Sunday, 31 July 2016

Halibut (by Carl)

Tricky's in charge
You may recall that last Sunday we were moored on the river Weaver, on the new pontoon near the bottom of the Anderton boat lift. We left the pontoon the next day and headed for Northwich, where we stopped for supplies. The more times I visit Northwich the more I like this small town. The town centre has all the usual high street shops, most of the supermarket chains are represented, and there is even a post office, complete with the obligatory long queues. Due to extensive salt mining, parts of the town have suffered from serious subsidence. Serious enough to cause some houses to disappear without warning towards the end of the 19th century!

 While we were shopping in one of the well known supermarkets, I saw what I first thought was a brilliant impersonator. Somehow, a young man was conveying the illusion that he was a “not too bright” halibut. I was tempted to ask him how he had mastered this brilliant technique, particularly as he was clearly finless, and was in vertical mode, whereas halibut tend to orient themselves horizontally, when in their normal environment. Sadly, before I got near enough to ask the question, the truth presented itself to me. He was merely chewing some gum, with a very fish-like up and down, up and down motion of his lower jaw, lips opening and closing regularly, in the fashion of the aforementioned aquatic resident. Corrective underwear? Revolving cardboard socks? One hair passed a freckle? I don't know.

After Northwich, we set off towards Winsford and the first lock of the day with our friends on Naga Queen. All the locks on the Weaver are manned and it's normal practise to ring the lock-keepers before you get there so that they can set the lock for you or advise you of any delays. Linda rang the keeper at Hunts lock, who advised us to “hang around for a bit” as the lock was set for a boat coming from the other direction. We didn't have to 'hang around for a bit' for too long before the gates swung open and the other boats left the lock. As we left Hunt's lock the keeper advised us that he'd contact the “guy” at the next lock . He also told us to use the right hand lock (the locks on the Weaver are in pairs), and that one of the gates wasn't working. The approach to the next lock (Royal Vale) is around a long, slow curve of the river. Ominously, there is a warning sign at this bend, warning boaters to keep left, due to the weir. As the locks come into view, the boater is confronted by the massive,
closed, lock on the left. In order to enter the right hand lock one has to keep to the right, in defiance of the warning sign. Fortunately, the lock was ready for us and the gate open, so no harm done. The weather had been cloudy and cool, with occasional showers, so we were glad to tie up for the day on the Royal Vale moorings, just downstream from the lock of the same name.

Extension required to get Tricky ashore
Due to the unsettled weather, and the dedication of the grass-cutters, the inside of our well deck (where the cratch is) had started to transmogrify into a prairie. Another day or so and we'd be invaded by homeless buffalo and prairie dogs. So I decided to deal with it. Linda worked on the inside of the boat, and I got to work in the cratch. The Dyson took one look and pleaded a flat battery, so it was down to the dustpan and brush. It was slow work. The grass seemed to have taken root. In the end I carefully placed the dustpan and brush down (or I might have flung them down impatiently) and started to move everything out of the cratch. Once cleared of stuff (including one of Tricky's toys, a withered carrot, and a Twix wrapper with a grudge) I lifted the carpet and carried it onto the bank. To my absolute joy I found that a few hefty shakes removed 99.9% of all known grass. To my utter dismay, I then noticed that I had been transformed into a distant relative of Wurzel Gummidge. I was covered in the stuff. Eventually though I was clear of grass, the carpet was refitted, the stuff replaced (but not the carrot or Twix wrapper) and we were, once more, shipshape.
Over the course of the next few days we cruised down to Winsford, turned and travelled back the way we came, passed Northwich, and on to Sutton swing bridge via Saltersford lock and Dutton lock. Whilst moored at Sutton swing bridge we walked up into Frodsham for more supplies, where there were further variations on what I like to call “the halibut affair”. While we were at Frodsham we stopped at The Bear's Paw pub for a little liquid refreshment. Nice pub, friendly service. We didn't try the food but it looked nice.
Yesterday (Saturday) we booked our passage on the boat lift and took off at ten past noon. Then followed a leisurely cruise back along the Trent and Mersey canal to that afternoon's mooring. There was one moment I'd like to record here. The sun was shining and it was quite warm. As we rounded a bend in the canal the waterway opened up into a “flash” (where salt minings have collapsed, causing the ground to sink and water to flood the area). A family of ducks leisurely swam by our boat. Across the water were a dozen or so geese watching our passage with interest. We saw a heron standing further back, who seemed to be listening to the wren singing from a tree nearby. We drifted through this wonderful scene and in a few short minutes had left it behind. Just magic.

Solar panels capture the evening sun
What we saw a short while later made us smile, but for a completely different reason. We approached two CRT (Canal and River Trust) boats, moored side by side. As we passed them we noticed that someone had written in yellow paint on one of them “Front” and “Back”, with corresponding arrows. Obviously these must be for the new breed of canal workers/apprentices. Still, if you're not sure which end is which, those instructions would be useful. Anyway, this is a good place to finish, so that's about the size of it for this week.
Love as Always
The Floating Chandlers

PS Have you ever wondered about signs? There is one at a pub on the Coventry canal at Newbold on Avon. It reads “Food served 24 hours from 12.00”. Also why do Solicitors have such odd names? Names like “Fiddle, Catstropp and Ganderdropper”. Answers on a postcard. Prizes will not be awarded for the first correct answer.