As you rightly say, the parallels to cycletouring are there to be found.
Hire boat bases seem to vary enormously in quality - some give almost no safety instruction (canals and particularly locks are seriously dangerous places), some give little advice around how to control the boat, how and where to moor up, and the advice on boat safety (Carbon Monoxide in particular) can be woeful - there are exceptions, and I sometimes wonder if it depends on who does the handover, rather than the company or the base.

Many people live on their canal boats (narrow or otherwise) either all year round, or during the summer - and are jolly happy doing so. It's not for the faint hearted, particulalry as winter approaches. I heard a story last summer from a couple who'd sold their house a decade ago to move onto their boat full time - they had thoroughly enjoyed their first 7 years or so, then the wife became ill, but because the boat's value was depreciating, and house prices were going up, they couldn't afford to buy a house, and because they were 'of no fixed abode' they were having major difficulties getting a local authority to home them.

The Llangollen Canal was the scene of our last narrow boat holiday - and a really pretty waterway it is too. Maybe best seen at this time of the year when it's not too busy, and the autumn colours are coming to an end. The area around Ellesmere, and its meres, is also very pretty from the canals.


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Re: Middlewich to Ellesmere by narrowboat
« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2019, 02:00:45 pm »
I agree with above. On our first trip, the kids were little so we took out time and never got very far. The second time they were old enough to operate the locks as well as steer the boat so with 4 able people, we did the Cheshire ring (90 miles and 100 locks) in a 1 week hire - something that we could have never managed previously.
I am often asked, what does YOAV stand for? It stands for Yoav On A Velo

Wowbagger

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Re: Middlewich to Ellesmere by narrowboat
« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2019, 08:53:00 pm »
There was some excitement on t’cut today.

As some may have observed, there has been an above average amount of precipitation in the Wales/Cheshire area recently. This has some significance for the Llangollen canal as it was originally designed as a conduit for water to be taken from Wales into England rather than for navigation, or so I understand. It’s uphill all the way from Middlewich to Llangollen. The water constantly flows from west to east.

Thus it is that every lock has a weir and there is not normally a great deal of rise or fall in the water level. We were quite surprised, therefore, that after descending a particular lock this morning, that the level was so high that the canal was overflowing onto the towpath in places. We carried on, but at the next lock we discovered the reason: yesterday evening someone had had the misfortune to have their boat carried by the current in such a way that it completely dammed the weir alongside a lock. Try as they might, their boat’s engine could not generate enough power to pull them away from the force of the water. They had been there all night. That caused a lot of water to build up.

Some canaland rivers trust bods turned up and released them by the expedient of opening all the paddles on the adjacent lock and reducing the pressure on them. However, this had the knock-on effect that the next stretch of canal the became over full, and soon everything downstream became a raging torrent.

We were obliged to sit it out for the best part of an hour as the level dropped. Even so, when we did eventually tackle the lock in question, the force from the weir swept us alarmingly to one side. Exciting stuff!
Oh, Bach without any doubt. Bach every time for me.

Wowbagger

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Re: Middlewich to Ellesmere by narrowboat
« Reply #9 on: October 27, 2019, 08:57:46 pm »
Our instruction consisted of two blokes guiding us through three locks immediately adjacent to th Andersen boat yard. Once we had done that, we were on our own, which enabled me to make a complete pig’s breakfast of the sharp right turn into the branch of the Shropshire Union.
Oh, Bach without any doubt. Bach every time for me.

Re: Middlewich to Ellesmere by narrowboat
« Reply #10 on: October 27, 2019, 09:56:31 pm »
The concrete kerbs at the bottom of the lock gates can be a bit scary. ( I don't know the correct technical term.)
Get a bicycle. You will never regret it, if you live- Mark Twain

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Middlewich to Ellesmere by narrowboat
« Reply #11 on: October 27, 2019, 09:59:10 pm »
We carried on, but at the next lock we discovered the reason: yesterday evening someone had had the misfortune to have their boat carried by the current in such a way that it completely dammed the weir alongside a lock. Try as they might, their boat’s engine could not generate enough power to pull them away from the force of the water.

This is the sort of thing that divers refer to as delta-p, which is one of the more exciting ways to die underwater.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Tim Hall

  • I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes
Re: Middlewich to Ellesmere by narrowboat
« Reply #12 on: October 27, 2019, 10:12:41 pm »
The concrete kerbs at the bottom of the lock gates can be a bit scary. ( I don't know the correct technical term.)
Sill. Keep away.
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"overhaul" it, or you can ride it.  (Jerome K Jerome)

Re: Middlewich to Ellesmere by narrowboat
« Reply #13 on: October 28, 2019, 05:04:48 pm »
Keep away from sills!

As you have probably discovered, boats have an inertia. You start to steer, nothing seems to happen - then they start turning - then you discover you are turning too far. The trick is to steer gently and straighten up the tiller part way through the turn. Every boat is different and you have to develop a feel for it. Also, due to prop walk, boats will turn quicker one direction than the other.

Putting the tiller over too far will reduce the turning ability - the prop wash will 'detach' from the rudder - and your steering will not be as effective. Again, this is dependent on boat and speed.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with warping a boat into a confined space (walking, pulling it in with ropes). Much better to do that, slowly, than trying to motor in and crash into things.
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MikeFromLFE

  • Previously known as Millimole
Re: Middlewich to Ellesmere by narrowboat
« Reply #14 on: October 28, 2019, 07:39:38 pm »
Our instruction consisted of two blokes guiding us through three locks immediately adjacent to th Andersen boat yard. Once we had done that, we were on our own, which enabled me to make a complete pig’s breakfast of the sharp right turn into the branch of the Shropshire Union.
At least you got two blokes taking you three locks away.

There's a timeshare-boat collection base in our general neck of the woods that regularly sends folk (usually those with less-than-perfect English) out with little more instruction than (a) "that's forward & you steer with that thing" and (b) "avoid Leicester - you'll die if you go anywhere near". (Please don't get me started on the waterway myths about how dreadful Leicester is)

Cills (or sills) - have killed people. Windlasses have maimed people.

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Cudzoziemiec

  • Waking up now, put the kettle on!
Re: Middlewich to Ellesmere by narrowboat
« Reply #15 on: October 28, 2019, 07:50:49 pm »
Just thinking – when canals were working transport, bargees had hard, dangerous, poorly paid work. Now canals are a leisure facility. Will the same happen to eg mines?
I do not ride a great big Mercian, gangster tanwalls, fixed cog in the back.

Re: Middlewich to Ellesmere by narrowboat
« Reply #16 on: October 28, 2019, 07:52:21 pm »
I recall taking a boat up to Ellesmere Port in the 80s (or was it the 70s?).  The northern end of the canal was a refuse tip of every kind of rubbish, including shopping trolleys and even a dead dog (which made a surprisingly loud 'clang!' when hit by the propeller).

yorkie

  • On top of the Galibier
Re: Middlewich to Ellesmere by narrowboat
« Reply #17 on: October 28, 2019, 10:11:16 pm »
Just thinking – when canals were working transport, bargees had hard, dangerous, poorly paid work. Now canals are a leisure facility. Will the same happen to eg mines?
It's already happened!

National Coal Mining Museum near Barnsley -
 
https://www.ncm.org.uk/

There's also National Coal Mining Museums of Wales and Scotland -
 
https://museum.wales/bigpit/ (Wales)

&

https://nationalminingmuseum.com/ (Scotland)
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Cudzoziemiec

  • Waking up now, put the kettle on!
Re: Middlewich to Ellesmere by narrowboat
« Reply #18 on: October 29, 2019, 09:23:57 am »
Museums, yes, and I'm sure there are museums of steel plants and so on too, but I was thinking of something a little more unstructured visitor-as-user. Hire a drill and a hard hat and spend a day digging your own coal, kind of thing. It's probably one for the future when health and safety rules become liberalized.
I do not ride a great big Mercian, gangster tanwalls, fixed cog in the back.

Wowbagger

  • Dez's butler
    • Musings of a Gentleman Cyclist
Re: Middlewich to Ellesmere by narrowboat
« Reply #19 on: October 29, 2019, 09:36:37 am »
Jan and I visited the Pwll Mawr some years ago when we were cycling around that part of the world.

It was a free museum, and we were guided around by former miners, one of whom must have been very youthful when the mine closed. At the end there was a very obvious large perspex box in which to put contributions. The youthful ex-miner saw me extract a fiver from my wallet and was very quick to intercept me. He explained that the money in the perspex box was not distributed amongst him and his colleagues, but he assured me that it would be if I handed it to him, which I did.
Oh, Bach without any doubt. Bach every time for me.

Re: Middlewich to Ellesmere by narrowboat
« Reply #20 on: November 01, 2019, 09:32:57 am »
Just thinking – when canals were working transport, bargees had hard, dangerous, poorly paid work. Now canals are a leisure facility. Will the same happen to eg mines?
meh

People romanticize everything.
Bargees were just ordinary people working boats. Originally the bargees didn't have families on board, that came later, when there was less money in the trade and they couldn't afford a house as well.
Most of the danger was in fighting with the other bargees, when trying to get past or get to a lock first.
Working a boat on an inland waterway is not that dangerous.
No currents, waves to deal with. No tides. Biggest dangers are in locks or doing something stupid so you get part of your body caught (and you have to be very stupid).

Fishing; that is a sodding dangerous occupation. Shooting nets in any weather, pulling laden nets when waves are tossing you about . . . I would not want to try that.
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Regulator

  • That's Councillor Regulator to you...
Re: Middlewich to Ellesmere by narrowboat
« Reply #21 on: November 01, 2019, 11:08:42 am »
Keep away from sills!

As you have probably discovered, boats have an inertia. You start to steer, nothing seems to happen - then they start turning - then you discover you are turning too far. The trick is to steer gently and straighten up the tiller part way through the turn. Every boat is different and you have to develop a feel for it. Also, due to prop walk, boats will turn quicker one direction than the other.

Putting the tiller over too far will reduce the turning ability - the prop wash will 'detach' from the rudder - and your steering will not be as effective. Again, this is dependent on boat and speed.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with warping a boat into a confined space (walking, pulling it in with ropes). Much better to do that, slowly, than trying to motor in and crash into things.
The concrete kerbs at the bottom of the lock gates can be a bit scary. ( I don't know the correct technical term.)

Just to be pedantic, on canals they're 'cills' (and marked as such on the cill marker on locks).
Quote from: clarion
I completely agree with Reg.

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