A fun journey today with lots of chuckles and a hormonal melt down from me as my brain forgot how to do anything at the helm!
To leave the Llangollen it was back down the 4 deep locks in a row that pops you back out onto the mainline of the Shrophire Union. The lockie had told us on the way up that the water levels are normally very low in the morning so we waited for those first eager beavers that passed us early in the morning to tackle that and then headed down after about half hour. As expected it is busy with waterpoints, elsan disposal and showers etc but we found a slot to pull over and wait. I wanted to be at the helm for these locks and i’d worked them on the way up and the junction at the bottom could be challenging and I wanted to keep pushing my helmsman skills comfort zone.
As it happened, the second boat coming up the locks told us that they too had waited down the bottom as they too knew the water levels are low in the morning. They said the first couple of boats down were spitting feathers as they had arrived early doors, only to have to wait an hour for some water to be run down to fill up the pounds. Sometimes it does not pay to be the early bird.
The people on the boat behind us in the queue were a right laugh as we had tales of the husband falling off the boat yesterday, clinging onto the bow horizontally above the water before flopping in and then realising it was only waist height! The boat waiting in front (2 x 60 somethings), had some serious recording equipment on their hire boat. Two DSLR’s on tripods with microphones, a camcorder and a go pro with an extension arm to be able to record the boat at water level. It’s enough for us with one camera to remember battery changes, memory cards etc, with what they had going on I did wonder if they were finding the time to enjoy the journey while they were in it.
It was finally our turn to go down the locks as I took the helm. The wind was strong, so the advice was to stay in the lock until the next one is set as much as possible so you can steer easily from one to the other. Good in theory but it did slow things down. I think it took nearly an hour from arriving to get to the bottom. Luckily a lock volunteer helped with the bottom lock so Richard could jump back onto the boat whilst in the lock to avoid any dramas with picking him up in the awkward junction.
We came out and luckily all I had to manoeuvre around was the boat coming in as we turned left and started on our way.
Saw this sign which made me chuckle then saw these two panthers:
I was really enjoying being back on a wider canal, made for easier bridge holes, steering etc and with the sun blazing down, it was a lovely days boating. Passed a really funny family of blokes that were having an exclaimed rant whilst laughing about this other boat cutting them up on the corner. From our angle it did all look a bit wacky races as we came off the speed ourselves to allow for whatever was happening between them to pass.
We had passed the junction for the Middlewich branch which we will be coming back for in a few days and kept going up to Bunbury Staircase lock. Only a 2 flight staircase lock but wide so more effort required. Luckily a boat was coming out so we were able to get in without having to reset the lock. It’s been a long time since I had been in a wide lock so I kept a rope looped around the bollard so I could control the boat from bouncing around in there too much.
There was another boat coming up so Richard had help getting the gates open. I tried to pull over to let him back on but failed miserably as the edge of the canal came down at a strange angle so couldn’t get the boat in, then the wind took me and pushed me against the bridge which was a bugger to get back off. To top it all off Anglo Welsh, a large hire firm appear to have their base right at the bottom gate of the staircase. As it was changeover day there were boats everywhere and they were using the lock mooring as well. So frustrating, we finally got there but I had a grump on by then as it didn’t go as I wanted it to!
Three locks to go. The next one was covered in road signs and hazard tape. Not knowing what was ahead Richard hoped off whilst I attempting to keep the boat hovering. Two boats were in, coming up but super slowly as the ground paddle was broken. Luckily, just as it was getting harder to hover her in one place, the gates opened and out they came.
The next lock was a stone lock which I shared with the new owner of a lovely smaller boat. It hasn’t even been that long since I bought Māhina but I remember the smiles on the first few trips out onto the G&S. The last one was an iron lock, there are warning signs not to share with another boat as the sides taper in so as the water comes out of them you could get wedged. We went in alone as advised and it was odd to be in a metal lock after over one hundred stone sludgy, mossy ones!
Woohoo, we finally made it to our stop for a couple of days, Beeston castle. A well placed gap in the hedge gives me this fab view out of the window. Aerial up, its wine and film on the plan for tonight before a walk up to the castle tomorrow.