Author Archives: Pip

Hong Kong Phooey. 11th April

1st Laneside Lock 54 to Irk Aqueduct

Last night we’d decided to give ourselves a bit of a lie in today as the next few days will require early starts. However we were both awake early so no point in just lying there thinking about sleep. We didn’t rush to get moving and pushed off around 9:30.

1st Laneside Lock Cottage

Lock 54 needed topping up. Whilst that filled I walked down to the next lock which was just about full, topped that up, opened up the top gate then walked back to the top lock to open it for Mick and Oleanna. The bywash was running like a good un so I decided to save my legs the walking back and forth to set ahead, hopefully the locks would mostly be full by the time we got to them.

The towpath wasn’t too busy, walkers, runners, dog walkers. It was a touch chilly. A chap walked past me with hood up, a scarf or black mask over his face. The next lock was full and I noticed this chap pause to open the gate for us. Not an unusual thing to happen. I waved to thank him, he carried on walking away. I wondered how any more locks would be sat with their top gates open for us.

Thank you!

At the next lock down I lifted the paddles to empty the lock. I looked down to the next lock. The same chap was there. He was looking back towards us with either a camera or binoculars. Now hang on! Your average towpath do-gooder opening lock gates for us was one thing, but checking back on our progress?! Nowadays you don’t often see white men out in the open wearing masks. Who was this masked super hero?

Sarge? No.

Rosemary, the telephone operator? No.

Penry, the mild manoured janitor? NO!

I walked back to mention my suspisions to Mick, I was fairly sure we knew this chap. Mick poopood my idea, no it couldn’t be. I zoomed my camera in to the next lock, if he could spy on us, I could do the same back. No hood or mask now. Glasses, the profile looked right. It had to be.

It has to be

When I spotted the windlass I was certain of it. But would we catch him up? Or would he continue on down the towpath ahead of us setting locks and then don his disguise again and vanish?

I knew it!

The next lock was taking some filling so he was still there when we arrived. Yes my suspisions were correct, it was Paul Balmer, come to lend a hand a day early. A while ago Paul had offered to lend us a hand into Manchester if he was available and he’d pencilled in today and tomorrow as possibles. With the weather being bad yesterday he’d though that we might have added two days together avoiding getting a soaking, but we’d battled onwards leaving only 10 locks for today.

Paul, mild mannered map compiler and lock wheeler

After we’d both lifted paddles, Paul walked on down to set the next lock, leaving me to close up behind Oleanna. Quickly into a routine ready for even more locks tomorrow.

All that stonework revealed

Below Lock 60 a chap was being very busy clearing away earth, grass and allsorts. One patch remained a very neat rectangle of turf. Around the lock there had been various bits of dayglow tape and large numbers on the bottom gate. The chap was very proud of his efforts and didn’t understand why C&RT had been round some of the locks and repainted the tops of the bollards back to white from the yellow he thought was better for the cyclists to see. I thanked him for his works on clearing the mud and reexposing the stonework, not sure I agree with him about the bollards!

Railway Bridges 69 A and B

Below Scowcroft Lock 61 two railway bridges cross the canal. The original bridge had to be replaced as it couldn’t take the weight of modern trains. According to the chap in Littleborough Museum you can feel the train adjust to the side for the new bridge when you are on a train. The old bridge appears to be held up with colourful strops.

Oleanna following Paul to the next lock

We were soon pulling in below Walk Mill Lock 63. There was enough depth for us just before the River Irk Aqueduct, no other boats, we’d still not caught the boat ahead of us that had been in Littleborough. A busy towpath, but once a dash had been made to the otherside Tilly was in the friendly cover and left us humans to enjoy a cuppa on board.

Arrangements were made for tomorrow as Paul would be returning to join us in the morning at Failsworth Top Lock. He headed off to walk the next section of the canal that he’d miss tomorrow, all the time checking on his map data for Waterway Routes. Every three years Paul aims to walk, cycle or boat the whole network himself checking all the information is correct on the maps. People like us assist by informing him of changes we notice as we travel the network, accuracy is very important, 5 digit grid references are required before new bins, water points, moorings etc can be added to the maps.

Fuel to get us into Manchester. Click photo for recipe

Some baking was required to help with energy levels tomorrow, so I made a batch of flapjack with a layer of bramley apple in the middle. Hopefully there’d be enough sugar to help keep us walking on to work the next lock on our descent into Manchester.

Ten years ago when we brought Lillyanne out of Manchester we’d missed food at the pub and ended up having an Indian takeaway, no-one had the energy to cook! Tonight we decided to see if Modhubon was as good as we’d remembered it, or do we only remember it being good because of all our hard work that day. We chose a couple of dishes, one we’d not heard of before, Chicken Akbori Chum Chum, it was very tasty.

10 locks, 1.6 miles, 1 mystery helper, 1 busy playground, 6 hours shore leave, 0.75 stamp of approval, 2 many woofers, 1 motorbike, 3 peacocks, 3 papadoms, 1 chumchum, 1 dansack, 1 mushroom bhaji, 2 very full boaters, 1 early night.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/1a7n8jEeA4MxtRBt8

A Wave To BBC. 10th April

Canal Wharf, Littleborough to above 1st Laneside Lock 54, Slattocks

Hello!

Alarm set for before 7am! All because of the weather which we were hoping to beat today. No time to lie in bed with a cuppa, we were up and having breakfast, listening out for our Sainsburys delivery between 7:30 and 8:30. The beep beep of the van reverseing towards the canal caught our attention at 7:45, time to stow our purchases.

Goodbye Littleborough

By 8:20 we were ready to push off leaving the squabbling, nest sitting geese to it, time to head to the next mooring in towards Manchester.

New houses look like they will be going up soon along the south east bank heading to Smithy Bridge, two geese stood guard ontop of the earth works. Apparently there are plans to build 1000 new homes around Littleborough. Past Clegg Hall with a terrace of workers cottages, a long line of windows on the top floor for good light in the work rooms.

Stopped these two chaps who didn’t understand why the bridge went nowhere

This must be the longest pound on the Rochdale, around an hours cruise with no locks. But to keep you on your toes there are a couple of swing bridges. I went with my handcuff key and key of power just incase, just as well as they both got used.

Propmate kept out should we need it later

The canal at times was shallow, aided by supermarket trolleys, eroded banks, picking places to pull in took a bit of time. Then picking up some plastic on the prop required a stop. We tried pulling into the side but didn’t succeed, electing to just pause in the middle to get the prop mate out and clear the prop. No passing traffic so we weren’t in anyones way.

For the last few miles I’d been spotting what look like metal flowers attached to the off side. Outlines of three white petals with a yellow centre, at one lock this was accompanied by some leaves. On one of the bridges there is a mural of the same flower. Maybe a canoist has put these up where the plant growns?

Hello Rochdale

Just as we pulled in towards Rochdale, our slightly slower progress then planned, meant we got the first rain drops falling, we’d not beaten the weather! The empty lock looked to have wet sides, were we following that boat that had been on the water point? How much further had they got yesterday before they gave up? Would we catch them up and maybe have a partner for the rest of the locks into Manchester? We’d see.

I filled the lock, spotting that a bottom gate paddle had been left slightly up. Gongoozlers came and watched, three young chaps asked Mick for a lift. I think this is just a standard thing to say for youngsters, a little like when I’ve got my painting clothes on and people say ‘You’ve missed a bit’. Very original! They helped with the gates though.

Another chap arrived at the next lock promising to help with the gates, which he did. Well he helped with the top gates, not the bottom cranked beams! He was wise in this decision. Wet underfoot there was nowhere to push your feet against. Despite my slip resistant shoes it took forever to push the bottom gate open and then close it again behind us. There obviously used to be some other means of opening and closing these gates as there is a curved track in amongst the stonework.

Below Moss Lower Lock

Just below the lock there is an arm heading off to the north. This led to Drake Street where three arms were kept busy. In it’s hay day the Rochdale Canal saw around 50 boats a day transporting goods to and from the mills. I wonder how many boats cross the summit in a year now? On the Rochdale Canal facebook group there seems to be a campaign to pursuade the council to redevelope the warehouses and arms and get them reconnected to the canal. This would be wonderful, but would need to get an instant good reputation as somewhere to moor. It would be nice to feel you could explore Rochdale.

Culvert to the left, new tunnel to the right

Another longish pound. Some of this is a new channel. The canal had been built over and culveted for road building, so a new course was required along with the roundabout having to be rebuilt when the canal was restored. You can see where it used to go before you head into Edinburgh Way Tunnel. Mick remembers the road works lasting forever, the route to Anne (his sisters house) from the M62 affected for months.

Artwork alongside the lock

As we came into Castleton the lock ahead was just about full. Either the top gates leaked masses or a paddle had been left up. This is lock 51, the Lock Keepers had been called to it the day we crossed the summit. The offside gates are worked with your windlass and chains as a carpark for a mill now gets in the way. This does mean that access along the off side of the lock is for very skinny people or those who don’t mind limboing! I am neither of those. I closed the near side paddle and then noticed the rack went a lot further down than the one on the off side. If the offside paddle was still up by what might be inches then we’d be waiting an age to empty the lock.

I hopped onto the bow of Oleanna and Mick moved her up to the offside gate, here I could step off. Sure enough the paddle was up by a good few inches. I hopped back onto the bow and we headed for the lock. The lock beam has notches cut in it so that it goes over the top of the ladder handrail. We’d nudged the gate coming in, it needed to be opened again and then things aligned properly once more. With one bottom paddle lifted it was taking an age to empty, time to try to access the offside paddle. I managed to position myself in amongst the beam chains and lent over. I could have engaged the pawl if I’d flicked it with my windlass, but then there would have been no way of taking it off. So I just wound it up and held it until the lock levelled.

Hello somewhere over there

At Blue Pits Middle Lock I waved to Anne’s old house. Ten years ago you could just about see it, five years ago new houses blocked the view, now trees hide everything. I waved none the less.

Under the M62, the pontoon towpath was in situ today. This is also a new channel, the original used to pass a little further west with the Heywood Branch heading off to the west. If you look behind you you can see the way boats used to travel. Blue Pits New Lock 53 is a concrete affair, nothing old about it. It takes ages to fill and it’s surroundings were very bog like, I was quite glad the gates didn’t leak at either end which meant I didn’t have to wade through to operate the paddle on the off side. Puzzling why the bottom gates have these signs on them, they are usually on top gates.

?

A boat was moored on the next bend, a perfect mooring for spotting trains as the line sits at a height a field away. If we’d been half an hour earlier we’d have been treated to a steam train!

Not much further we reached Slattocks, bollards marking our destination for the day. We quickly unrolled the covers, headed inside to give Tilly the disappointing news that there’d be no shore leave today, but more importantly it was time to dry off.

Tension ans stitch swatch

The last pair of socks I’d frogged were finished off this afternoon. A swatch was knitted with the new blue yarns for the next pair. I was considering giving Broken Seed Stitch a go, but I think that would be better suited to two solid coloured yarns rather than varigated. Instead they will end up being very stripy socks.

5 locks, 6.6 miles, 2 swing bridges, 1 man and 2 dogs held up, 1 almost tunnel, 4 boxes wine, 1 pork joint for the weekend, 2 hours early, 1 orangutan, 0 shore leave, 1 annoying towpath cat, 14th pair started, 12 meatballs, 2 soggy boaters yet again, 1 boat ahead still not caught.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/TVGkQ3s2suEkmRjF9

Horse Bananas. 9th April

Bent House Lock 46 to Canal Wharf, Littleborough

The forecast is not so good for the next couple of days, we still want and need to get moving. Our main need today was for water. After breakfast we put on our waterproofs, we knew we’d be getting wet this morning, just how long we’d last for was still an unknown.

Time to move onwards and downwards

A paddle was lifted at lock 46 to fill it as we rolled up the covers, then Mick reversed Oleanna out from the notch back onto the canal. This is a lovely place to be, suspect it’s even nicer in the summer.

At the water point we’d been warned that there was a boat that has taken up root, they’ve been asked to move by C&RT several times, but it has fallen on deaf ears. The only boat we’ve seen moving since we’ve been in Littleborough had tucked itself in behind the overstaying boat, today we’d have to breast up to get water. But as I lifted a paddle to empty the lock I could see movement at the waterpoint, the boat was on the move also. Maybe they were hoping for a locking partner, maybe they were just moving on, but it was a welcome sign as we’d not really wanted to be filling with water across two boats.

Another wet day in the Pennines

As the tank filled it rained. As the tank filled the forcast wind started to pick up and by the time we were pushing back off the gusts of wind had started. We worked our way down the next two locks getting wetter every minute. Five years ago we’d had gongoozlers at Littleborough Bottom Lock discussing glasses of wine, today only hardened waterproof clad walkers passed, only a nod from them.

We pulled in and made use of the rings at the wharf, a restock very much required on the food and coal front. The weather forecast keeps mentioning unseasonably high temperatures, we’ve not noticed them here at all! The two bags of Ecoal Mick bought in Wakefield have been driving us up the wall the last few days. It not only creates SO much ash but it also takes an eternity to light, some decent coal woud be welcome.

Is this brick and extra layer of insulation? All the other buildings are stone

After a slight dry off and a cuppa Mick headed into town with the bike returning with two 20kg bags of Glow. Next job restocking the cupboards. By now we’d made the decision to stay put for the rest of the day and not head onwards in the strong gusts of wind, this meant we’d be able to get a supermarket delivery if one was available. A slot was booked and a big shop put into our basket. We just needed some things for tonight, so we walked over to the Co-op where pizzas and extra toppings were selected.

The rest of the day we hunkered down gradually warming up inside, coats drip drying in the shower, howling gails whistling through the windows, geese squabbling, there’s everything here, even Horse Bananas clinging to the hillside! Inside I watched more bake off and knitted with the occasional winge from Tilly at not being allowed out.

Blackcurrant Chilled Medication!!!!

Unfortunatly today wasn’t a suitable day for chilled medication despite the nearest shop selling my favourite flavour!

3 locks, 0.5 miles, 1 full water tank, 1 empty yellow water tank, 1 boat ahead, 1 food order, 40kg coal, 2 soggy boaters, 1 bored cat, 1 sock on it’s 3rd incarnation! 0 chilled medication, 2 volunteers stood down, postponed by a day.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/ncdEPaYUT6WWKAMv8

Purrplexed. 8th April

Bent House Lock 46

An early start for Mick who headed off to Littleborough Station to catch a train just before 8am. Tilly and I stayed tucked up in bed and enjoyed a cuppa with the puzzles from Saturdays newspaper.

A day return to Scarborough woud have been about £70 at that time of day even with an old gits railcard, but Mick had booked his tickets in such a way that he got off peak tickets from Mytholmroyd, therefore costing £37.35 including a plus bus for around Scarborough.

View from the cratch today

On board, after the usual mornings activities I decided to give the interior of Oleanna a dust down and then a sweep through followed by a floor clean. Tilly kept out of the way for much of the time, the lack of wind and rain encouraging her to go outside.

Then it was time to investigate why our pullout corner cupboard is starting to ground and make grooves in the newly oiled floor! I’ve been wondering if the weight in the pan drawer, which is attached to the cupboard might be doing this. Maybe when I’d reattached it I’d screwed them together at a slight angle that gets exacerbated when the corner cupboard is pulled right out.

I emptied the cupboard and drawer so that I could detach the two. There lying on the floor was part of a circular piece of plastic. Was this off one of the castors? Yes. The plastic helps keep the wheel square and helps to keep the rubber wheel from flattening out under the weight. Without it the rubber wheel was flattening, a bit like a blown tyre on a car and therefore the plinth of the pullout cupboard was grounding across the floor, it having dropped by a couple of mm.

How were the castors attached? To blocks of wood, which of course had been attached from below not above. So to remove the castors we would need to remove the cupboard to be able to turn it on it’s side! A look later on from the opposite side by Mick suggests we might be able to just replace the wheel on the caster without dismanteling everything.

But where’s the top gone!?!

Tilly gave me a site report from low down. She was quite purrplexed about the whole situation. But hey hang on! There’s no top!! Someone’s stolen the top! I can’t hide in here anymore, there’s no IN to be IN! This is what the problem is, the IN, not the squishy wheel. I’ve left the pan drawer unattached until we can replace the wheel.

It’s okay there’s still an IN to be in here

Next it was time to restick some edging onto the side of the drawing board slot. This has been held on by tape for about a year. Some wood glue down between the main board and the strip, tape back on to hold it in place. There’s far too much stuff in the slot! It needs clearing out to leave enough IN for a cat.

Lunch was arepas with red cabbage, cheese and slices of apple, very nice.

Blues

Time to select the yarn for the next pair of socks. I’ve had quite a few requests for blue socks this year, so any yarn that was blue was laid on the bed. Three selected, I just need to decide how to knit them up.

Meanwhile in Scarborough Mick had caught the bus to the hospital, a blood test required by his GP, this was all very efficient. He then walked to the house to meet with our current lodgers. A coffee, chat and he picked up our post, including postcards about the York and North Yorkshire Mayor election. A few years ago we had lodgers put our postal votes on the top of a book shelf for safe keeping along with other post. Mick got the train to Scarborough especially to pick them up but couldn’t find them. They were found a few months later long after the poll. We now have a tray in the kitchen for post to go in.

You don’t need to be in there! Just checking it’s still got an IN.

Then he caught another bus out of town and headed to his dentist. His return to Seamer Station was thwarted by numerous school buses refusing to pick him up and then the next bus was ten minutes late, by which time he’d missed the hourly train from Scarborough!

I wonder what Clare made of this

In Littleborough the day had been a perfect one for cruising, no boats had come past though. I frogged another pair of socks to just past the heel, adjusted my needle size hoping this would rectify their tightness. I watched another Bake Off, more comdey biscuits and The Woman In Gold 2015,starring Helen Mirren. Sixty years after she fled Vienna during World War II, an elderly Jewish woman, Maria Altmann, starts her journey to retrieve family possessions seized by the Nazis, among them Klimt’s famous painting ‘The Lady in Gold’. She enlists a young lawyer to help her and they end up taking the Austrian Government to the US Supreme Court.

More yummy yarn

Mick returned home a while after 8pm. In amongst the post was a parcel from Rachel at Skein Queen, another rather yummy skein of yarn in white and blues. She’d also added in a pattern for a pair of socks. Thank you Rachel.

0 locks, 0 miles, 4ft edging re-stuck,16 tickets, 6 trains, 3 buses, 3 ignoring buses, 1 flattening wheel,1 pleasant day, 1 test, 1 set of clean gnashers, 1 puzzled Tilly, 1 skien, 1 patter, 1 omlette for 2, 1 normal result.

Soaking Kathleen. 7th April

There was time for MIck to whip up a cooked breakfast before the Geraghty zoom this morning, it did mean that we’d be eating it whilst we chatted to everyone. Subjects covered, canvasing, folk, endive and sparkling ash leaves.

Zooming breakfast

Late morning we pushed Oleanna back over to the other side of the little notch as we were expecting little legs again this afternoon. It was hard to move across as the wind was pinning us to the side. I managed to get a rope around a bollard at the bow, then we used the Andy method (springing off) to force the stern across against Kathleens best efforts. We soon discovered that on the east side of the notch we’d managed to get ourselves tied up so as not to be buffeted about so much, the west side we’d not been so sucessful!

I think it’s stopped raining

We pottered away the morning and by mid afternoon squally showers were whisking around. Mick confired with our prospective visitors who’d planned on a visit before we all headed out for Sunday lunch. Instead we’d meet a car at the next road bridge and get a lift.

Soggy sponsored walk

Full water proofs didn’t manage to keep us dry for the five minute walk to meet Anne, sorry for leaving you with soggy seats! The Moorcock would have only been a 20 minute walk according to Google, although it would all have been uphill, glad we’d not done that in the rain!

A large table had been reserved for us at the end of the pub and we were soon joined by Ruth, James, Penelope and Daphne. There was Vocation beer on tap, so for the second Sunday in a row I had a pint of Heart and Soul a nice GF brew. Roast pork, beef, sausage and chips plus a chicken nuggets and chips were ordered.

Nice pint

The pork almost certainly didn’t come off a joint, most probably steaks roasted in the oven. Crackling had been mentioned on the menu and this was brough on a seperate plate. I suspect this had been cooked in an air fryer. It looked like it should be good, but I have to say it was a chewy disappointment. However we were there to enjoy being with family which made for a lovely late lunch.

Disappointed Ruth

James offered to do bathtime and leave us to chat for longer. This meant that some of us, Mick and myself could have pudding away from younger eyes who’d already had some chilled medictaion at lunchtime. A huge slab of chocolate fudge cake each. Ruth ordered an expresso martini for her treat, but they were out of these! She was very disappointed.

Mick, Ruth, Anne, Pip

There was a little lull in the rain, just long enough for a Sunday selfie before we climbed back in the car and made it back to the canal. Goodbyes and hopefuly it won’t be so long before we see everyone again.

Rain set in on our walk back to Oleanna. We decided to push back over the notch and whilst doing so we got another very good soaking! The stove was lit, coats and jeans hung up to drip dry.

Earlier in the day a message had been put on one of the facebook groups, a boat was looking for someone else to share the journey into Manchester. I made contact, a second boat with crew would make it a lot easier even though we may have extra crew for the final push. They have yet to cross the summit and our current schedule will mean we are still ahead of them. But with the current weather forecast, we may not be moving very far due to another storm. If they’ve any sense they won’t move either.

I wonder who will win this time?

Today marks the seventh anniversary of moving on board Oleanna in Sheffield. Oleanna was very shiny and new then, she’s showing her age now, still in desperate need of a wash and polish, the rain isn’t helping this. Time for a toast to mark the occasion.

0 locks, 2 pushes across the notch, 2 car rides, 2 very soggy walks, 1 last bag of coal, 4 pork, 1 beef, 1 sausage and chips, 1 chicken nuggets and chips, 2 slabs of chocolate fudge cake, 2.5 pints, 1 lovely meal with family, pair 14 finished, 50 years since Abba, 7 years onboard Oleanna.

28th Heel turned

Whilst Kathleen Blows Away. 6th April

Lock 46

After breakfast and writing the blog, on what feels like the smallest keyboard ever, we headed into town to do a bit of shopping, find a newspaper and have a look round.

They are rather fine

Two fine front doors stood out, one house for sale. You get quite a bit of house for your money in these parts. We’ve been spotting a lot of places named Royd recently. Old Royd Lock, Royd Street. Looking the name up it turns out that Royd is local dialect for ‘cleared land’ especially in a wood.

The centre of Littleborough has a mix of shops, not many unoccupied. Some smart clothes shops, a couple of butchers, a discount hardware shop and a knickers shop! Just who had the money for the fancy grave?

Who was so important to have such a grand grave

We got a newspaper, some thick cut bacon, a disappoinitng pork pie and a few bits and bobs fom Sainsburys before heading to the Co-op to see if their cat food was cheaper. It was, especially with a members card which we applied for whilst stood in the pet food isle.

As we headed towards the canal we spotted signs in the station window for a museum. Well that needed looking at, so we made our way up onto the platform where a chap asked if we knew there were no trains today. Yes, but we were looking for the museum. ‘Round the corner, there’s three chaps in there’.

No trains today

The main waiting room/old ticket office is now a museum for Littleborough Historical and Archaeologocal Society. We were welcomed in by a chap who immediatley mentioned about their flint collection and Roman coins. Flint is not found in the area, so was imported from other parts of the country. He also appologised that their main computer was broken so he wouldn’t be able to show us much from their archieve. This however didn’t stop him from chatting away to his hearts content.

As it says on the door

The chap chatted on for ages, he could have carried on for hours. Don’t get me wrong he was interesting, possibly being shown images and maps would have been even more interesting, but when someone wanted to show him a recent find that was almost certainly Roman we were quick in heading for the door. More a place for serious research on the local area than just a browse around.

Back at Oleanna we had lunch and enjoyed the last Hot Paw Bun of the year. These were the best I’ve made by far and Mick doesn’t see why they should just be for Easter!

Tilly came and went, then as the winds increased into the afternoon she was grounded. Kathleen was showing her force. Thankfully our mooring means Oleanna’s bow faces into the wind and with a few extra fenders out we are held into the side, so no bumping about.

Plans for the next few days were discussed. How long it will take us to get down into Manchester, which moorings to stop at, will the wind have died down sufficiently to make this all possible?

Tilly slept the afternoon away. The yellow water tank was emptied, Tilly’s pooh box refreshed and quite a bit of knitting done. I should just about finish pair 14 by the end of Sunday, Hooray!

Our evening meal was accompanied by growing winds and torrential rain. Really! Surely there can’t be anymore rain!!

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 windy walk, 1 puzzled baker, 9 rashers bacon, 1 pie, 1 paper, 0 knickers bought, 1 very knowledgable man, 0 wedding ring, 1 very blustery afternoon, 2 salmon steaks with red pepper sauce, 13.5 pairs of socks knitted so far.

Finding The Needle. 5th April

Bent House Lock 46

With Storm Kathleen on it’s way in the next few days our ropes needed tightening, we’d bumped about a bit in the night and that was before Kathleen arrived.

I had no intention on venturing far today, the same couldn’t be said for Mick, he was going to set forth to the bright lights of the Trafford Centre!

eeek!

Last summer Mick had bought me a new laptop. A couple of days ago it lost it’s ability to fold closed, not much good for a portable device! The IT department had given it a good look over and nothing could be found in the hinge that shouldn’t be there and the surround to the screen was starting to come away. He sought IT support via John Lewis, chatted away to someone on the phone and was given a number to quote when he took it into a store. The nearest store to us currently is at the Trafford Centre, today a window of opportunity between rail strikes was to be taken.

Awkward to transport

He caught the train from Littleborough into Victoria, a tram to Deansgate and then another out to the Trafford Centre. Here he visited John Lewis, a chap looked at the laptop which had been carefully transported in it’s open state. It was still under manufacturers warranty so would be sent to Warrington to be mended, this may take 28 days! Mick said it would be really good if it was quicker and we’d still be in the area. If it returns quickly enough then we’ll even be able to cruise there on the boat to collect it, fingers crossed. There was an option for it to be sent to our home address, but this isn’t really an option for us. Mick will get a text when it is back at the store.

Meanwhile Tilly and I got to grips with Micks tablet, from which I’m writing this. Then we wound some more yarn for sock pair 14. Ends needed weaving in on the last the pair of socks. Last night I’d heard something fall on the floor, most probably one of my darning needles which normally live tucked into my sheep tape measures wool. Sure enough this morning there was only one needle there not two. Best find the other one.

With my faithful assistant hunting for the needle

I hunted round on the floor, no sign of the 2 inch needle. I got a magnet from the notice board, this was used to see if I could lure the needle out from under the sofa, which is where it must have ended up. Tilly helped, pulling out the odd thing that’s been tucked under there for safe keeping. Nothing magnetic! Oh well just as well I’d another needle to hand.

Work on pair 14 started in ernest up from the toe. I wanted to do something a little bit random with it, but that necessetated it being pulled out several times all whilst watching Great British Bake Off. I especially liked Jodie Whittaker’s biscuit of Paul and Prue!

He heee!!!

By the time Mick returned with a few items of shopping I’d let my ordered side take over on the knitting, far less random than originally planned, the pattern was starting to come together. I asked him if he’d seen the needle. Yes he’d picked it up this morning and popped it on a shelf to be safe!

Late afternoon we had another visitor. Anne, Mick’s big sister who had driven down from Scotland today. We tried to work out when we’d last seen each other. Originally we thought it was Christmas 2019, then more likely Christmas 2018! But after Anne had left Mick remembered that we’d met up in Wiltshire in September 2019, not quite as long ago as first thought, but still too long ago. Of course we get to see each other on the Geraghty zoom quite often, but it really isn’t the same as being able to give her a hug.

Long chats over a cuppa and then there was the opportunity for a family airloom to head to it’s new home. The ‘Joan’ chair.

When Aunty Joan, Micks Aunty on his Dad’s side, was little she was given this little chair. None of Mick’s siblings actually remember this chair. About a year ago on a Hessle History facebook group there was a post about school teachers. There was a comment saying that they remembered Miss Geraghty from Penshurst Junior School, did anyone else? Several people had made comments saying what a great teacher she’d been, Mick chipped in saying what a great Aunty she was too!

Joan’s chair

A chap called Brian then replied that his Mum used to clean Miss Geraghty’s home and that he used to go with her. He would sit in this little chair and wait patiently for his mum. Joan, Miss Geraghty, one day said would he like to have the chair. So he ended up with it for several decades. On facebook Brian then offered it to Mick, so that it could return to the family, a rendez vous was arranged in the pub car park next door to where Joan used to live and the chair was handed over.

Our friend Frank did a little bit of mending and we did consider contacting The Repair Shop about it, but that would involve having to appear on TV which isn’t something Mick was too keen on doing. What to do with it then, well it should stay in the family and as we knew we’d be seeing Ruth this year we brought it onto the boat to hand down so that Daphne and Penelope can sit in it.

Leftover Lamb Biryani with added spinach and mushrooms

Another go at Lamb biryani this evening with the correct rice this time. It was very tatsy and theres still some lamb left in the freezer for another go.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 trains, 4 trams, -1 laptop, (blog posts may be a touch shorter for a while), 1 moving boat, 1 needle, 1 hour out of 8, 1 sausage day not made the most of, 1 sister, 1 diddy chair, 1 sock nearly completed, more space under the dinette.

Nieces. 4th April

Warland Lower/Upper Locks to Bent House Lock 46

Kindness

A drier start to the day, but chilly! We had our breakfast then started to make ready to head up Lock 35, swing the bridge and enter Lancashire ready for 11am when our booking was to cross the summit. As we were rolling the covers up a CRT chap walked towards us, windlass in hand. It was only 10am, but they were ready when we were. Brilliant.

Getting close to leaving

We both stayed on board and let Billy and Richard work the locks for us. Up Warland Upper Lock, we then crossed the border, Billy welcoming us to bright side! Oleanna has been in Yorkshire for just over six months and now finally we’ve escaped, a few weeks later than originally planned.

Up ahead at Longlees Lock 36 another chap emptied the lock and pushed open the bottom gate for us whilst the other two chaps closed up behind and walked up to meet us.

Richard to the left, Billy the right, Summit straight on

Up we rose to the 600ft that the summit pound sits on. Grey overcast, slightly damp in the air, gloves a necessity, we could see our breath! Brrr!!!

Lancashire ahead

As we pootled along the summit pound, streams cascaded off the hillsides. A toot of a horn as the CRT chaps passed us in their van waving, they’d reach the other side before us to unlock West Summit Lock 37.

Mick and Yorkshire behind

Currently to help reserve water you have to book to cross the summit of the Rochdale, there are slots for 2 boats each way, today we were the only boat to cross. Billy said they’d been at the summit from 8am, sorted water levels out down on the west side so they really didn’t know why there was the 11am time to cross. An hour to sort levels would be sufficient. So those boats we’d seen yesterday had most probably come over the summit early on.

The western end of the summit pound

I stayed on board to go down Lock 37 then stepped off when we reached 38 time to warm up and lend a hand, Billy and Richard would be with us for a few more locks yet. Ahead of us down the big hill into Manchester there is a section that earlier this week had been emptied by vandals, a group of CRT employees were busy running water down to where it needed to be, hopefully by the end of today it would be back in navigable order.

The three of us leapfrogged each other, one going ahead to set the next lock leaving two to lift paddles and open and close gates. Time to chat. Richard used to work as stage crew at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, his son works on Coronation Street in the props department and Billy had a nice holiday in Scarborough last year.

Top gates

Locks 40 and 41 have narrowed so will only take one boat at a time, no problem for us today as we were on our own. The intermediate pound I remembered from five years ago was low, we’d cautiously let water down to enable our crossing. As 41 filled the chaps confired, Richard ran water through 40 to help the low pound. It still seemed very low to me when he lowered the top paddle, two huge blocks of stone lower than where the water mark suggested normal height was. It was easily passable.

I wonder how this is pronounced?

Our last passage down here we’d encountered another low pound, well more like an empty pound! Today we were told we’d be fine, the levels would have sorted themselves out by the time we got there. The chaps helped us down 41, they got a call, they were needed at Lock 51. We waved goodbye and thanked them and off they went in their van to help someone else.

A few days ago they’d been called out to help a boat heading up from Manchester. They’d found them a pound to moor in and told them to stay put overnight and they’d return in the morning to sort the levels out ahead of them up to the summit. That same day they were called out at dusk as the boat had continued uphill and had run out of water. If only the boat had stayed put, it would have only meant sorting the levels out once not twice.

How much water?!

Considering we’d not had enough water in a pound behind us, we all of a sudden had too much. Water flowed over the top gates straight to the other end and over the gates there too. So much water! This made opening bottom gates a hard job, patience for levels to equalise required. Maybe another bum against a lock beam would have helped, but despite there having been several walkers now there were none! We waited and eventually I could feel a touch of movement, phew!

We carried on down the next few locks. Billy had said that our preffered mooring near Littleborough was occupied by two boats this morning. So we tried pulling in before we reached there on a nice wide stretch the railway set back from the canal. Sadly there was not enough depth even at several feet away from the bank, we carried on resolving ourselves to mooring below the next lock, close to the railway where Tilly would have to stay inside.

Pushed over to the lock side

But hang on! I zoomed in on the little notch by Lock 46. Unless the two boats were very short, they must have left this morning. Brilliant! Our chosen mooring was available, we pulled in on the far side from the lock, a field, geese and leaves from a cauiflower for company. Tilly approved and vanished for quite sometime.

Skin *ed!

A grade three hair cut was long overdue, so we set up the towpath barbers making use of the bench by the lock. There he is again! Smart once more.

Messages were sent to Ruth, Mick’s niece, who gathered her daughters together to come and find us. With little legs expected we decided to push over to the other side of the notch making getting on and off the boat safer. Tilly was called back onboard and we pushed over. A quick tidy up and then a peek over the bridge to see Ruth, Penelope and Daphne walking up to meet us.

Nieces

Penelope isn’t quite 5 and Daphne just under 2. It was quite exciting to be on the boat, Tilly was spotted in the hedgerow and then we did a guided tour. Of course rocking the boat was an exciting thing that had to be explained, especially why Penelope couldn’t make it work but Mick could. We had a lovely hour with them all and look forward to seeing them again in the next few days. You might be looking forward to it! I’ll be behind Tom’s pillow if anyone wants me.

Once they were gone we decided to push back over to the field. Tilly having just claimed the tree by the lock hopped on board, then hopped off again just as we pushed off. Panic! Why were you moving the outside with me in it !!?!! Only one thing for it. Speed maths, correct footing and ‘Don’t you DARE Tilly!’ laaauuuuuunch! Plenty of spare leapability, maybe even a cats length.

The best mooring in Littleborough

A mousakkish was put together from some bolognaise sauce we had left over, the stove lit. The second sock that I’d frogged was finished and the first toe of pair 14 was cast on, it’s a bit wierd knowing how far into the year we are by weeks.

11 locks, 2.54 miles, 2 helpful CRT chaps, 1 helpful volunteer, 600ft, 45ft lower than the Huddersfield Narrow, 2 much water, 3 foot down, 1 notch, 1 happy cat, grade 3, 1 niece, 2 great nieces, 1 hiding cat, 27 weeks 2 days in Yorkshire, 1 long leap, 10 years to the day of owning NB Lillyanne, 10 years of being boat owners, 2 glasses of wine each to celebrate.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/bhQxDnGtSqdGjtGD7

Old LiFePO4 Lithium Batteries

Now SOLD! Thank you to those who were interested.

Before these go onto ebay I thought I’d offer our old batteries on here to see if there’s any blog reader that might be interested in aquiring them and putting them to use.

Two RELiON RB24V50 LiFePO4 lithium batteries for sale. Each battery is 24 volts, 50 Amp hours. They have been installed on our narrowboat as domestic batteries for 7 years. They were new when they were installed. The battery management system (BMS) is pre programmed by the manufacturer so the settings cannot be changed by the user.

They have worked fine on our boat for all this time, running in parallel with a 24v lead acid bank and being charged by the 24 volt alternator on the main engine as well as a 500 watt solar array.

They were replaced a few weeks ago because a third battery in the bank had gone faulty and rather than try to integrate a new battery into the old bank I decided to replace the whole bank with two much larger capacity LiFePO4 batteries.

I’d be open to offers of maybe £50 each plus deleivery costs. They were over £1100 each when new. Will split if you only want one. UK delivery only.

Please add a comment or use the “contact us” form if you are interested.

New Bully Boy Batteries

Mick here again.

Long time readers of the blog might remember that when Oleanna was being built in Sheffield back in 2016 we decided that we would have a lithium battery bank installed. Finesse, our boat builders, had suggested it to us and we decided it was a good idea. There were many delays in getting them from the supplier but we finally got our three RELiON LiFePO4 24V 50Ah batteries installed giving us 150 amp hours of electrical energy. We were quite happy with them although larger capacity would have been nice.

One day last summer (2023) the voltage of the battery bank wasn’t as it should be. Upon investigation I found that one of the three batteries was faulty. It was showing 23 volts instead of the more usual 26. I tried to revive it by connecting it on its own to our Victron Multiplus charger whilst we were hooked up to shore power in Cropredy Marina. But it didn’t play ball so a replacement was required.

In theory these batteries have a 10 year warranty so I set to with some investigation. I spoke to Ricky at Finnesse who said that they had not used these batteries again after the long delays in supply that we had experienced. I contacted RELiON direct and they explained that the 10 year warranty worked like this:

Legacy Series (Model numbers that begin with RB) – Should the manufacturer deem a valid warranty claim exist and battery(s) are unable to be repaired in year one (1) through three (3) the manufacturer will replace the defective battery free of charge with a similar product. Should the manufacturer deem a valid warranty claim exist and battery(s) are unable to be repaired in years four (4) and five (5) a similar product will be offered at 20% off the retail MSRP listed at the time of the offer. Should the manufacturer deem a valid warranty claim exist and battery(s) are unable to be repaired in years six (6) through 10 a similar product will be offered at 10% off the retail MSRP listed at the time of the offer.

So, not really a 10 year warranty after all. We fell into the last category of getting a 10% discount off the retail price of a new battery. That was really not an option. We toyed with getting a new bigger battery from another supplier to connect in parallel with the two remaining batteries. At first this looked hopeful but in light of the fact that the old batteries have no programmable battery management system (BMS) it would be difficult to get the settings of a new battery to match. So we decided to limp along on 100 amp hours for the rest of the season and sort it out when moored for the winter back in Goole.

I did a lot of research. There is a very useful Facebook group the “12 volt boating group” (https://www.facebook.com/groups/144684286108763 ) which has many knowledgeable members. In the end I decided that we would buy two new self heating 24v 230Ah LiFePO4 batteries from Life Batteries, a nice friendly company in Cornwall https://www.lifebatteries.co.uk/. There will be a very useful big step up in our capacity from 150Ah to 460. I considered getting just one battery, but as Paul Balmer of Waterway Routes fame (https://www.waterwayroutes.co.uk/) pointed out, if that one battery goes faulty then you have no domestic power. The self heating will come in useful if ever we need to charge the batteries when they are below 0 degrees C.

Measuring the battery tray. 53 x 33 cms available.

The new batteries will be connected in parallel with the lead acid bow thruster bank thereby providing the alternator with somewhere to send its electricity when the lithium batteries are full and switch themselves off from charging. Our old batteries were connected up in the same manner. One new battery would go in the old battery tray in the engine bay and the other in The Shed cupboard inside. There will be a shelf over it so the cupboard can still be used as a Shed.

A bit of a rewire was required. The original installation was a bit untidy and in seven years I’ve not been able to find any fuses in the DC supplies to the inverter or the domestic distribution panel.

Old batteries. The one in the middle was faulty and bypassed with a bolt!
Two of the three old batteries. Showing the lack of bus bar and fuses
A total of three old batteries. The one with yellow tape on the terminal is faulty. “Temporary” connection block in the foreground

When the old batteries were removed it was clear that the tray neaded a bit of TLC. Now painting is not usually my reponsibility on Oleanna but in this case I took on the job, mainly because once completed I would be the only person who would see it and Pip was busy with other stuff.

TLC required
Fertanned
Painted

Next came the installation of a new positive bus bar and fuse holder. It is attached to a bit of wood that was glued to the bulkhead with Gorilla Two Pack glue. It’s a bit skewiff, my excuse being that I was working upside down, back to front and left handed. By the time I noticed the skewiffness the glue had gone off so there was no moving it to make it straight. But it does the job. Along the top is the bus bar. The thin red cable on the left goes via an inline fuse to the shunt for the battery monitor. Next is the orange cable to the new inside battery, then a black cable to the bow thruster bank (via a Mega fuse), another black cable to the 24v alternator and then another orange cable to the new outside battery.

Bus bar and fuses

The Victron inverter / charger is connected via the blue Mega fuse at the bottom and the 24v DC system to the orange fuse. All is covered by a plastic cover.

The Outside battery

The independant 12v starter battery is on the left. A wooden cover will be placed on top of the whole lot to protect it.

The inside battery. Terminal covers yet to be fitted

The BMS settings in each battery were programmed as advised by the very helpful Mark Cheesman at Life Batteries https://www.lifebatteries.co.uk/. You can connect to each battery via Bluetooth and an app on a phone. There are two important settings to change: the “batt over voltage” is the voltage at which the charging is turned off, set to 28 volts. It turns back on again when it drops to 27 volts. The other setting is the “batt under voltage” which is when the discharging is turned off, set to 24 volts, it comes back on again at 25 volts.

The important settings circled

Time to start the engine. A final check of everything then turn the key. The engine fired up and I monitored the charge going to each battery. Just under 30 amps to begin with which was good. The 100% state of charge (soc) is incorrect. The BMS requires a few days of use to work out the correct soc and even then, as with all soc readings it is liable to inaccuracy.

Real time monitor of one battery

The temperature of the alternator needs to be monitored and after about 30 minutes it was reading a steady 40 degrees C. This is on the cool side, apparently 90 degrees is ok. I think I need to get rid of the surplus length in the battery cables. I reckon I’ve got about a metre too long in each cable. Once this is done the charging current should increase. To do this I need a crimping tool and some new lugs which I don’t have. That can wait for another day.

I’m looking forward to using the electric kettle when making tea in the morning.