Sunday, 30 August 2015

A Day of Many (fortunate) Meetings!

Sunday 30th August, 2015 in Huddersfield.
A quiet, still morning. Sunday service on the nearby railway line meant that very few trains crossed the bridge.
We set off mid morning and the character of this canal soon became clear; attractive old  brick bridges bordered by endless modern industrial units - in this case the whole width of the picture.
The Huddersfield Broad Canal is only 4 miles long and it has nine locks. It is called "Broad" because the locks are broad at 14ft wide - but they are only 57ft 6in long, so getting a 60ft boat into them requires some manoevring. The length is measured to the edge of the "open" gate - but when the gate is closed there is an extra 2ft 6in or so of length available. So, the strategy is to enter the lock with one gate open and one closed and then slide behind the closed gate so that the other gate can be closed. We had been doing this successfully on the Calder & Hebble locks, which are the same length. On "the Broad", this worked fine on the first five of the nine locks, but when we came to Lock 6, the pound (the static water between the locks) was a good 18in lower than normal and this led to problems for us.
Normally, MM's prow rides up over the "cill" at the front of the lock, but because the pound was low, the prow did not go as far - and, with the front pushed right forward, the stern was still touching the gate. The fender sticks out behind the stern and the only way to get through was to take the fender off. It is very heavy, awkward to get at and held on by three steel chains.
The two chains on top were easy to undo, but the one underneath was not. In the end, R had to saw it off. You can see below how tight it was - the bow is hard against the front of the lock and the stern tight against the gate.
Even then, we couldn't get behind the gate. A delightful young man named Marek, who was out fishing, had stopped to help and it was his suggestion to take MM out of the lock and see if we had any better luck with the other gate. It worked! Only a fraction of an inch to spare but we were in the lock. Thank goodness, because the only alternative would have been to reverse MM back down the canal through all five locks to Coopers Bridge, as there is nowhere where we could have turned round.
With Marek's help, we filled the lock and retrieved the fender (R had tied a rope to it so we didn't lose it).
 Marek, if you are reading this - thank you so much for your help! It made it so much easier; we probably couldn't have done it without you.
The last three locks presented no problem and soon we came to the last hurdle before arriving in the middle of Huddersfield - "Turnbridge Loco Lift Bridge". The roadbed of this bridge lifts straight up horizontally. M viewed it with some apprehension, never having seen one like it before. It looked intimidating but in fact was fairly straightforward to operate, despite its Heath Robinson appearance!
The bridge was built in 1865, so it is 150 years old this year and still working well. M hastens to stress that the date on the drum is the date of the bridge's construction, not her date of birth!
What a relief to moor up in Aspley Basin! We were fortunate enough to have met a lady called Sue on nb "Annabel" at lock 7 and she very kindly said that we could use her mooring in Aspley Basin as she would be away for a few days. It is a lovely mooring and the other people on these permanent moorings are delightful.
R is sure that M will need to get a "few bits" tomorrow - but for once we won't have to carry them far!
After a well deserved cuppa, R went down the weed hatch as it was clear that we had picked up some rubbish on the propellor over the last mile or so. This time it was rope and a woven strap as well as the usual plastic.

Having done that, he set to work to refit the fender, no mean feat given its weight and the difficulty of reaching down from the stern between the tiller and the taff rail supports.
M was ribbing him while he was doing this and was puzzled by his gesture - perhaps he was indicating that this was the second time he'd had to work on the fender today????
In summary, today was a day of Many (fortunate) Meetings. Firstly, at lock 3, we met Alan walking on the towpath. He is the Manager at Aspley Basin and gave us a wealth of good advice; also he will arrange a "pump out" for us on Tuesday. Secondly, we met the lovely Marek, who so patiently helped us through Lock 6 and finally, we met Sue at Lock 7, who very generously allowed us to use her mooring space (and her electricity!) in Aspley Basin.
Today just goes to prove what we have always maintained about the canal community - a remarkably kind,  and friendly bunch of people, always willing to help.
Today: 4 miles, 8 locks and 4.4 hours.
Trip: 276 miles, 173 locks and 177.8 hours.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Onto the Huddersfield Broad and an Abortive Search for Robin Hood's Grave.

Saturday 29th August, 2015 at Cooper's Bridge.
Another lovely sunny morning. M, still in her nightie,drew back the curtains to be greeted by a crowd of canoeists waving to her and grinning broadly.
Leaving Guy in charge on board, looking a trifle forlorn on his own, we walked to a nearby Co-op for some milk and found that Mirfield is a pleasant little town.
Some interesting sculptures adorned the towpath, celebrating the town's industrial past, this particular one representing spinning and weaving.
JF & J Crowther were brewers in the town from the mid 1800's. Eventually they were taken over by Bass and then by Molson Coors - who went into liquidation. Sad! Yet another bit of industrial history and pride bites the dust....
We had read in the guide books that the railway station, in its heyday, had a billiard table in the Waiting Room for passengers to while away the time as they waited for their train!  Network Rail could take a cue (forgive terrible pun!) from this. We just had to see this, so set off in search of this curiosity. We were too late. Not only had the billiard table gone, but so had station building, and the Waiting Room had been replaced by this uninspiring shelter. Such a shame.
MM looked lovely from the bridge, just before we set off towards Cooper's Bridge where the Huddersfield Broad Canal branches off from the Calder & Hebble Navigation.
We palled up with nb "Trinary Venture", a boat just out for the weekend, and shared the locks as far as Cooper's Bridge.
There, they then turned right to continue on the Calder & Hebble towards Brighouse, while we turned sharp left on to the Huddersfield Broad and almost immediately arrived at the first of the nine locks between us and Huddersfield.
We moored up just after Lock 1, having discovered from the guide books that the grave of Robin Hood was close by and we felt that a pilgrimage was mandatory. What a shock to come up from the tranquil setting of the canal (looking towards Lock 1)...
...to the road on the bridge above with traffic roaring by. Truly an assault on the senses! "Ghastly", said M.
On the way, we passed a curiosity called the "Dumb Steeple", built in the 1760's. It was the site of a gathering of an army of Luddites in April 1812 before they stormed a local mill.
Our quest to find Robin Hood's grave was sadly in vain. Having trekked for what felt like miles up the noisy, busy, horrid A62 without success, we finally enquired at a Premier Inn and were told that the grave is on private land and visitors are not allowed. What a disappointment!
To console ourselves, we had lunch at the Old Mill next door. before walking all the way back along the horrid A62.
Our mooring was lovely in the evening sun. The bridge is a railway bridge and the Trans Pennine Express crosses it every ten or fifteen minutes, but we never find the noise of trains intrusive.
Today: 3 miles, 3 locks and 2.1 hours.
Trip: 272 miles, 165 locks and 173.4 hours.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Off Again At Last

Thursday 27th and Friday 28th August, 2015 in Mirfield.
We had a very happy few days back home, during which time we managed to see all eight grandchildren and all the children with the exception of David in Salt Lake City!
It was a long journey back to Dewsbury by train (three different trains in all) but thankfully without delays and we arrived back on MM in Savile Basin at teatime. As ever, it was lovely to be back.
Next morning, it was a joy to wake up to full sun after all the torrential rain down south. As we were still in the marina and hooked up to mains electricity, M did a wash and pegged it out to dry. Meanwhile, we walked up to the local Asda for a "few bits". M remarked how cheap the milk was at Asda, but R pointed out that those low prices unfortunately are at the expense of the struggling dairy farmers.
The washing dried beautifully by lunchtime and, having settled up with the marina, we set off. It was extremely tight getting out of our mooring space but, luckily, we had help from the owner of the boat next door.
The turn from the Dewsbury arm to the lock going west is very tight and as R was negotiating it, he found a wide beam boat already approaching the lock.
It turned out to be a charity boat giving trips to elderly and special needs people, so, in a charitable spirit, we let them go through the lock first and helped them through. They, in turn, helped us through the pair of locks, together with nb "Wot-Ever Next" with whom we had paired up.
This high bridge was very reminiscent of those on the "Shroppie".
At Greenwood Lock, we had gone ahead of the wide beam, which was travelling very slowly, to set the lock for them - but when we got to the lock, there was no place to moor up, only a very small platform to drop someone off.  So R dropped M off to set the lock and then circled round to let the wide beam through and then hovered in the middle of the river with Wot-Ever Next behind.
These locks are only 57ft 6in long and, as MM is 60ft long, we have to enter the lock with one gate open and one gate closed and then tuck in behind the closed gate. It takes some manoevring!
This worked fine most of the time, but one lock was so short that even Wot-Ever Next couldn't get in beside us and close the gate on his side; he was just too long (even though he was supposed to be 57ft) and so had to back out and come back through after us on his own. Paul, the skipper, had removed his front fender and lifted it up on to his front deck, effectively making his boat shorter (which still didn't work). The paddles had to be opened very slowly as the water flows were fierce!
Eventually, however, we both made it through and moored up next to each other in Mirfield for the night.
Today: 4 miles, 4 locks and 3.5 hours.
Trip: 269 miles, 162 locks and 171.3 hours.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

To Dewsbury and Two Trips Down the Weed Hatch!

Thursday 20th August, 2015 in Dewsbury.
A very pleasant morning dawned. It is noticeable that dawn is much later and sunset much earlier now.
We made an early start in order to go through Broad Cut Top lock, which was only a few hundred yards away and set in our favour. There were two cabin cruisers moored up below the lock and two nice chaps from the cruisers came up to the lock to help us. They cheerfully admitted that they had no idea how the locks worked -and so were eager to learn.
At Horbury Bridge, there is a refuse station and as R manoevered to moor up, MM's engine suddenly stopped dead. Clearly we had picked up something in the propellor. R immediately opened up the weed hatch as we drifted helplessly down the middle of the (very wide) canal. Luckily, we were close to a wide beam Dutch Barge moored at the side and the owners very kindly caught a rope from us and we were able to tie up alongside them.
Poor R, it took an hour of sweating and struggling (and a modicum of swearing) to free the prop using all manner of implements including the bread knife and a hacksaw. (note from M: no photo of this, as she didn't  have the heart to take one of R's herculean struggles). The culprit turned out to be a waterproof jacket that had wound itself tightly around the propellor shaft. R had to shred it to get it off. M hoped that there might be lots of dosh or even a winning lottery ticket in the pocket - but no such luck.
We said a very grateful "Thank You" to the folks on "Itchy Feet", who had come to our rescue and we set off once more with sigh of relief.
The next two locks come together, in a very pretty setting and are called the "Figure Three Locks". There used to be a third lock down to the River Calder that runs alongside at this point but no one is quite sure of the origin of the unusual name.
We had teamed up with nb "Avatar", and her owner, who was sailing on his own, to go through the locks and we were also helped by the crew of a narrowboat coming the other way. Avatar's owner was a self-confessed fan of the film.
All of the locks on this section have walkways on the lower gates that stick out about 18 inches and, if you are not careful, it is possible to get the boat's tiller caught under the walkway as the lock fills.
At Dewsbury, there is an arm of the canal that goes in towards the centre of the town and our mooring, while we go home for a few days, is at the top end of it. So, we were going to turn to the right, while Avatar would turn left and immediately go through two locks.
As he was on his own and we had plenty of time in hand, we moored up and helped him through the two locks.
On our way back to MM, we spotted this sign for what promised to be an unorthodox festival! M remarked it would probably be a bit of a bummer.
Halfway up the short arm, this lovely mural caught our attention.
The boatyard lies at the very end of the arm and goes off at right angles to the main arm round a very tight bend. R had to turn MM, with only about a foot to spare, and back her down the narrow gap between the bank on one side and moored boats on the other. Terry, our boating instructor, would have been proud of him; M certainly was!
Just as he was manoevering into our mooring - again we got something on the propellor. Would you believe it???  We had to pull MM in on ropes with the kind help of a lady from a neighbouring boat.
After securing MM, removing a bunch of plastic from the propellor, hooking up to the electricity supply and getting an electric card from the Marina office, we walked into Dewsbury Railway Station to get our pre-booked tickets for tomorrow from the machine.
It was a lot further than we anticipated and, sadly, Dewsbury appears to lack any kind of coffee shop!
Tomorrow, we are off home for a few days for family events and we are planning to resume our cruise next Thursday/Friday - so please watch this space!!
Today: 5 miles, 4 locks and 2.4 hours.
Trip: 265 miles (of about 370 miles), 158 locks (of about 290 locks) and 167.8 hours.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

M Meets Her Cousin Jonathan in Wakefield.

Wednesday 19th August, 2015 in Calder Grove.
Our feathered friend refused to give up and returned to harass us after breakfast. If you have a microscope, you can see R sticking his head out of the bathroom window watching the goings-on. R waited until the swan was next to the shower outlet and then sprayed it with water. That seemed to put it off!
The weather was much improved today and we decided to walk into the city centre for a couple of items - plus M was still hoping to meet up with her cousin Jonathan. She had already called the Diocesan office and spoken to a very helpful lady called Bev. Apparently, Jonathan was in continuous meetings all day but Bev said that she would get a message to him.
Our walk into the centre was by a different route today and we discovered some marvellous old buildings such as the old Opera House (still a theatre) and beyond it, the white building was the old Picture House (now sadly derelict).
Costa Coffee was conveniently situated, directly facing the cathedral, so we decided that we would sit in the sunshine and wait on the offchance that Jonathan might come and find us.
Bev phoned back to ask if we could make it to the cathedral - and M replied that we were already in Costa. Bev said that was great as Jonathan goes there quite often! All of a sudden, there he was, in his cleric's attire, beaming broadly. It was utterly wonderful for M to see him again after twenty years and for R to meet him for the first time.
Although we had only about 15 minutes together it was truly marvellous and we resolved to meet up again for dinner with him and his wife Pam when we are next up this way.
It was then time to say goodbye to Wakefield. We had moored on a canal cut between two road bridges as close as we could to the city centre.
As we left Wakefield, we turned on to the River Calder, which is quite wide here. The catherdral spire can still be seen in the distance.
The Calder &Hebble Navigation has a unique paddle system for some of the sluices. It is a capstan, and you need a special "spike" (we have named ours "Milligan") to turn the capstans. Knowing this, we had acquired one for the princely sum of £20 - and we had to use it for the first time in Broad Cut Low Lock.
So far, we have only found a couple of  locks that use it - but without it, you cannot open the paddles on those locks.
We were amused to see this cow, kneeling down to drink from the canal.
We moored up for the night by the Navigation Inn, a fair way from the M1 crossing but very close to the railway bridge. However, neither disturbed us in the night and it proved a very quiet and pleasant mooring.
Today: 3 miles, 2 locks and 2.5 hours.
Trip: 260 miles, 154 locks and 165.4 hours.